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Monday, December 13, 2010

Ruminations of an Old Goat

The traditional end-of-year reflection piece is supposed to appear closer to the actual end of the year. Next week is reserved for geek reactions to Tron and I just don't see myself wanting to take time on the day after Christmas to settle down and reflect on the previous year. Nor will I feel like doing so on January 2. Besides, I need a column topic now, not a week or two from now.

This has been a year filled with new experiences; educational experiences, for the most part. Not all of those experiences have been good. I'd even say most of them have been bad or worse.

The "bad to worse" trend was established early, when my then foster son took a wicked knife to school, earning a long suspension and a date in juvenile court as a result. I've written about our problems with the foster son here and here, but I don't recommend you go read those columns unless you like starting your day on a down note. Nearly three years ago, back when the Friday Challenge was hosted at the old Ranting Room, I first wrote about life with our foster son, writing that "life doesn't prepare you to be rejected by a child." I've learned the rejection slowly but surely creates a void in you. A void into which you find yourself sacrificing your feelings for the child who has rejected you. It starts small, but eventually I found myself caring only how the foster son's behavior affected my family and not how it affected him. I found the void simply cannot be filled until he who created the void is no longer with you. If the void has been with you long enough and fed on enough of the feelings you had for the child, I found the void can be purged surprisingly quickly. I found that both relieving and disturbing.

Once the foster son became the former foster son, I set myself looking forward to the big gathering of Friday Challengers at NASFIC, the science fiction convention in Raleigh scheduled for early August. I faced growing disappointment as I kept up with developments on the convention web site. As time passed, it became evident the convention was not going to be anywhere near as large as I had hoped it would be. Instead of having so many of my friends from the Friday Challenge come to Raleigh for a nice, fun convention, it became obvious that the convention wasn't going to be worth the trip for many of you. In the end, instead of a dozen or more of the Challengers gathering in Raleigh, only M and I -- both locals -- ended up attending.

On the other hand, I offered a new proposal to Bruce; let's all go to Dragon*Con in Atlanta, instead. I'd attended Dragon*Con many times, though not since 1999, and knew it would provide lots of fun stuff to see and do. Plans were made and a small group of us planned to make the trip.

During this time, one of the good things happened -- Stupefying Stories. I not only got to provide some small help selecting the stories, I got to proofread the stories and even have one of my stories appear in the collection. Later, Bruce even passed along a comment made to him about my story. My story was "pure gold. It's fourteen caret gold, but gold nonetheless." I love that comment.

Shortly before Dragon*Con, Bruce told me the news about Karen's cancer diagnosis. It was the second time in less than 12 months that I had so much I wished I could say, yet had no words with which to say anything.

Dragon*Con turned out to be more than I could have hoped for, at least briefly. First, the convention had grown considerably since I had last attended. Instead of the 20,000 attendees I thought would show up, overall attendance exceeded 40,000 with Saturday's single day attendance exceeding 70,000. It was wall-to-wall humanity, but there was always something to see going on around us.

Better than the events, I finally came face-to-face with Bruce, Karen, Sam, Arisia, and Leatherwing. M was there, too, along with the Boy, Leatherwing's wife, and one of Leatherwing's close friends. One of my highlights for the year was the group of us gathering together on Friday night to read all of the entries in the current Friday Challenge, discuss them, and judge them. It was how I imagine a very good writing group might be on a very good day. As long as my mind stays sharp (no guarantees how long that will last), I will remember this gathering. Yes, it was that much fun.

Before we could meet up with the Bethkes again, I got the phone call from my wife telling me she was in the hospital awaiting a blood transfusion. This issue has swept up the rest of the year. Regular transfusions kept her going until a potentially life-threatening diagnosis was delivered. Her two week stay in the hospital hit its lowest point when she was moved into the ICU for cerebral hemorrhaging. Coming out of the hospital, she had to turn around and go back in overnight for another transfusion. She followed that transfusion a few days later with one more as an out patient. Even while we were preparing for the possibility of bone marrow transplants, her blood test results began to improve. As I write this, it's been over five weeks since her last transfusion and her blood cell levels continue to be within the norm. I've begun to be cautiously optimistic that bone marrow transplants won't be necessary.

It's been a difficult year, perhaps the most difficult one of my life. There are still concerns, of course, especially for Karen and the chemotherapy she is undergoing. But as the year comes to a close, I have things to celebrate. I no longer have a void sucking up life, energy, and joy from my soul. I have, briefly, met some of you in person, something I began the year thinking might never happen. I am officially a published science fiction author. The Boy has already told me he wants to attend Dragon*Con in 2011 (and maybe more of us here will be able to attend). And, of course, my wife appears to be on the road to recovery.

Still, I will not be sad to see 2010 pass into history.
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