LibertyCon: Find Your Tribe

LibertyCon has come and gone. I leave my tribe after a long weekend.

It’s a science fiction and fantasy convention that has the honor of producing more lifelong friends than any other event in my entire life. It’s my tribe– a thing you should find, and keep, and have and celebrate. It’s books and games and characters, and in the halls are people who I’ve admired for forty years– and then they’re in front of me, and I get to chat with them about the books that are, in some way, the soundtrack of my life.

This year was a bit different, and by that I mean even better. I’m writing for a truly excellent person, Chris Kennedy, in a genre that I’ve loved since I was a kid– Military SciFi. Being involved with Seventh Seal Press is sort of like joining a winning team on the first day. Chris takes care of the details, big and little, and it shows. I carry this coin proudly.

For three days, I was on panels, at parties, buying books, talking about books, science, films, and anything else associated with a fandom that has given me limitless joy since I was a kid. I was exhausted but invigorated, a curious blend of wanting to do more on less sleep, and finally convincing myself I could sleep on Tuesday, because there was too much good stuff to see and do.

After leaving friends for the trip home, my thoughts return to my family and how much I’ve missed them. It’s a good drive– mountains, sun, summer heat– and I look forward to that strange sensation of coming home to people you love more than anything, even after being among people you love. It’s an embarrassment of riches, and it never gets old.

On the way. I stopped to eat in a small town, Monteagle, Tennessee. There’s an iconic place– The Smokehouse– and I went in having not set foot there since 1977. Fond memories of being a kid with my family, seeing snow for the first time, a wooden toy my grandfather bought me, soon to be scattered across the cavernous back seat of our 1972 Cadillac. Joyous thoughts, then a conclusion as I realize that of seven people at that table, only two remain, and we’re not kids anymore.

Travel is like that for me. It gives and takes. It fills up my tank, and not all of it is pure, because I’m aware of the passage of time. I eat the food slowly, processing the past three days while thinking of the next ten.

I return home to teach, write, edit. Things that are all part of my third life, the one that has bloomed unexpectedly out of a childhood love of things that didn’t exist anywhere except the books I loved– dragons, distant galaxies, starships made of light. This is the best of my three lives, and LibertyCon is the fuel.

To repeat: find your tribe.

Terry

The most important full moon of my life.

It’s tonight. Here’s why: 336.

That’s the number of full moons I can expect to see if I live to be the average age for an American male. I run, don’t smoke, and I’m happy, so perhaps my lifespan will be extended. But based on the science and betting averages, I’m looking at 336 more.

I didn’t think of this until yesterday, when I did a little math and came to this rather shocking conclusion. I think that ninety percent of my life is convincing myself I’m not concerned with aging, but I am. It feels like these thoughts have stolen into my writing– two years ago, I wrote this line, and it means a lot to me now.

I’ve lived through 576 full moons. That seems like a lot, until I realize it’s gone by in a blink. My son is nine. I’ve been married for ten years. I have old friends, getting older, and new friends who are younger. We speak of things they can’t have seen, but that are real to me. My stories are a Venn diagram of their life and mine, a common ground made real by shared words over coffee and cheeseburgers.

336 more. I’m not sad– I’m not even really counting. But moonlight has a pressure, however soft, and I feel it.

Happy Birthday, Son. Love, Dad.

Our son Teddy turns nine today. His birthday is the culmination of a series of surprises, that include (but are not limited to):

Becoming a dad at forty, when my entire life had been spent in service to myself, not others.

The surreal experience of my bride and I being sent home with a live human being in our red Mustang, and wondering, “What the hell do we do now?”

Discovering that, for the first few months, he didn’t do very much; sort of like an exceptionally cute inchworm with toes.

Watching him grow. Alarmingly fast. Like, “Your four year old will need you to help him shave soon.” That kind of fast. Missy is very tall. I am tall. We’re all tall. Teddy is really tall. He’s five feet tall, with no end in sight.

Learning that kids tend to run around naked. A lot.

Finding out that due dates for babies are a “serving suggestion”, as he arrived six weeks early, when I had the entire bathroom ripped out and our toilet sitting over a crawlspace. It had quite the frontier feel, but with 85% more possums and raccoons.

Watching him develop a love for kittens and puppies as naturally as if it were his calling.

Seeing the first time he told a joke, and it was funny.

Holding hands with him as we walk, and wondering if I will ever be more needed (or happy) in my life than in that moment.

Seeing his mother in him, as well as his grandmother, and me, and a line of wonderful people who all comprise part of him; but knowing that he is utterly unique.

Wondering who he will become, but also fearing the passage of time.

Standing quietly in the kitchen with my wife, talking about him in hushed tones because he amazes us.

Feeling my purpose realized, fully and with complete joy, and being thankful that I get to see him grow.

Happy birthday, Teddy. You are the best thing under the sun. We love you.

 

How To Waste Time

10:12 AM

Bride asks, “Can you pick up fried rice for my lunch? They don’t open until 11. Can you find something to do until then?”

Me: “Have we met?”

What transpires next is as follows:

Gas station. One conversation, fill up, move on. 12 minutes.

Ace Hardware. Furnace filter. Three conversations about, but not limited to:

When to set out my onions.

Welding in cold weather.

Drills. 22 minutes.

Food Lion. Diet Coke (24 pack), Blueberry Nutrigrain Bars. Three conversations:

Books.

Kansas City.

Trucks. 17 minutes.

Arrive at Bento (Japanese Restaurant, lovely people) right on time. Order fried rice (no veggies), double order, and hibachi steak. 9 minutes.

Arrive home, eye my bride curiously as she makes no comment about issue of time. Debate reiterating my ability to waste time anywhere, any way, with anyone. It’s an art.

I’m a problem solver. If there’s extra time, fear not. It’s as good as gone.

Breast Cancer, Mom, and the Number 19

Mom died nineteen years ago today. Breast cancer. She got sick when I was a kid– it was a rare time when she cried, but she did so in the car while we were going somewhere unimportant.

“Why are you crying, mom?”

“They found a lump in my breast.”

A short sentence with long consequences.

She was sick for years– after six surgeries, she said, “I don’t want them to cut me any more.” 

So, we didn’t let them. 
For some people 20 is a more important marker based on our fingers and toes, but I damned near lost a finger nine years ago (they sewed it back on, it works) so 19 is important, too. I could be counting to 19 save for a dollop of good luck and a great surgeon.


She died from radiation tumors. They killed her just as surely as a slow moving train, but in the end, it was too much. She missed us before she was gone; we miss her still. I fed her a tomato and mayo sandwich ( her favorite) and then on a Tuesday she couldn’t eat. Then, she couldn’t speak, and then, she was gone. I scrubbed a small spot of urine ( there is no dignity in cancer) from the blue shag carpet, and I wondered if she would be standing there when it was clean. She wasn’t.

I think I mock activists too much, but it might be my own bitterness ( I still am, always will be), but get checked out. She was 34 when she got sick. She was 52 when she died. There were a lot of horrid nights from the chemo. I don’t know if it could be avoided, but I looked to see how long a mammogram takes– it isn’t long– but I guarantee you the wait in a doctor’s office for that procedure is far shorter than a day like she had.

So get checked out, that’s all.

Terry

September: The Glory Season

September. The Last Hurrah.

Also my birth month, and the month we lost my mother nearly twenty years ago. There’s a lesson here, I think.


I’ve been in an area afflicted by seasons for more than twenty years of my life, and in some way, September has become my favorite month. Crops and flowers start to look a little shopworn, and there are quiet places where creeks used to be during the height of the rains.


But then, we get a bit of rain and there’s a Renaissance in the fields. Things perk up. Flowers bloom. Beans get sassy, go a little higher. Things are moving again.


That doesn’t include the flowers. Here’s the thing about weeds and flowers: in September, they’re both the same thing. It just depends on where they are and if you want them. Regardless of our applause, they’ll bloom.





That purple stuff? It’s purple glory. It shows up in August, bursts onto the scene, and tells everyone that fall is nearby, so you’d better soak up what heat you need to get you through the inevitability of the oncoming gray. 

I turn forty-seven in five days. I can identify with the flowers and the weeds. I was slow to arrive, not really the best neighbor for a long time, and then, once I bloomed and got a little rain, I was okay. Now that I’m in my glory, it’s late in the season, and I’ve got to decide if I bloom until the bitter end, or do I fade out?

I think I’ll hang out and be purple, if that’s cool. At my age, the fall looks pretty good, and winter, too.


Cheers,
Terry