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The Moment She Realized

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The Moment She Realized

It started tonight with Whitesnake.

Wait, wait . . . stay with me! I know, it’s a hair band from the 1980’s and the embarrassed icon of all that is excess and every boy my age in that era was able to sing (badly) along with David Coverdale.

Having tucked my sons into bed and cleaned up from the night’s culinary creation I sat down for the mere half hour or so of television I had available to me only to find that, with more than 500 channels, there was just nothing on TV. It was in scrolling through the guide on this weary evening that one channel had Whitesnake Live.

I chuckled as I said it aloud: “Whitesnake live!”

My daughter looked up with a smile that I realized, having raised her this past 16 years, was trying to be sly but was, in fact, completely faked.

“You don’t know who Whitesnake is.”
“Uhh…nnnno?”

I belted the next line out.

“...and here I go again on my ooo-oh-own….
Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known!”

She had that look of cognition that was filled with both enlightenment and horror.

“Oh! That’s Whitesnake?!”

Before she could say “geez, Dad, why would you even know that song?” I looked at her and said:
“Yeah, they were a bit cheesy then…and accused of trying waaay to hard to copy Led Zeppelin but every boy loved them for the songs, the cars, and the girls in their videos.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Say what you want,” I sarcastically told her, “but David Coverdale, their singer . . . he had some pipes, my girl.”

She looked skeptical.

So I played her a different song. In the 1990’s, when the world was itching for Zep to get back together, there seemed no hope. Then out of the blue, after Jimmy Page had made disparaging remarks about Whitesnake he joined up with David Coverdale. It was as close, at that time, as we’d ever get to something Zep-like.

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I played the first cut off the record Coverdale/Page, Shake My Tree, for my daughter. She was transfixed.

“I’m weirdly into this song! It’s not metal, but kinda, and it’s very Zeppelin, but . . . not . . . oh my God, I like it!”

It was here my memory started to finally kick in.

“It was interesting when this record came out because it’s a moment of realization for your mother,” I told my daughter.

The kids all knew that their mother didn’t want to be married to a touring musician, and that’s okay…I wasn’t really one anyway. It was part of why it wasn’t hard to relegate the guitars to the back room. But my wife also, in the beginning, saw music as a phase, a thing that had little hold on me or little talent holding onto me.

That was, you see, until Coverdale/Page came out.

I put the album on and we listened to that first song, Shake My Tree, and when it was over I picked up the guitar I’d just gotten – from her, by the way – a Gibson Firebird. My wife was in the kitchen of our apartment. I started playing the opening riff, that maddeningly fast, sort of off-kilter line and my wife rounded the corner.

“Are you really listening to that first song over again…”

And she stopped dead in her tracks.

“How many times have you listened to that song,” she asked me, her mouth slightly agape.
“Once, just when you heard it here with me.”
“Aaand…you just started playing it.”
“Yeah…”
“After hearing it once.”

I honestly didn’t understand her confusion. It was a little hard to hit that off-kilter note here and there but once you had the muscle memory, I didn’t think much of it. It didn’t dawn on me – and I swear it’s not ego talking – that it was anything significant. It was just learning the song.

Andrea walked over, absent-mindedly put her hand on the back of my head, and said “I just never realized you really could play like that . . . that you could just . . . figure it out. That’s . . . ” (pardon all the ellipses, but it is for effect) she trailed off.

She kissed me, full-on, love of my life kissed me.

“I never told you how talented you are. This just drove it home.”

It was a great moment for a musician to know the person he loves now supported something so important in his life. We would have more arguments about music and more conflicts over my playing a night here or making a bunch of money on a Valentine’s Day there…but Coverdale/Page had driven home I was more than just some minor hobbyist noodling around on his guitar.

My daughter, hearing the fun story about her mother, no more than an anecdote, smiled and then looked up to see the guide still sitting on the TV screen.

Regardless…we still did not watch the Whitesnake concert.

 

Good Times, Bad Times . . .

The Kids and their Dad

Good Times Bad Times by Led Zeppelin from Led Zeppelin I

My daughter went through an experience that I told her was pretty much my whole life during high school.  She had multiple projects due, lots of homework, then she had the awful burden of trying to find someone that would go with her to the high school’s Sadie Hawkins dance.  She knew who she wanted to take, there was always that little bit of worry that someone else was going to get to him first.

I’ve been brutally honest about how hopeless I was as a kid.  I had crushes, I had no self confidence, and that combination is brutally painful to a kid whose body is raging with hormones flooding his head with emotions.  I’d dial a phone number to a girl and get through to the 6th number and find my finger hovering over the 7th, trying to will my hand to push the button.  Even when I did, I’d often hang up the phone before it would ring through to the girl’s phone.  When I could get a girl on the other line and ask her out I’d have used up all my energy getting the date and not know what to do for the date when we got there.  As a result, my immaturity and lack of confidence made for a hopeless mess.

I also took a physical toll, which my daughter felt a little of yesterday.  I’d get butterflies in my stomach.  I’d be fine one minute, then I’d think that I needed to figure out what I wanted to do and end up sick to my stomach.  I’d eat two bites of my lunch unable to eat more.  I lost weight – lots and lots of weight – because I just couldn’t eat.  Where my wife would eat because she was stressed, my daughter and I both go the other direction.  We forget to eat.  We refuse to do it.  It’s like our bodies reject the notion of nutrition in favor of acid reflux and bile for sustenance.

But here’s the difference.  Abbi has part of her mother in her.  She wasn’t hovering over a number.  She wasn’t nervous he’d say no, he was nervous she was too late to ask.  That’s the difference.  She was worried that someone swept in before her and asked the clueless boy – and he’s a boy, all teenage boys are clueless, it’s not a comment on the kid – before she could put her plan in motion.  She had cookies, a sign at the bottom of the plate, all of it cute, funny, and let’s face it . . . successful.

Andrea didn’t have some massive discussion or horrific lengthy analysis of my confidence level.  She just didn’t accept it.  I had the same experience with her Abbi did in school yesterday.  I wasn’t worried that she would say no (though I should  have, you’ve seen her picture, right?  I mean, look at me – look at her – who got the better end of that deal right?) I was worried someone else would be there before me.  There were those who came after I’d already asked her out and we started dating, but she didn’t go out with them.  She already saw something in me, something I was only just then beginning to see in myself.

Like I said, there was no analysis.  She just blew off my self-ridicule.  “Just wear this shirt and these pants,” she’d say.  She’d show up when I was getting my haircut and ask me if I wanted to change it.  It wasn’t re-making me without my approval, I wanted to change.  I just didn’t know how.  I asked her out.  I took her to dinner.  I took her to movies.  We went on drives together, we ultimately ended up in a crazy, insane weekend in the California Wine Country that I will never detail in words for you here, but was one of the most brilliant, adventurous, romantic and sexy group of days in my life.  She brought my self confidence to the fore, whether I needed it or not.

It’s a nice feeling to see my daughter happy.  We’ve had a rough ten months.  She’s had just as rough, taking on more responsibility, helping me with her siblings, worrying about college, wondering where to go, what to do, moving to a new school, getting used to the social responsibility of a coed universe . . . and all of that without your Mom there to help you deal with it.  I also adjust.  A year ago I’d have made the jokes, said I need to buy an unfinished guitar neck and meet the boy at the door and warn him his intentions need to be pure.  Now I support her and make sure the boys are sincere and worth her time.

All I can do now is give her, I hope, the tools to know how to read the road ahead.  The confidence to understand that it’s better, sometimes, to be alone than to be with the wrong person.  To know that, like her Dad, and her Grandparents, it’s better to find someone who loves a woman or man with a sense of humor, a lot of intelligence, and the right amount of panache to be confident with who you are, not what everyone else wants you to be.

I used to think that my refusal to conform, my staunch conviction to what I liked, what I listened to and what I wanted was driving people away, that people thought poorly of me because of it.  Only recently did I come to find from some of those same people that they admired me – if only a little – for it and never thought ill of me.  What makes me happiest is that Andrea made me realize it didn’t make a difference anyway.  I’d found the person who laughed with me and made me laugh.  Who had fun, who made me a better man.

Now I have to make sure that I send that same message to four little people looking to me for that inspiration.  It’s a tough mantle to carry, but for Andrea’s sake, I’m more than willing to try.

Sick Again . . .

Sick Again by Led Zeppelin

Yes, I know, but I never waste an opportunity to use a Zeppelin song as a reference.  I’m quite amazed but yesterday and today are the first times I’ve been really sick.  I mean sick to the point where I cannot even get out of bed without burning all the energy that’s not fighting the sickness.

Getting this sick makes me aware of a few things that I guess I knew but wasn’t paying attention to all these months.

First, of course, was the fact that I realized just how much stuff I do every day and don’t even realize it any more.  I mean, the daily routine that amazingly I seem to be getting used to following.  I know this because having let the routine lapse for these two days alone has let the house turn into an absolute mess.  The kitchen is filled with dishes.  The floor is full of opened Christmas presents that hadn’t been played with during the holiday and the clothes have piled up onto the laundry basket like Mount Everest.

Before you all make the suggestions, yes, I tried to yell at the kids, tell them what needs done.  The problem is they knew I didn’t have the energy or the fortitude to back up my threats.  It was like being adrift on a leper ship.  Two of the boys got sick, neither of them lasting more than a day.  I’m on 2 1/2 days already and only now feeling human.

Second is the fact that Abbi, my oldest, is a godsend.  Yes, I know I’ve been complaining about the lack of chores being done, but I’ve been reliant on her help to make sure that things get done.  She entertained the other 3 kids while I slept.  She got me the medicines I asked for and did a run to the store when I needed it.  I managed to cook a batch of chili for dinner but ended up having her make the rice that we eat with it.  Where the other three kids yelled and argued with each other Abbi worried and told me I was too run down and needed to rest.

The last thing, which I should think is obvious, is that I need to take better care of myself.  Just the other day someone told me I needed to make sure I took some time for myself, though I don’t know when or how that will happen.  But one thing I can take from that is the fact that I need to get in better shape and lost some more weight.  If my body is in better shape my immune system will be in better shape as well.

This last one is probably the hardest thing I have to do.  I have to make the time to exercise or get some time to work out but finding the time isn’t something I can foresee at the moment.  It may wait until Spring, when the clocks go forward and there’s more daylight.  I can jog or walk, but it’s not an easy thing for me.  I prefer to have a destination.  I have a bike that’s worth using, and my son has one from Santa so I may just go on family rides when the seasons change.

These are necessities.  I have so little room for error these days that I have to look forward and see what’s coming.  I cannot afford two days where I’m not even just sub-par.  Otherwise the kids worry, like they did this last couple days.  I have reached a point in life where hiding in bed for two days isn’t possible.  Yet when I try to do the routine I get more worn down.  Only through getting my body in order along with our lives will things end up on better track.

I’ve started, but like so many other things, I can’t afford to let up.  It’s not just my life on the line anymore.  I can’t afford to let those four kids down.

It’s a lot of philosophy from a bout with the flu, I know.  Maybe I’m a little fever-addled but in the end, it’s all for the best.  I can’t afford to let myself slide either.  I can’t afford to be sick again, not a long time.

It’s amazing the things you realize when you least expect them.