Our Story Begins:
The Real Me
I’m going to answer a question for you all. It may be my final answer to this question, something that I get asked all the time.
“How do you do it?”
There are variations on the question, some more statement than interrogative.
“I don’t know how you do it.”
“How do you have the time?”
“Where do you find the energy?”
“I can’t even imagine going through what you have . . . ”
I have to be honest, it’s taken almost exactly four years and six months for me to be able to quantify that answer for you.
Some perspective for those reading about me for the first time: on March 26th, 2011, my wife Andrea Andrews Manoucheri passed away. It wasn’t expected. There was no long-term disease that had us fighting and hopeful and then having to come to terms with the eventual loss. There was no car accident. There was no murder or nefarious motive.
She died of pneumonia.
Yep. The thing you go to the pharmacy, get penicillin or amoxicillin or any other “illin” antibiotic and knock it down and move on. That’s what did her in. She went into the hospital on a Tuesday and was gone on a Saturday.
People hear that story and immediately ask those questions up there.
That first few days . . . that first year . . . even the first couple years I don’t know if I’d have told you what I was doing. I was making it up. Nothing about my previous parenting was applicable. I was part of a team, a united front, a dynamic duo that made it seem to the smaller people in our household that the tall people walking around had a grasp of what they were doing.
I’m approaching five years hence and I think I can answer those questions.
The man I was four years, six months and 1 day ago simply isn’t here any more. He shattered and broke into pieces on March 26th, 2011.
I’m going to let you in on a horrible, terrible secret, though. It’s a secret I’ve kept and tried really hard to deny for more than four years: in some ways that loss was a good thing.
I’m a totally different person from that guy 4 years, six months and one day ago. Are there pieces of that shattered person still inserted in there? Yes. Of course. There are core parts of me that will always be there.
I’m a stronger man. I’m a better man. I’m a more capable man. That day, at 8:30am, I went from a duo to a solo act. In that precise moment I became a single dad. The hardest thing to embrace was that it all fell on my shoulders. Every decision, every choice, every turn, from what school my kids attend to what laundry detergent we use is mine alone. If any of those are the wrong choice the fault is all mine. Yet I make those decisions.
I have changed. I am strong. I am confident. I am thriving. I am happy. I can say, with certainty, that I wasn’t all those things before.
The death of my wife made me a better person. I am kinder, gentler, more curious. I want to do more with my life, things I know and always believed I could do.
It’s a terrible legacy to live with, knowing that you are a better parent, person, man, and friend than you were. Change is not a bad thing. Who I am was broken, bent, beaten into a new shape, and now I’m a different dad, a different person and a different man. I started dating and the women I have had dates with are far different than the woman I was married to, not because I’m avoiding my late wife but because I’m not the person who married my late wife. My likes, attractions they changed with me.
How do I do it? In losing my wife I gained strength, confidence, and personality that were there, down inside, and they grew. Losing her and having to live on without her was terrible. The strange legacy of loss is that I’m better because of it.
That’s how I do it.