Yesterday around 3 pm was an interesting moment. Beth and I were in the truck heading east toward a hotel in Westchester. The plan was to perform two-holiday shows on Thursday, one more on Friday on Long Island, and then take a plane to visit the kids in Florida. Simple, huh? After missing three dates due to Covid, we were back in the saddle and ready to finish the season with a little Fa-la-la before Flor-i-da.
We knew that the weather was supposed to be a mix of rain and snow on Thursday and Friday, but we were proceeding with holiday shows and Christmas plans as if everything was going to come together just as we had sketched it out in the battle room some weeks ago. Sure, we had passed through the worst part of the virus, but we were still feeling like two slices of wet toast. In my mind, our energy was barely enough to get us through the shows, onto the plane and into the arms of our children. But we can do this, right? We are Bierko Strong!
This was the time when 1) Beth looked at her phone confirming the “traveling hell” that was about to grip the nation during the holiday travel season, and 2) she spoke with some friends who warned us that planes might not take off if they couldn’t get to New York from other parts of the country. In other words, this is when a THE FEAR VOICE entered the truck and nestled between my wife’s lovely ears (fear of not seeing her kids) while simultaneously burrowing into my head with a slightly different flavor (fear of my wife’s fears and fear of change).
“Should we cancel our gigs and drive to Florida right now?” I swear to God we spent the next 45 minutes thinking about it and it wasn’t until we got off the road heading towards Bear Mountain Bridge that we decided, “No. Though it might be fun to lengthen our vacation to two weeks, we don’t have the stamina to drive 22 hours in 2.5 days. We hardly have the energy to drive one more hour tonight.” Thank God we thought it through. If we had turned south at that moment we would either be in an ER (worst outcome) by now or in Raleigh, NC eating the Blue Plate special at the local Waffle House (less bad, but equally unhealthy).
In both cases, we would have done something I hate to do: change horses in mid-stream. I’ve also been trained by my parents, grandparents, bosses, principals, teachers, and clergy to never, ever cancel a show (commitment) unless my arm is falling off or our children are being held hostage by terrorists. Sure, our clients might have understood and rescheduled, but we have spent 30 years building a reputation for doing what we say we’re going to do, namely, show up and play.
If you’re married with children (or you have a mother), then you know that many loving moms have a very passionate desire to connect with their children over the holidays. It’s just the way these wonderful beings are once they take the journey from pregnancy to pre-K and beyond. We fathers feel some of this connection with our kids, but most of us would never think of driving to Florida on the spur of the moment unless there was a wife in the passenger seat about to have an aneurysm. We’re not built like them, but we are built to support them. Interestingly, a lot of guys (like me) ARE built to honor our work commitments. Strange, huh?
So, as Beth continued to process the thought that “I might not see my kids” this morning I was struggling to rise from my bed and keep my commitment to my clients before our vacation. Beth didn’t want to cancel shows, but she was encouraging me to consider changing everything to make sure that the “Christmas with the Kids” plan would happen regardless of disease, weather patterns and airplane schedules.
Somewhere around 12:30 pm today after a horrible night’s sleep and finishing the first show it occurred to me that we had fallen into a common trap that married couples stumble into on occasion. It happens when we are ill, tired, afraid or when our loved ones are involved. Under those conditions, we can make the mistake of forgetting that loving our partner is paramount and everything else comes after that. Marriage is the fulcrum on which family rests.
Some people and some couples believe that children come first. I disagree. A healthy family begins with a healthy marriage. Without our partnership, Beth and I could not have accomplished half of what we’ve done in the last thirty years. I think it’s also true that our children’s success is largely due to our focus on marriage first.
So, today I lost my balance for a while. I forgot until right now how much I love my wife and how important love is. Sure, she’s absolutely cuckoo at times about our kids, but so am I when I get obsessed with a work project. Together, we have handled the last two weeks and the last two days with aplomb, even though it felt like a bomb, at times. We know how to come back to sanity and clarity. We start respecting one another and holding one another and we abandon our need to be right, and smarter, or fear that being wrong or silly is unforgivable. Instead, we do forgive. We grow and then – only then – have we the power to make good choices, listen to the right voices and feel the spirit of the holidays grow inside of our hearts.
Tomorrow, we may be in Florida. Or we may be at LaGuardia airport looking to get to Florida. Who knows? Whatever happens, though, we’ll be together. And that’s my Christmas.