Friday, September 28, 2012

An Evening With the Beats

P1010552 So in March, I took Leah up to DC for her birthday to see the Fresh Beat Band in concert.  We got the tickets from StubHub or something like that and we had a lot of fun—the concert was great.  When we heard they were coming to Richmond, Mike and I decided to pay for the whole family to get the backstage party package and for us all to go together.  We “liked” them on Facebook and got the pre-sale code, and as soon as the tickets went on sale, got tickets and passes.  The concert was last night, and I was lucky to have a number of friends who were going to the concert.  My friends Heather and Steve had a pair of passes and tickets for their daughter, so I gave Mike’s ticket to Steve and he joined me and Leah, and Leah’s little friend Kailee, her sister, and her parents were just two rows behind us.  I had mistakenly bought the wrong tickets and sold those to another friend, Heather M., so that she and her daughter could go to the concert as well, so there was a nice homey atmosphere about the thing.

P1010543 We arrived early, planning to have dinner with Heather and Steve, and it gave us the chance to get a FREE parking spot on the street.  Leah decided there was NO WAY we were sitting in the car waiting for them, so we texted them and walked over to the theater.  After dodging the street vendors selling T-shirts, we got in line and waited, which didn’t thrill Leah a whole lot, but the time passed pretty quickly, Heather and Steve and Abby arrived, and we got our party passes and went in.  Somehow, I managed to score tickets dead center stage in the very first row.  I couldn’t get over how great these seats were.  Steve and I chatted and Leah ate popcorn and played with some glow sticks I had the good idea to remember to bring, thus saving myself $10 on a flashlight that she was destined to lose. (As you can see, Leah was way more interested in her party pass than in taking pictures!  Thank you, Abby for looking up :-D)

The concert itself was divided into two parts.  It was wonderful.  Very lively and upbeat.  The first half was great, lots of dancing, we knew the songs, good bits of humor.  At one point, “Marina” came over to us and put her hand down to Leah, and Leah gave her a high 5.  I thought we were living the dream then.  Little did I know!

During intermission, Steve appropriated his wee one Abby from Heather, saying he felt better having a kid with him in the front row.  As the show got under way, Abby was cutting the rug.  It was hilarious and adorable.  She was dancing her patoot off!  Leah and I had swapped seats, and Leah was just sitting in the chair, watching the show.  I did notice a few times that “Shout” had put the eye on her a little bit and seemed to be watching, and all of a sudden, he jumped off the stage right in front of us, scooped Leah up, sat in her chair with her on his lap, and continued singing to her. It lasted just a little bit, but I thought, “My kid, my awesome kid really hit the jackpot and she so deserves this moment.”  I was trying throughout much of the concert not to just start crying.  I wore Mike’s wedding ring around my neck and I could just about hear him singing along and I missed him so much.  At that moment, when Leah was in Shout’s lap, I wanted to lose it completely.  Apparently a lady behind us videotaped it and caught up with me afterwards and has offered to send me the video, so I hope she does so I can see it!

The concert continued and in all honesty, I think Leah’s favorite part was when they shot off the confetti cannons.  As we were making our way out, she was scooping up as much confetti as she could get her little hands on and shoving it in my purse. 

P1010544 We got down to the hall where they were having the afterparty, showed off our fancy orange wristbands, and gained entry.  There were craft tables set up, although the coloring pages and stars were long gone before Leah got the chance to do much, but there were lots of tunnels, balloons and inflatable instruments and she invented her own game of golf and had a blast.  I was a bit disappointed in that there were lots of signs up that said NO AUTOGRAPHS—we had brought Leah’s CD liner to have autographed and they gave us a poster at the door, but I guess it takes too long.  Boo!

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Soon our group letter for pictures with the band was called and we got in line with Heather and Steve.  The people ahead of us hugged the band—the parents did, and Heather asked me if I was going to do that.  I said, “I’m going to tell them our sad story and see what happens.”  We both kind of chuckled over that.

But I got to thinking about it, and I thought, “What would Mike do?  He would go up there and start talking to them like he’d known them forever.” And I decided to.  Leah was wearing her birthday shirt and when it was our turn, Shout yelled, “Leah, come here!” and the whole band said, “Hey, Leah!”  She toddled over obligingly, a bit nervous, but that generally makes her only more adorable and “Kiki” asked if it was her birthday.  I said, “No, we are here tonight, I want to tell you guys, we were supposed to be here with my husband, Leah’s dad, but he passed away a couple of months ago and these passes were the last thing he was able to buy for Leah.”  The smiles kind of fell off their faces, and they started hugging Leah, and I decided to continue.

“Every Saturday morning, my husband watched Leah so I could sleep in and their ritual consisted of watching your show.  Mike was blind and he was going deaf, but he knew all your music and I would hear them singing and laughing every Saturday morning.  I just want to tell you guys that I love you and thank you.  Her memories of her dad right now are of the four of you.”

 P1010550The four of them were literally speechless, and frankly, I couldn’t have said much more because I was getting a bit emotional.  Shout jumped up, tears in his eyes, and threw his arms around me and gave me a big hug.  Then Twist did the same, and while he was hugging me (and let me tell you, that guy can give you a bear hug and a half!), he told me some personal information about himself that was so moving, I just couldn’t get over it.  Then both girls gave me a hug, and Shout snuggled Leah just a bit more before we got a picture of the four of them with her.

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I thanked them again and told them to keep up the good work, they wished us well, yelled “Good bye, Leah!” and we walked off.  I found Heather and Steve and I was talking with them and walking away when the event manager ran up to me and said, “Ma’am!  The band wants you to have this!” and handed us an autographed picture.

P1010553So Leah got her autographs after all!!!  What a sweet thing to do!  Then the manager said, “The band would like to know if they can have your contact information?” So I said “Sure thing” and he handed me a pen and paper and I wrote down our information.  I was hoping I’d be brave enough to actually go through with talking to them, so I had tucked a couple of newspaper articles about Mike in my purse, and I pulled them out and asked the manager if he would kindly give them to the band.  He said he would be happy to.  And that was that!

Leah appropriated an orange balloon to take home and then we left.  I’m not sure who they have working VDOT in Richmond, because we were leaving and there was an electronic sign up that said, “Roadwork, Left Lane Open” but what it SHOULD have said was “Two Left Lanes Blocked” so it took us a while to come home, but I didn’t mind.  I was floating on air.

What an awesome group of people.  What, if anything will come of leaving our contact info, I don’t know.  But it was a magical night and so special for Leah.  She has so much going on in her life right now and is doing her job of getting me out of bed in the morning admirably, and I am so glad we were able to go, and laugh, and have fun.  Anything else is the icing on the cake.

Fresh Beat fans for life!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Well… That Just Happened

Much as I hate the stupid little clich├ęs that seem to pop up on a regular basis, “That just happened” is pretty appropriate any more… 

So it’s just over two months since I’ve been widowed…  I still can’t believe I’m a widow.  It is absolutely nothing like I expected.  There is a part of my brain that can’t quite wrap my mind around the idea that Mike is gone and he isn’t coming back.  I cry on and off, I engage in magical thinking on and off (apparently adopting the cat wasn’t enough to piss him off and make him come back to yell at me), I think of him near constantly, and the small things are becoming the big things. 

I’ve met a lot of people in the past 2 months.  I have a ton of phone calls to return when I get around to it.  Friends have been so kind, but I don’t feel like really talking to anyone.  I’ve been truly touched by all the cards and letters I’ve received, the emails, the donations to Leah’s future.  I won’t have to cook Leah and myself dinner until sometime in October courtesy of my MOPS group, and much of the time I don’t have to worry about lunch either.  People have babysat, cleaned my house, made and returned calls for me, done yardwork, put me in touch with counselors and support groups, driven me around town, and made emergency runs with donuts and chocolate.  It’s been extraordinary, the support I have.

The bills are piling up.  I’m trying to figure out what to do about the mortgages and the house.  I haven’t paid the mortgages in 2 months and have applied for a modification.  I will not come out of this situation with a lot of money.  I will have to discipline myself to stick to a firm budget. 

But for the first time in forever, I don’t really care and I’m not really worried.  After all, the worst has happened.  My beautiful, smart, kind, funny, wonderful husband is gone.  We fulfilled our marriage vows “till death do us part”, and now he has died and we are parted.

I miss all the little things.  I miss hearing his watch click shut at 4am when he’s deciding to get out of bed and go to work.  At least once a day, something happens and I immediately think, “I gotta tell Mike about this!”.  I miss “Attagirl, Susan” when I accomplish something big or small.  I miss his hugs, he hugged like he owned you, like if he let go, you’d float away and vanish.  I miss changing his hearing aid wax catchers.  I miss a bottle of ketchup on the table all the time.  I miss sleeping in on Saturday mornings and waking up to giggles from Mike and Leah both.  I miss hearing him yell at the Patriots and the Red Sox, and singing at the top of his lungs.  I miss my morning emails, and the news articles that I never bothered to read.  I miss making him take and return phone calls.  I miss sitting at the train station and meeting his friends when he got home at night.  I miss cutting his hair.  I miss snuggling in bed and getting him to turn over.  I miss him coming down with a variety of exotic ailments.  I miss his same 5 stories over and over again.  I miss dreaming about our future.  I miss evenings in his office and how he’d say, “you’re not bothering me, I love being in here together.”  I miss “karaoke” nights.  I miss his laugh.  I miss his funny faces and his chewed up finger nails.  I miss his voice and his smell.  I miss being loved like he loved me.

I would do just about anything, anything at all to bring him home, to make this different.  The last 2 months are a blur, and it seems so unfair to still be here, to still be living when I have so little to offer the world and he had so much. 

Please don’t avoid me.  I need to hear about how you miss him too.  I want to hear your stories and what kind of a person you remember him to be.  Say his name.  Risk making me cry.  Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who remembers and misses him because everyone is so darned worried about upsetting me.  I’m already upset.  Talking about him and his love for all of us and the silly things he did helps me.  Invite us out.  Sometimes we’ll come, sometimes we won’t.  I love keeping Leah busy and keeping the pressure off me a little bit.  But some days I just want to hibernate and hide. 

Please don’t pity us.  What has happened is awful.  What’s to become of us, I do not know.  But Leah and I were so lucky to have had Mike and we are so lucky to have each other.  Offer your condolences, your sympathy, but not your pity.  We are going to be ok. 

Please ask how I am.  I will continue to answer “I’m OK” unless you seem to want to hear more and then I will give you the full on answer about good days and bad days and surviving.  Please ask how Leah is.  She is OK too.  But we love knowing that people are thinking of us both.

Please be patient with me.  I don’t feel like writing letters, talking on the phone much…  Most everything has lost its meaning.  The prior joy I took in Facebook and email is gone.  I’ve never been a phone person in the best of circumstances.  But leave messages, call, email, write a note and send it.  I do keep a list and someday I’ll return everyone’s good wishes.  Understand that one day I may feel like going out and doing a bunch of things and then I may not want to leave my house for 3 weeks.  I’m doing the best I can to make sense of thoughts and feelings I don’t even understand myself.

Please don’t take it personally when I don’t want to go to your church, talk to your counselor, try your drug regimen, eat your macrobiotic diet, or start doing your yoga routine.  I have a crappy relationship with God right now, I’m not ready for counseling, I’m not good at taking pills, I can barely reheat food much less try a whole new cooking lifestyle, and I’m lucky I can touch my hips, much less bend over backwards and touch my toes to my nose.  I’m appreciative of all your suggestions, but I have to go about this my own way and in my own time.  Keep your dietician’s number handy though, and I might use it in the future.

Thank you.

For now, I will keep on keeping on, for our daughter and for him.  My life has to mean something more now.  It’s only fair to him.