October 1 Reflections

October 1 can be a challenging day for me. On this date in 1980, my dad passed away. I was only 13 years old. This year, October 1 comes with an added twist. In just six weeks, I’ll be the same age my dad was when he passed away. That noted, and given the caveat we never really know how long we have, I don’t have a lot of fear that my time is nigh. My doctor says I’m in good health and I don’t smoke like he did. Also, my brothers are more than ten years older than me and they’re still around.

This is the last photo I have with my dad. My mom is sitting between us. Soon after this photo was taken, my dad had his first heart attack. Part of his recovery was to walk a mile each day and I would take those walks with him. In many ways, I think I got to know my dad better in that time than I had in the years before that.

As I approach the age my dad was when he died, I find myself thinking about his hopes, dreams, and fears at that age. I look at his successes and the occasional regret he shared. I find myself starting to evaluate my life, asking how satisfied I am with what I’ve done, asking what I still want to do.

My life has been quite a bit different than his. After graduating high school, he joined the Marine Corps at the tail end of World War II. Fortunately, he didn’t have to go overseas. After he left the Corps, he went to work for Santa Fe Railroad. He moved up through the ranks until he became a General Locomotive Foreman at the shops in San Bernardino, California, where the photo above is taken. Beyond that, he was also a leader in the Boy Scouts. He gave me an appreciation of this great nation and showed much of it to me in the short time we had together. He was a leader in our church and he gave me a strong appreciation of the spiritual side of life. He was an artist who loved to paint.

The day before my dad died, he’d gone in to see the doctor and asked if he would write a letter recommending early retirement. Instead, the doctor cleared him to go back to work. My dad was proud of what he’d done, but I think he wanted a change. Unfortunately, he didn’t feel he could make that change without the financial security that would have come with taking early retirement.

I sometimes wonder if my dad would have been proud of the work I do in astronomy, or my writing. I suspect he would have been. He’d certainly find the astronomical machinery, electronics, and optics I work with fascinating and I think he would have enjoyed my Clockwork Legion books. He might have looked askance at some of my horror, but then again I have memories of watching The Omen with him when it appeared on Showtime. It scared me, but he pointed out the silly parts, commenting on them Mystery Science Theater-style and I was less afraid. In a way, it’s a skill that let me analyze horror and actually write it.

Bittersweet as these memories are, they also come on the official release day of the anthology DeadSteam edited by Bryce Raffle. I’m proud to share a table of contents with such talented writers as D.J. Tyrer, Karen J. Carlisle, Alice E. Keyes, and James Dorr. In the tradition of the Penny Dreadfuls, this anthology takes us back to horrors of the Victorian age. Whether it be the fog-shrouded streets of London or a dark cave in the desert southwest, who knows what will appear from the shadows. I hope you’ll join us. You can pick up a copy of DeadSteam at:  https://www.amazon.com/DeadSteam-Bryce-Raffle/dp/0995276749/

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6 comments on “October 1 Reflections

  1. Jack "Blimprider" Tyler says:

    You speak of a “short time” to know him, but I envy your story. Dad was out of my life before I was aware. I learned through my daughter’s explorations on ancestry.com that he settled down for good with his second wife, the one after my mom, and raised a family. I have several half-siblings in and around Georgia. My twins were born on his birthday, and he would have lived long enough to know all my children, his grandchildren, into their twenties. Sidra’s findings must have come as a big shock to them. One of them contacted her to ask “How do you know Carl Tyler?” There has been no further contact since she replied, “He’s my grandfather.” My mother was a professional gambler from her late teens, a vocation that doesn’t lend itself to family life. She was a figure who popped in at Christmas every year. I was sent to live with her when I was 14, and did a semester at Monterey High School, but even then I never got close to her; at best, she was like a sister who was too old to have a common interest.

    Everyone I remember in the way you remember your dad are school friends, navy buddies, and coworkers, all scattered to the wind, and no idea what happened to any of them. Maybe I was better off, given the way my family acted; maybe those circumstances are what has fueled my life-long drive to write. So yes, I envy your story, having no clear idea of what it would be like. It’s very poignant, heart-warming, and tragic all at once; maybe missing the pain and loss is an upside I’ve overlooked.

    Of course, your own experience fuels your writing, and I’ll be looking forward to reading and promoting Dead Steam. My blog, Thursday. Carry on your fine work of reading well, and writing better!

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Jack, and I’m so sorry that you never got to know your father. It occurs to me that your story echoes elements of my mom’s story. My grandmother died during the Great Depression. My mom was 3. My grandfather was an Army Air Corps Veteran from World War I who had a hard time finding work. Much of the time he worked as a cook — and he was even the cook for the movie Jesse James starring Henry Fonda and Tyrone Power. My mom was mostly raised by assorted aunts and uncles. She sometimes spent time with her dad including a really bad time in Arkansas when he briefly remarried.

      Yeah, sometimes family relationships are really complex. I do feel lucky that I got to know my dad as well as I did. I don’t know whether we’d be close or have a more fraught relationship if he’d lived. I feel like there are ways we’re very much alike and ways we’re very much different. Mostly I’m sorry I’ll never get a chance to answer that question … in this life, at least.

      Thanks for spreading the word about DeadSteam. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to dive in, but I know so many of the writers I know it’ll be a great read and Bryce did a beautiful job of layout.

  2. “…he pointed out the silly parts, commenting on them Mystery Science Theater-style and I was less afraid.” This is a skill that everyone can use.

  3. karenbalch says:

    It’s funny, yet strange, that we take these memories to embed into our minds, hearts and lives. They are never easy times and it really doesn’t get any easier, despite what anyone says; we simply learn how to live with those we’ve lost. We share similarities and differences: Iwas a bit older when my father passed away unexpectedly. Heart attack in his sleep and he was less than 7 months away from retiring. He never got to enjoy that part of his life I, too, aspire to a healthier life, hoping to get to his age and surpass that of both him and my mother (she passed away 10 years after my father, same way).

    I am a huge fan of the Victorian time period, so I think I’ll grab a copy and make it a goal to read this month. Thanks, David!

    • Sorry to hear that you also lost your parents at a young age, Karen. No, these are never easy memories.

      Thanks for seeking out a copy of DeadSteam, Karen! I’d love to hear what you think when you get a chance to read it.

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