It was hard to say three. The cashier asked us how many tickets do we need, and we choked on the word three. Not because we had never asked for three tickets before, but this was different. This was permanent, this was for the rest of our lives. Our family is now three people, not four.
We finally got the words out, purchased the tickets, and Dorothy, Nicole and I went into the Atlanta Zoo and had a very nice day. We walked all around and stayed close, the three of us. We gazed at the animals, pet them in the petting zoo, watched the birds and the gorillas and the lions. We talked about the bears, and the three of us watched the pandas eat bamboo, we were all freaked out by the snakes and the lizards, and we stared at the gorillas that stared back at us. It was so nice just to be there. Dorothy and I were happy that Nicole was enjoying the zoo, as she always has. But it was also so hard for us. Andrew always loved the animals and loved the zoo, he should have been there with us. He probably would have been the first to want to leave, his patience doesn’t last all day, but he should have at least had the opportunity to ask us when are we leaving. But, we did had a very fun day with Nicole. We needed the few hours to just let go and be happy.
Later that day we went to the the Coke Experience. Again, three tickets. And the next day was breakfast for three, and three tickets to the Atlanta Braves game. Just saying three makes me sad. That is our new reality. We are no longer four, we are three. There is the same amount of love between us, just shared three ways now, not four, anymore.
I have to look back. I have to look back and smile. We were four. We had so many experiences and memories as four. We did so much, experienced so much, traveled so much – as four. I have to be so grateful that we were able to do all that with Andrew. I have to be thankful that we were four for so long, or just a short twenty one years. But it was a wonderful time, twenty one years that I will never forget. Twenty one years of great memories. I just hope that I can remember those twenty one years for the rest of my life, and that Nicole will remember her years with Andrew for the rest of her life.
I have to look at the pictures of the four of us and remember how wonderful life was. I know that the four of us were so close. Each of us having a different relationship with the others. My relationship with Andrew was far different than was Dorothy’s. Her love for Andrew was a pure mother’s love, he could do no wrong, they never argued, he never fought with his mom. When he was frustrated or upset, he loved his mom too much to argue or fight with her, and he would just walk away and say nothing was wrong. We talk about it, and we really can not remember a time he talked back to her, fought with her, or hurt her feelings. He was a wonderful son to her.
When he wanted to go somewhere and needed company, or wanted to take a ride, there was always Nicole. They went out to dinner together, or even lunch when they were both home. And anytime there was something missing or short in the fridge, they would both eagerly go shopping for one or two items, and return home with three or four bags of stuff we absolutely needed. Stuff like Oreo cookies, Miso soup mix, along with plenty of fruit and vegetables. They would even call grandma and ask her if she needed anything from the store. And of course they would deliver it to her, usually just in time for lunch or dinner – they planned that rather well usually. Although they lived apart much of the year, they were so close emotionally to each other.
Then there was our relationship. It was probably more complex than others. The frustration and anxiety he did not let his mom feel or hear, he let me have. We very rarely argued much, or fought, but he knew that I could take more than mom, so he did let it out on me more than anyone else. But it didn’t bother me, because I knew where it came from and knew it might have been something someone else caused, but he knew I could take the hit. We were also closer than the rest. We spent more time together, we traveled more together, and we talked so much during the time Jovi was pregnant and I learned so much about his thoughts and feelings, it really changed our relationship for the better. We also spent hours out in the backyard his last summer talking over the new fire pit. I learned so much about my son in the past few years. He had grown up so much being away at college, I looked forward to watching him become a man, to watching him grow into the person he was becoming. To watch him become a husband and a father, and see if what I taught him really sunk in. To see if my values and morals, at least the good ones, would be passed on to him. I will think about that, and what might have been, for the rest of my life. A relationship between a father and son is like no other.
But now we are three, and I long to see how Nicole will turn out. How will she find happiness in life. I know that she is a strong person, she is strong willed, and goes after what she wants. She does not sit back and wait for anything. She is much more independent than Andrew was, she asks for help much less and is determined to do it right – no matter what it is.
Yes, we are three now, but we will always really be four.