Our Story Begins:
A Day to Anticipate, Not Dread

If you read this the day it publishes, it will be November 1st, or All Souls Day, the day after Halloween. That’s appropriate, even though I’m writing about a particular day . . . October 30th.

October 30th is my wife’s birthday. Andrea Andrews Manoucheri (yes, her maiden name was Andrews, yes it sounds like a TV anchor name and . . . yes, she was a TV anchor for awhile) was born on that day, 1970.  She would have been 45.  I say would have because in 2011 she passed away.

Her birthday was always hard. Why? There’s a couple reasons, actually.

Some of it was my career.  In television we set the advertising rates based on ratings. The biggest ratings period or “sweep” that occurs is November and it more or less sets the tone for the year.  We say November, but it almost always starts the last week of October. My job is in TV news so that means you work, regardless of whether it’s someone’s birthday, anniversary, wedding, what have you.  It is part and parcel with the life we all lead in the television industry.

Some of it was my wife herself. She was a dichotomy of maddening contradictions. It’s what made her so amazing, so fun, so loving. It’s also what made her volatile and sometimes easily hurt, even knowing the circumstances.  Every year she asked me to come home early to celebrate her birthday and every year the answer was the same: I couldn’t. Particularly when my wife left the media to go back to college or when she wasn’t working the danger of losing my job too was too great. I had to juggle happiness at home and satisfaction of my bosses.  Add to that the fact that she hated surprises but then was always angry when there was nothing surprising about her birthday, her cake or her presents. She chose what she wanted and then was upset that it was all she got.

Some of it was me, for sure. I screwed up those birthdays a lot. I realized, too late, that I should have damned the consequences and done all I could. I should have lifted her off her feet and whisked her away.  I should have put my foot down and hidden every gift idea from her. When the anger boiling over leading to major arguments hit I should have realized the one very true thing – she just wanted the man she loved to come home and celebrate her day.

I failed this day in so many ways. Sure, she made it impossible. Then again, I did too.

The day means different things to different people. I believe it is still melancholy for her sister, a wonderful loving woman. It may very well be a reminder of things that are gone, forever.

I decided it wasn’t going to be a messed up day again. Not ever.

So we celebrate. We have a cake, either one I make or one from our favorite bakery. I get presents – small ones – for my kids. It’s a birthday celebration, after all. We eat dinner, talk about our favorite memories of my wife, not one single bad memory is allowed, and then we laugh.

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We laugh because . . . it’s what we do. Loss is hard, I make no allusions otherwise. I hate the phrase “get over her” or “how did you get over her?” You never really get over her, whether it’s your wife, mother or sister. She’s gone and we are the ones left to figure it out in the end.

Figure it out we did. It’s not a day to mourn. I’ll start with flowers for my wife . . . lying them on her grave like I have every year since she passed.

At home . . . we celebrate, because in the end we are all worth celebrating.

And so was she.

Happy birthday, Andrea.