Tag Archives: wishes

Make a Wish

Today marks the forty-third year I’ve spent on this earth.  It’s not a monumental occasion, nor is it without merit.

The legendary Kenny Burrell
The legendary Kenny Burrell

The last two years I’ve gone out on the road, claiming adventure and finding things out of the way and off the beaten path.  That path and those trips had been conducted alone, sharing them with friends and family after, but it matched my desire to travel and just go away . . . leaving behind grief, losss, stress, all of that.

This year, though, was the third birthday since our story began and the first one I’ve not had alone.

The last two years I went to Los Angeles, the first one fairly mundane.  I went off the path, wandered side streets and avoided the normal touristy things.

Last year I went to a little jazz club and saw a jazz great on the stage . . . staying at a landmark hotel.

Today, though, I’m home after a weekend trip closer to home . . . to San Francisco.

From our Dinner Table
From our Dinner Table

It was not a trip to see the city in the wake of the Prop 8 Gay Marriage decision.  That was a coincidence, though I do have gay friends and I’ll be honest . . . I don’t have a horse in that race.  I really don’t.  But still, the weekend made for great people watching. We saw those with a cause . . . and we also saw some with no cause but looking for opportunities to dress scantily and act like they, too, should be center of attention.  All were interesting fodder for writing and photography in my eyes, so I stayed in the background.

Abbi and I wandered streets avoiding the commonplace.  Sure, we were on Market, eating lunch at a fantastic little diner that looks far less impressive than the food it serves.  We walked down the street and got chocolates from an amazing shop.

Then we walked, from Market, back to Mason Street, close to the water.  We went through Chinatown.  We sauntered through the Italian sector . . . and I found the journey fantastic.  Not the tourists that wandered the front end of Chinatown but the end of it and the dozens of Italian restaurants that were off Columbus.

The Wax Museum
The Wax Museum

Abbi and I had amazing dinner at an Italian restaurant.  We wandered into a hole in the wall printing company and saw art-deco like prints made by an artist who happened to be in the press shop that night.  The one tourist thing we did was wander into the Wax Museum and poked fun, in the most blasphemous terms, sometimes, of the figures we saw in the alcoves deep in the bowels of the old wharf warehouse.

The next day we headed to the Presidio and . . . like a little kid all over again, we saw the exhibit of art from Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are and Chicken Soup with Rice.  The artwork was both real and whimsical and truthful.  I could hear my Mom’s voice behind me saying “In January it’s so nice, while slipping on the sliding ice, to eat hot chicken soup with rice…”  Abbi marveled at the beautiful work done by such an amazing artist.

We saw the Walt Disney Family Museum.  We wandered to the back of the museum and saw the Golden Gate, shrouded in fog, and slowly mad our way back toward Sacramento.

The Sendak Exhibit
The Sendak Exhibit

It may seem a little thing to you . . . small points of a minor trip that any of you might have made on a weekend trip to the City.  But would you?  Have you been to the same spots over and over again and not changed your routine?  We randomly picked a restaurant and had the most amazing Italian dinner we’ve had in years.  I saw the signs for the Sendak exhibit two weeks prior and could have thought “Presidio is too far away” but instead sought out the exhibit because I knew it would be amazing.

I’m forty-three today.  I don’t feel it.  It’s not the whole “you’re only as old as you feel” mentality.  If that was the case, the two bulging discs and 20 pounds I still cannot lose and the constant exhaustion would point to the fact that I am, well, 43.  But until I look in the mirror and see the belly diminishing slower than I’d like and the grey moving from specks to a more than light dusting in the black of my hair, I don’t think I’m that age.

I still marvel at kids’ books.  I loved the Sendak exhibit and was intensely moved by his philosophy of life.  “I cry,” says Sendak on a video monitor, “not because I simply miss the people who I have lost.  I cry because I remember them, honor them, and because I miss their presence, their impact, every day.”

That, you see, is the purpose of the birthday trip.  It’s not to be alone or to travel, it’s to make new memories.  It’s to have the amazing journey and make new adventures . . . and to share them.  To have that impact and make it on others.

I may have little to offer the world . . . but to me . . . the world has so much to offer.  We just have to look and be willing to accept it.  Sometimes, it’s on a birthday.  Sometimes it’s when you least expect it.

Seeing those amazing things, and never ignoring them . . . that’s the birthday wish for myself.

Into the Light

Our 1,000 cranes

I realize that I have a tendency to reflect a lot here, but the point of the blog, when I started it, was to give voice to things I just didn’t have the ability or the company to say out loud.  I didn’t go to therapy, I know everything I’m going through, or seem to know.  I know what I feel guilty about.  I know what I loved about my wife.  I know how hard the last year and a half have been, I didn’t really need anyone to tell me how it wasn’t going to be easy.  I knew my kids might need it, and some did.  I knew they needed me to be less the gruff, hardened Dad and soften more than I normally might have been.

But there is light.  The reason this whole blog didn’t start until October . . . when Andrea passed in March . . . was because I wasn’t sure I was seeing any of the light.  I had four kids and I loved them more than anything.  I needed to get to the point where I was in a routine and able to take care of them.  I started when the routine started to settle and I realized that I still hadn’t come fully through the veil of grief that had enveloped me.

The other reason is that we had fallen so far that I didn’t think it was possible to get back up.  The dark was black as ink and I was nearly swallowed by the deep pull of it.  It’s easy to fall into that place, it really is.  Just losing your wife can be the worst thing in the world.  I lost her, our home, was facing a pay cut, was facing moving out of California in order to survive.  I couldn’t keep Abbi in her school because tuition was too much.  Basic survival, those were the things that were swirling around me.  When I thought it couldn’t get much worse it did.  I wasn’t sure at all that we’d come through the other side.

Until we wished on those damn cranes.  I know I wrote about this before.  There’s a point here.

There’s a Japanese tradition that if you wish on 1,000 paper cranes your wish may come true.  When we had fallen my Hannah’s class folded 1,000 of them and gave them to us.  They folded more and made a piece of art for us.  While I know that I’d been looking as hard as I could for work that would help me stay, that I applied for Social Security for the kids, that I was looking for a home . . . none of it seemed to be working.  But a short time after I was offered a job.  We got a home and then we got the kids’ social security.  Our wish?  Help us stay here . . . the kids’ home.  I never really thought of it as mine, but it’s really the longest we’d stayed anywhere.  They needed one stable thing – one piece of land to dig their toes into that wouldn’t change.

I’ve been in the darkness.  I would say it’s not a good place – and it isn’t – but it is easy to let it envelop you.  I don’t think a lot of people understand how much you want to feel this.  The hurt is so bad and there are waves, almost like a riptide, that folds around you and pulls you under.  In the beginning it’s hard to fight.  You hate this but you accept it, too.

But at some point you see the light.  It’s not a “walk into the light” thing, at least it wasn’t for me.  It’s more like driving through a fog and it starts to burn away.  You don’t really notice you’re not there anymore until it’s grey . . . then it’s spots of grey . . . and then you see the sky.  This isn’t just grief, it’s all of it.

I know this, and two people I care about are now going through this.  One lost her job, her husband taking a massive pay cut.  They have kids.  They care for others.  What do you do when that much comes onto your shoulders at the same time?

You give the cranes away.  We made it through to the point where the grey is fading.  It’s not all light, no, but there’s more light than dark.  For them the inky darkness was looming.  They needed a glow of some sort.  I kept the picture, the extra cranes, but I spoke with the kids and we gave away the cranes.  It wasn’t that we knew it helped us or that it was a sure thing.

It’s that we got the thoughts, support, and love from people around us.

So I gave away 1,000 cranes.  I can only hope they still have some magic left.

Fairy Tales and Wishes that Can’t Come True

In the early 20th Cent. 2 girls took photos of fairies that got Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini himself investigating

Dreams by The Allman Brothers Band from the Dreams Box Set

If this post seems a bit disjointed it’s because I barely got to the bedroom and logged on the computer tonight.  It amazes me the punishment the human body can seem to take, particularly when you are determined to push it to its limits.  Not that I’m an amazing specimen of the human condition, I need to lose weight, gain muscle and eat better.  But having taken several sick days to care for my children as they got sick and less than a week into the ratings period I cannot in good conscience call in sick.

So here I sit tonight, after working my 8 hours, going to the grocery store, cooking dinner, making brownies for lunch and I was about to pass out.  You see, I have the flu as well.  Got the Tamiflu doses at the doctor and tried to stave it off, but when you are stumbling along like I was your day gets a bit dizzying.

Between Abbi’s play and the shows on the television, we’ve had a lot of fanciful tales swirling around us lately.  At one point during the night we had some cartoons on and it involved – of course – a fairy offering wishes to the protagonist.  3 wishes, of course, is the norm, something that the 3 youngest kids were oh so eager to embrace and believe.  Even Hannah, the 12 year old, had that starry-eyed look.  Hannah, you see, is just starting to move from watching “Transformers” to thinking “27 Dresses” is her favorite movie.  (Don’t ask me, I don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy and couldn’t tell you a single thing about the movie other than “Benny and the Jets” plays a prominent role)

But at this point they had a discussion about what they’d wish for.  There was the typical boy stuff, “A million dollars!”; “A new bike”; all that seemed to come out of their mouths.  But Hannah spouted out what I was waiting to happen.

“I would wish for Mom.”

And there it was.  Like the song up there says, it would be amazing to see what would happen, hungering for the dreams we never see.  I wasn’t angry, I’d have wished it too, I suppose, if they’d said “hey, 3 wishes, no waiting,” but there’d have to be stipulations, too.  I mean, it’s been 10 months, and 10 months of hell.  It really has.  We’re just now hitting our stride.

And here’s where I’m going to come out with one of those “stages of grief” that everyone talks about, but realistically, it’s been on my mind since last year, since the day after she died.

She left us.

I mean, I miss her more than anything in the world and I would never, ever give up the chance to see her just a minute more, to kiss her again, to tell her I loved her as many times as I could before she left again . . . but there’s also the fact that she’s gone and we’re here left to pick up the pieces of the life that shattered apart.  Say what you want about how well we’re doing or how wonderful my kids are and how amazing things have worked out – and all that is true – it doesn’t change the fact that starting on March 26th all five of us stood there with the world in a blurry swirl moving around us looking at the pieces of our lives scattered around us.

The kids miss what Andrea gave them.  They miss their Mom, the kindness, the softness, the whole thing.  It’s so easy to push all the negative things aside because you really don’t ever want to think about those anymore.  The bad things, the annoying habits, all those were part and parcel with the person you loved.  If you can’t live with those you’re not really in love.  You love someone because you think those little things are cute or because they’re part of what make them who they are.  If you can’t accept them you really aren’t in love.

But the stress, medical bills, college loans, tuition costs, mortgage overdue, car payment, uniforms, hell everything down to breakfast, laundry and housecleaning.  All those fall on my shoulders – our shoulders.

I sound mean, flippant, angry even, but she left me here to deal with the shattered pieces and not enough glue to put them back together.  She doesn’t have to deal with the flu and fevers and the school calling and Hannah not turning in her homework.  She doesn’t get to see the amazing picture of a cat Noah drew at school today.  She doesn’t get to see Abbi in her play looking just like her mother.  And her children don’t get to share that with her.  On some level, sure, she’s seeing this, I hope, I pray.  But the physical, emotional bond that makes a parent tear up when they see their child succeed . . . Abbi only gets that from one person now.  So do the others.  It’s not just that Andrea doesn’t get to see what her kids are doing, my kids don’t get to share this with their Mom, and that’s the sad part.

I get angry sometimes because I needed her.  I needed her this last week.  I needed her when Hannah got her period for the first time.  I needed her when Noah hit a kindergartner at school and got in trouble.  I am angry because where I just needed that person – the one human being who understood me above all others – the most, when I needed her hands on my back holding me up so I didn’t fall off that pedestal my children had placed me on, she wasn’t there.

I also hate the fact that I’m mad at her.  I love her too much to hold that anger more than flashes at a time.  Still, when Hannah looks at that fairy and says she wants her Mom, there’s that part of me that agrees . . . and there’s that part of me that thinks she needed to fight just a little harder to deserve that chance.

And I hate myself for thinking it.  Because I do hunger for the dreams I’ll never see.