Friday, May 23, 2008

 

In Which My Son Has Some Hard Questions...

This morning, there was whispering in the pre-dawn darkness and it woke me up. Someone was in the hallway outside my bedroom.

"Ready?"

"Wait. Wait. It's slipping."

"It's not an it. It's your sister."

"Okay. THE BABY is slipping."

"Well, let's go then. Move it!"

"You said she's not an it."

"Not 'it' the baby! 'It' like YOUR BUTT! GO!!"

By this time, my eyes were wide open and I was just in time to see Thomas bound into the room, yelling, "Happy Birthday Old Daddy!"

The Brownie was right behind him, but I couldn't tell at first, because she was holding the Éclair up as high as she could. The baby was hooting with glee.

"Baby Bomb!" the Brownie yelled, and half-laid, half-dropped the Éclair on my stomach.

"Abom!" The Éclair shrieked while I hoofed breathlessly. She leaned in and gave me a fierce squeeze (she loves giving hugs). Then she sat back and regarded me for a moment, before clapping her hands. "Yay! Yay!" she exclaimed.

Thomas gave me the look he's been giving me all week, a look of mingled surprise and something else. Either awe or pity, I'm not sure.

"Wow, Dad. You're really 40," he said, not for the first time. The idea that his Dad has lived two score years has really captured his imagination and he's been able to talk of little else. Not in a smart-ass, joking way either. He just seems to be fascinated.

After we went downstairs, I found the birthday balloons (the Brownie found them at the party store. Instead of just saying "Happy Birthday" on them, they conveniently say "Happy 40TH Birthday" in huge letters and numbers. You know, just in case you might forget and none of your children would think to remind you) and a few presents (Bill Bryson's new dictionary, some clothes, and a design book about building treehouses. My parents had always wanted to build a cabin up on their hill in New Hampshire and were talking ever more seriously about it now that I had a family that was getting too big to stay at the house. Now that the land has passed to me and my Big Brother, I'd still like to build a cabin, but who says it has to be on the ground?). And while Her Lovely Self went upstairs to find clothes for the Éclair (the Brownie went along, to help), Thomas continued to give me that look.

"So Dad, have you done all the stuff you ever wanted to do?" he finally asked. "I mean, what did you dream about doing by the time you were 40?"

It's the first time my son has asked me such a thing, and I admit I was taken a little off-guard. I thought about it for a minute before I answered.

"Well, you know, I'm not done living yet," I joked, hoping to deflect my son. But he just looked at me.

"Seriously," he said, and I knew finally there was no deflecting this.

"Okay, yes, I guess I've done most of the big stuff I've wanted to do," I finally said. "Getting to travel. Meeting a beautiful woman and getting her to marry me. Having kiddos. Making a living by working with words. You know, stuff like that."

Thomas nodded, but he wasn't letting his old man off the hook so quickly. "Is there anything you haven't done? Or wished you had done when you had the chance?"

He mean regrets. I thought. Have I had a few?

I was a few moments responding to that one, although I don't know why, because really, that's one of those questions most people know the answer to right away, if they're at all honest with themselves.

"Well, sure," I said. "I mean, I've been able to make a living and support you guys just by writing and editing, which is really quite something when you think about it. But..." I paused. "I have to admit that I've always wanted to write some different things."

"Like what?" he asked.

"Well," I said, counting on my fingers. "I've always wanted to try my hand at writing a comic book script. I did a comic strip years ago and that was a lot of fun, but I always wanted to try an actual comic book. I've always wanted to write a book about the small town where Grandma and Papa lived. And I've always wanted to write a children's book. Something besides "The Hairball Express," I mean. I've always wanted to try my hand at a kid's detective adventure, like the ones I grew up reading."

"So what stopped you?" Thomas asked, like he was my little therapist.

"I dunno," I said, inexplicably finding myself feeling shy and embarrassed. "As far as the book about the town in New Hampshire, I suppose I always knew there were other people who could tell the story better--people like your great-aunt Barbara or your grandfather." Although that's no longer true, I thought. "And as far as the other stuff, I guess I realized that I wasn't very good at making up stories. I was pretty good at asking questions and doing research and putting information together to tell a true story. But fiction? I just wasn't good at it. Not when I was younger, anyway."

"Well, how 'bout now?" Thomas asked, really not letting this thing go. "Aren't you even going to try? What are you waiting for?"

I stared at my son for a long while, wondering what the heck had gotten into him. But before I could pursue it, his mother came back down and the subject changed and the moment was broken.

But not lost. Not on me.

Because he's right, of course. What am I waiting for? To become a better writer? Yeah, like that's going to happen. No, if conventional wisdom is to be believed, I'm at my peak, my prime (possibly even a little past it). I wish I was a better writer. I really wish I was a better storyteller, even half as good as my Dad or my aunt. But wishing won't make it so. I'm about as good as I'm going to get.

I'm 40 years old.

Seriously, what am I waiting for?


Comments:
MM, a VERY happy 40th birthday to you. As a fellow-40-year-old, I am finding Thomas' words wise, wise, wise. (I have a list that I have been working on, myself.) Man, I can hardly wait to see what that comic book is going to be about. (I'm just hoping for a cameo for Blaze.)
 
For your kid to kick you in the ass and get ya going. I think that one can be checked off.

Now move it - 'it' your butt

And happy birthday.
 
Ah, wisdom from the mouths of babes. Or nine-year-olds, in this case. He definitely has a point.

I'm still looking forward to the "Fetching Blaze" novel if you ever get around to it. And I wouldn't discount your abilities as a storyteller...you may say you don't hold a candle to your Dad or your Aunt, but I think you're pretty damn good.

Oh, and happy birthday, ya old geezer.
 
I hope I handle the twilight years of my life with your dignity and grace. You are an inspiration to those of us in our late 30s.
 
Happy Birthday MM!

"Regrets, I've had a few,
But then again, too few to mention."
 
MM, happy birthday--I'm creeping up on that number myself and still don't know what I want to do "when I grow up".
I first stumbled upon your blog to find Blaze doing righteous battle with The Opossum. Haven't missed an entry in the seventeen liftimes you've lived since. You, sir, are a *born* storyteller, and never mind the talents of fathers and aunts.
Now go craft that comic book.
 
Happy Birthday to you and your dreams. May they all come true. With a little work, of course.
 
Happy Birthday MM!

Wait till you get to 42. That's been a weird one for me.

Glad to see you're on Twitter, too. Just started following you. (Do I dare leave my own Twitter addy?) Hmmm . . .
 
If you're slightly past your prime at 40, what the heck hope do I have? I didn't even start writing (seriously) until I was 46.

You're a magnificent storyteller. I haven't compared you to Twain all those times because you're a stiff, you know.

I'm looking forward to the results.
 
Happy Birthday MM. I'm way older than you and for me it just keeps getting better.

Maybe, just maybe, your dad and aunt were better storytellers but did they have the gift of being able to put it in writing?

Just read yesterday's post and boy did you have a lot of insight for a 16 (almost 17!) year old.
 
Happy Birthday MM!

I do hope that you will pursue some fiction! I would love to read it! Especially kid detective stories...my kids would love it, especially my oldest...she loves "Nate the Great"!
 
A very very Happy Birthday, MM.

If you do get around to writing those books, I would be delighted to carry them in our bookstore.
 
Happy birthday big guy.
Get the book done .. I'll order it from amazon or something.
 
Happy Birthday MM!

If you decide to write a book, (whether it be an anthology of a small town, children's book, comic, or anything else your muse chooses to kick your butt about until you get it written) I solemnly swear to buy up every single copy of it at my local B&N. And I have 2 of them.

Here's to making dreams come true.

(Also, the conversation between Thomas and The Brownie is absolutely priceless and made me chortle so hard that I woke up the dog. (You've got a great family.))
 
Happy 40th, my friend.

You're cheating us by not writing your books! I want to read the young detective series. It could be as big as Harry Potter (or at least as big as Encyclopedia Brown).

PS: I'd be thrilled if I had half of your storytelling talent.

Old man.

:)
 
You wish your were a better story teller?

MM, our family has on occasion gathered around the laptop while my dad read your posts. We LOVE your stories, and I sorely wish to hear you try your hand at fiction. Or even the "Fetching Blaze" story again. I'd love to hear you tell that one in person. :)

Happy Birthday, MM. I hope it's a great one.

With love,
Flip
 
Happy birthday MM - wow - what a kick in the butt! Bring on those books.
 
MM,
Happy Birthday! You deserve it. I've been reading your blog for a little over a year now. It's as addicting as a good book. I log on, start reading, and next thing I know 2 hours have passed, and I still don't want to quit. You have made me laugh, cry (sometimes from laughing so hard), shake my head, and left me speechless. You have had such a life and so many experiences. I wish you all the best. And, please don't ever quit writing. You have a true gift. I know your parents, (and Her Lovely Self, the kids, Blaze, and yes, even BB) are very proud of you.
Kind regards,
JJ
 
Happy 40TH :)
I love your style of writing...the only person stopping you writing fiction is you.... turning 40 seems to allow you to feel some freedom with life and expectations... go with it !
 
Happy Birthday :)

And go Thomas! We often ask ourselves the tough questions, but they seem much more weighty when they come from someone else...especially your own children, I would imagine.

Looking forward to reading whatever you end up writing :)
 
Happy 40th Birthday. Having turned 40 at the beginning of the year I found it to be a watershed moment for me to. All of a sudden I was brave enough to try many of those things that previously I thought I couldn't do. May be I have finally "grown up"....yeah right ....just become comfortable in this "old" body more like.

I'm only a new reader but I love your blog. Like others I have laughed and cried and spent the rest of the day thinking about what you have written. Keep doing what you're doing - it's amazing.
 
Happy Birthday MM!!!!

I've been waiting all week to say that. You were entered into my iCal from a few years back. :)

And thanks for the early birthday present back to us...a book, maybe?! :) That'd be too cool.
 
Go for it!

You would have a lot of pre-orders I think.

You have nothing to be afraid of. You are one of the most compelling and sincere storytellers I've ever encountered.
 
I heartThomas.
What Shane Nickerson said.
WTF are you waiting for?
How much more affirmation do you need? You know I've been here since the beginning. You have what it takes. If you know nothing else about me, you know I am honest and always speak my mind. Stop making excuses. You have the connections. Write the comic book, write the novel, write your memoirs.
I just found out that Neil Gaiman was a sold out speaker at MIT today and, no matter how much I love Neil, I'd rather go to your book signing.
I'll bet you a Luke w/Telescoping Lightsaber,you end up on Oprah's Book Club!
I'm talking college funds and retirement at 45 here.
You have nothing to lose in the attempt.
Hell, you could make a novel of October Moments.
Listen to your elders (Suldog and myself only being the ones to come to mind at the moment) and just DO IT!
One condition, I get a first edition, signed copy of whatever you do. After all, a single parent, trailer park lady has to look out for herself.
 
I'm waiting for an injection of talent :(

But goo dluck with your ambitions :)
 
A day late, and a dollar short, "but" Happy Birthday anyway.

Let us know where to buy those books!
 
Happy Birthday MM!
Just for the record, you are one hell of a great writer. I have often said that I wish I was half as talented, and have spent hours reading your words. Suldog calls you The Best Writer on the Internet, and I whole-heartedly agree.
Wishing you the very best - including taking the chance at something new.
Cheers!
 
Thomas continues to surprise and amaze me...and I don't even know the kid. Congratulations on making it through a really rough year...and good luck with whatever it is you've been waiting for! Happy birthday!!
 
Happy Birthday!! I hit 40 next Friday, which makes you one week older. Excellent.

Oh, yeah, and what Shane said.
 
one more voice here, and it's pretty much echoing what everyone else has said.

you're a very gifted writer, and if you're basing your writing on some reality from the past, then it's not straight fiction anyway, now is it? so, see? you're perfect for the job.

now go get cracking on those mind-stretching new horizons of writing.
 
"Out of the mouths of babes....well, Thomas isn't a babe, but you get the drift. I'm adding my 5 cents to what everyone else has already said, you are the best. Regrets are always about what we didn't try - so get writing! Your Dad and Aunt will be helping to put words into your mouth IF you actually need any help! Happy Birthday, Lizardmom
 
Well, here's another "old-timer" adding to the advice -"Get off your duff and get to writing that stuff!" You are a terrific storyteller, whether you think so or not, it is the truth. You may be a really good writer/editor person -the way you described yourself -but don't sell yourself short on the storyteller part cause you weave some really great stories on this blog. I very much look forward to reading each and every post of yours, whether it be a serious topic or one filled with humor as you keep me drawn in from start to finish. Now if that's not a requirement for storytelling, I don't know what is!
Oh, and Happy Birthday too. You're still a babe in the woods in that department though -a year younger than my oldest child and a little over a score younger than me, which makes me practically ancient, doesn't it?
 
I think you are already successful. Just not famous.

If your needs aren't being met, if you have to write, then write.

But there's nothing wrong with being a provider to your family, a husband, a father, a dog-owner... there's quite a bit RIGHT to doing the above right.
 
I don't know, MM...but when you're ready, I'll be waiting to read it...

Hey there friend. All is well enough, getting better.

Thank you for writing back then...it was really wonderful that you did.

T.
 
Happy belated birthday, MM!

10,000 years to the emperor!!

Write that damn book!!!
 
This post just gave me the shivers. I hope you write those books! ~From a new reader/commenter who is happy to have found your blog.
 
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