I want to introduce you to Dave Manoucheri, friend, father and faithful reader of GEM. A few weeks ago, Dave responded to a question I posed about whether you’d want to have a crystal ball. In his response he opened up about the fear I think we all have as parents; that somehow we’re not doing it right or enough. In talking with him a bit more, I learned about the year he’s had and it’s been a rough one. His partner, best friend and wife died very suddenly earlier this year, leaving Dave to raise their four kids. He’s a great storyteller, even when he subject is a difficult one. You can read more about Dave at his site, aptly named Our Story Begins. AND.. I’m pleased to announce, Dave joins our cadre of columnists in the new year so you’ll be able to follow along as his new life unfolds. So please welcome Dave, read more about his Life Lessons and email us here if you’d like to take part in our exercise!
Are you happy at the moment?
Well, no. With a rough year filled with loss and recovery, the better adjective might be even. Not sad or depressed, but happy isn’t my consistent state of mind right now.
If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?
Be more confident in yourself. You have more going for you than you think and you’re about to have an amazing future. You’ll go so much farther if you believe in yourself.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?
We are stronger together than we are apart (when it comes to my family).
What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?
Stability. To explain, I want to be able to do my daily routine and give my kids the life they still deserve, the memories they need. I want this next 12 months to be memorable for the right things, the good reasons, not the year everything went all wrong, which it could be.
What’s your secret to happiness?
My kids. No secret there.
What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?
Eating dinner every night at the table, having each child pick out a piece of music we listen to as we eat dinner.
What’s your biggest regret?
I’m cheating and picking 2. First, Andrea’s biggest fear was being alone. When she went into cardiac arrest and started to go, I wasn’t there. I had no idea what was going on, I worry she thought she was alone, scared, and I wasn’t there for her, and she didn’t hear me tell her I loved her one last time. 2nd, I never got her birthday right. I always seemed to get something wrong. If I could go back and make that a priority I would.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?
We are all we have. Our family is the most important thing, particularly now, and by actions, they’ve seen how we take care of each other.
What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?
Oh . . . less procrastination.
Aside from fatherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?
Writing music. I know it’s a vague statement, but my kids see that I taught myself to play guitar. They see their uncle, who’s semi-professional and playing regularly. Music increases attention, sparks thought, and there is rhythm and harmony in the world. My kids see that and live it, too, singing, listening. Even if they never play on a stage it’s part of their lives and that’s amazing.
When were you happiest?
The day I kissed my wife for the first time. Indulge me a second: we had gone out, sat up talking all night long. Maybe had a few drinks. But she’d felt bad about something her sister was going through, tearing up a little, laying her head on my shoulder. I leaned over and kissed her on the forehead, and she looked up, looking me in the eye, lingering just a little. Then I kissed her, this amazing, beautiful woman who had no business being with some gangly oddball like me, and my life changed forever. I normally would have been out of sorts, nervous, but this night I wasn’t myself; I wasn’t that guy. We kissed, nothing more. It was like a scene out of a John Hughes film.
It was magical.
What ten words best describe you?
Dad, Musician, creative, loving, improvisational, writer, funny (I hope), silly, baker, journalist.
Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California. A father of four: two daughters and twin sons, he writes the blog Our Story Begins as a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011.
(Editor’s note: This piece originally ran on December 9, 2011)