A somewhat brief overview of four wonderful days shared with family, friends, and Leelee……
Thursday, May 11
I think half of the music to which I regularly listen was introduced to me by someone else. You know the drill. Someone comes to you and says, “Hey, listen to this.” So you listen to the CD and you determine that you like it or you don’t. If you do, sometimes you make the music your own by either ripping a couple of songs to your computer, or as is the case with me, neglecting to return the CD to the person who lent it to you in the first place.
I was not introduced to James Blunt, per se’. I had heard his song ”You’re Beautiful” a gazillion times on the radio, I just did not know his name. That is until Lee explained to me who he is and why he’s been moved to the very top of her celebrity lust-crush list. Apparently, Blunt is a big thing in England, his native home, and the chicks really dig him. So much so that his concert tickets are a very, very tough buy. So much so that Lee paid WAY more than I would have for tickets to his concert at the House of Blues.
Let me tell you how big of a deal this concert was for her and apparently many, many other James Blunt fans. HOB is a general admission venue, meaning there are no assigned seats. In fact, there are no seats. It’s a stage with an open floor, and staggered levels of standing room only. The line for a concert at HOB usually wraps around the restaurant area of the venue. As an incentive, HOB offers ‘skip the line’ where you can move towards the front of the line if you spend a certain amount of money at the restaurant or gift shop. Lee and I had done this before for Sister Hazel and decided to do it again for James Blunt. Long story short, the ‘skip the line’ line wrapped around the building! The ‘regular’ line started BEHIND the restaurant! There were that many people there to see James play, and it was announced later that night the crowd set an HOB attendance record. Let me tell you, we could feel the volume of people inside. To say it was packed would be an understatement.
And even though the crowd was uncomfortably large, the show was amazing. A young female performer by the name of Toby Lightman opened up for James. She was great. Young, attractive and with a really great voice, Toby has a Bohemian-Cheryl Crow-Edie Brickell quality about her, and the lyrics to her music are both smart and entertaining. We picked up a copy of her CD after her performance, and she was gracious enough to sign it for us.
Then James Blunt came on stage. I’m not going to lie and say he had the best stage presence I’ve ever seen – that honor still remains with Michael Buble’ – but James was really, really good. His energy was tangible, and he had that funny, witty British charm that you can’t help but acknowledge. The ladies screamed for him, like when you see vintage footage of Elvis Presley shows, and James just lapped it all up. Adding to the overall experience of the concert was the fact that behind the band was a screen upon which varying images and videos were displayed depending on the song. It was a very cool combination of audio and video.
Although all his songs are good, there are two that stick out in my memory of the show. The first is ‘No Bravery’. This is a song he wrote following his experiences as a Peacekeeper in Kosovo, and he sang it while home video footage of his tour in Kosovo played in the background. It was so sad yet intimately amazing. The second song was ‘Goodbye My Lover’. James played this on stage alone, sitting at his piano with all the lights off except for one spotlight. I don’t know the story behind this song, but the lyrics are heartbreaking and deep.
I felt Lee’s arms hold me tighter during this song, and I know what she was thinking. In looking back at all the wonderful experiences we’ve shared since her birthday, and since we first met, the idea of it all ending is devastating. The idea of ever saying goodbye to her brings tears to my eyes, and the words from the song resonate through my heart at the thought of losing her. “I’m so hollow, baby. I’m so hollow.” I heard this song and interpreted it as the eulogy a widowed husband sings to his deceased wife. I felt my arms hold Lee tighter, and I thanked God for allowing her to be in my life.
The show concluded and we drove home on a James Blunt high. I wish we could have spent the night in Orlando, but we both had to be at work the following day. We talked the whole way home, and I am not sure which of the two of us was smiling more. One more steadfast memory created together in what we hope will be a lifetime of moments like this night.
Friday, May 12
The good thing about writing or journalizing is that you can fast forward the dull and boring moments in life. So needless to say, this entry begins with me picking up my kids at school after work. I was really excited because I knew I would have them all night. Even though I was planning to be on the road early on Saturday morning, I knew the kids would stay up late at my place until their mother picked them up after her evening out.
So Natalie, Daniel and I began our Friday afternoon at Sam’s Club looking for something to fix for dinner. We collectively agreed on Shrimp Scampi and pasta and headed home, but not before our usual perusal of stuff at the discount club. That can be really fun with the kids except for when we come across something they feel thy HAVE to have. Then the stern parent in me has to come out and tell them “No” which is always followed by “Because I say so” which in tern is followed by the scowling “Ask me again and see what happens….” comment.
But it’s usually a fun time with the kids. I have them sit in the shopping cart and we zoom up and down the aisles at breakneck speed. “Faster, daddy! Faster!” And for some reason the floors at Sam’s are so conducive to sprinting behind the shopping cart and performing a sliding stop thus preventing us from crashing into the elaborately displayed and precisely stacked bottles of Riesling.
We got home and I started on dinner. Daniel, of course, took to turning on the PS2 and playing a video game. Natalie, being the adult wannabe that she is, kept asking of ways she could help with dinner. So after having her clear up the dinner table, she went to the other room to watch TV. Lee got home and the apartment became a soup of controlled chaos, but in a good way.
“How was your day, honey?”
“Good, thanks. Traffic wasn’t too bad coming home. Dinner smells great.”
“Thank you. I was ….. Daniel, lower the volume! Sorry. What was I saying?”
“You were talking about di….”
“Hey, Natalie, how are you?”
“I’m so happy you’re here. Let me show you what I made at school for mother’s day.”
“Okay, but give me a second, sweetie. Let me put my stuff down.”
“Baby girl, can you please turn off the TV in the other room and wash your hands? We’re about to have …… Daniel!!!!! LOWER the volume!”
“But daaaaaaaddeeeeeeee. I caaaaan’t hear it <pout, pout>”
“Dude! I said……… In fact, turn it off and go wash your hands. We’re gonna’ eat in a minute.”
“But daaaaaaaddeeeeeeee. I’m not finished with this level.”
“I don’t care. Turn it off.”
“Your pasta is boiling over.”
“Daddy, you said a bad word.”
“I know sweetie. Sorry. I ….. Didn’t I tell you to go wash you hands?”
Sure it sounds crazy, but I wouldn’t change a thing. If this is what it’s like to be surrounded by love, I’ll take it every day of the week and twice on Sundays. We sat down at the table, said grace while holding hands, and ate dinner. We had conversations about school, work, weekend plans, etc, and the room was filled with laughter and joy.
I thought about something my friend Patti told me. She said the most important thing a father can do is love the mother of his children. Even though we’re no longer together, I like to think I display that love for Alex in what I do to help her out as best I can. Like I’ve mentioned before, we do everything in the best interest of our kids, and I have received many compliments of what a great job we’ve done with Natalie and Daniel given the situation we’re in.
And even though Lee is not the mother of my kids, I love how she loves them as her own. I like to think that I am setting the example for Natalie to see what true companionship and love is supposed to be. I want her to grow up knowing and understanding how a woman deserves to be treated, and being strong enough to demand respect and consideration from any man with whom she enters a relationship. Conversely, I want to set the example for Daniel and teach him that being a man does not necessarily mean being macho. Rather, it means treating women with respect and love and seeing them as equal partners in life.
These are the moment I hope and pray my kids remember when they reminisce on their childhood. I hope they are able to look back with appreciation on these moments and realize that we provided a happy childhood for them. I want them to become adults knowing what happiness means and expecting to achieve happiness in all they do. I don’t ever want them to settle for anything but the best, and I truly believe that moments like Friday night are as good as it ever gets.
Saturday, May 13
Have you ever had a really long day? I mean a REALLY long day? That’s pretty much how Saturday was for me and Lee. And the thing is it was all good …. well, for the most part.
The day started with us waking up later then we had wanted. Since we were going to be driving to Miami for my niece’s baptism, the goal was to be on the road by 6:00 AM. The baptismal ceremony was scheduled to start at 12:00, the drive to South Florida is usually a four hour trek, and the early departure would allow for any unforeseen delays due to traffic, and as has been the case recently, wildfires, etc. So when I opened my eyes and noticed it was 6:05, I knew that was not a good thing.
We got on the road, after a minor snafu at the Sonic drive thru, and started heading to Miami. To be honest, the road trip was uneventful, but Lee and I did have very pleasant conversation in between her naps. We arrived at the church and attended a very beautiful ceremony for my niece. She was the only baby being baptized that afternoon, and as such it created a very cozy and intimate environment for everyone present.
I am not too shy to say that both Lee and I looked very good in our dress apparel. The only problem is that we were both overdressed for the occasion. How do you overdress for a baptism, you ask? Easy….. go to a baptism in Miami. Apparently – and I did not get the memo on this – it is perfectly fine to show up to a baptism, or any otherwise formal event, with a guayabera shirt. And this does not apply only to the men. You can now get guayabera fashioned apparel for women, children and …. you guessed it, infants. My baby niece, all of 3 months old, had her little guayabera outfit going.
Being from Alabama, Lee was completely fascinated by this. Being a woman, Lee insisted …. I mean suggested …. we take time to stop by the mall and check out the guayabera store before we drove to Naples later that evening. Yes, the plan was to get back on the road after taking part in a full day’s worth of events, which now included a stop at the Dolphin Mall. I told you it was a really long day.
But seriously, the baptism was beautiful. It was remarkable to be home and part of little Sara’s christening. Maybe it’s because my youngest nephew is four and it had been a while since I had been to one. Maybe it’s because I feel I am reconnected and more in tune with my spirituality. Maybe it’s because I can better understand the mystery that is God’s will and accept on faith that God has a plan for all of us.
Either way, the baptism was very special for me if for no other reason that I got to share it with Lee, and she was able to take in some more of the culture that makes up who I am. There is something about being home that always feels safe and secure. There is something cozy, warm and comfortable about being in familiar surroundings. It’s a reset of all the archetypal qualities within us. When you get to share that comfort with someone you love, it makes it that much more spectacular.
Lee and I plan on going to Alabama for a weekend in June, and I look forward to being comfortable with her in her hometon, especially since she will probably be wearing her new guayabera dress.
Sunday, May 14
Lee and I ushered in Mother’s Day at a bar in Naples, Florida. We decided to stay the night at the halfway point between Miami and Tampa so as to reduce the commute, and as luck would have it a friend of ours was in Naples for a wedding and allowed us to stay in his hotel room. We got to Naples late on Saturday night, and since we were still nicely dressed from my niece’s baptism, we decided to go out for a little bit. There is something peculiar about having woken up at 6:00 AM on Saturday and still be awake and drinking margaritas as the closing time lights come on in the club at 1:00 AM Sunday.
So after getting a minimal amount of sleep, Lee and I headed to Tampa. Well, St. Pete actually. The plan for Mother’s Day was to take Lee’s mom, Patsy, to the Devil Rays game at Tropicana Field. Although I am a firm believer that there should be a constitutional amendment that prohibits baseball from being played indoors, and even though the Devil Rays got their tales handed to them by the Blue Jays, it was a very fun experience.
I am particularly happy that Lee had the opportunity to share Mother’s Day with her mom. It was not too long ago that Lee was helping her mother overcome some very serious and personal issues, and the struggles have been long for both of them. I remind Lee of how much I admire her resolve and her strength in doing what she did by taking in her mother in her time of need. I love my mom, but she will be the first to tell you that our relationship works because of the 300 miles between us. What Lee did for her mother is nothing short of amazing, and it is the definition of what family is and always should be.
I also applaud Patsy for her willingness to help herself. We all have to experience and deal with struggles in life. In fact, without the tough times we would probably not appreciate the good times as much when they do occur. Patsy stared her problems in the face and made up her mind to overcome them, and that takes as much courage as anything else I can think of. I think about what her thoughts are as she looks back at the recent past and compares it to future ahead. I have to imagine that she finds comfort in knowing that what lies ahead was made possible by her daughter, and that her daughter, who also had to deal with patches of turbulence in her past, has in front of her a happier road as well.
What is it exactly that we celebrate on Mother’s Day? Ask a million people that question and you’ll get a million different answers. For me, Mother’s Day is about recognizing in yourself the positive qualities instilled in you by the woman who gave you life and brought you into this world. It’s about honoring your mother by refocusing on those characteristics that make you a good person. It’s about saying thank you to the first person in this world to ever love you.
I am honored that I got to share this Mother’s Day with Lee and Patsy. I know that as much as they may go at it from time to time – just as my mom and I do – they do so because they love each other, and that love is unconditional and undeniable. Love does indeed make the good times even better, but more importantly it carries us through the tough times we are all bound to face.