October 30, 2009


Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob
This is the beginning of a busy weekend, beginning with an event tonight at Legacy Books here in Plano, after which we'll pile into Atomo (The Air-Conditioned Hellcar of the Apocalypse) and drive to Austin for the Texas Book Festival on Saturday and then a fun surprise for Schuyler on Sunday that I look forward to telling you about after it happens. (Oo, teaser.) As you may or may not have heard, tomorrow is Halloween, so if you're at the Book Festival, watch for the tiny Amelia Earhart. If there's more than one, go for the Amelia that's speaking Martian.

There's excitement here, and there's nervousness. The other two authors on my panel are best-sellers, after all, and I'm usually somewhat unconvinced of my authorial worth even on a good day. But I'm also looking forward to meeting them and especially to the panel. We're all three fathers with broken kids, and we've all dealt with that role in wildly different ways, but there are similar threads running through all our stories. I think it's going to be an interesting discussion.

Through all the book fanciness and all the advocacy opportunities and the speeches, and in every simple and complicated and euphoric and sad aspect of my world, at the center of it all sits Schuyler. She's the reason for it all. When everything else has faded and gone, there she'll be.

We went to see Tibetan monks as they built a Mandala sand painting in Dallas recently, and I explained the concept of impermanence to Schuyler. She seemed to get it, how nothing lasts forever, how my father grew old (sort of) and died, and how one day Julie and I would as well. She didn't like that at first, but when I also pointed out how one day she would grow old and die, too, and so would HER kids, Schuyler seemed weirdly comforted. I got the sense that on some level, she really got it, she connected with something bigger than us all.

We took Schuyler to see the Amelia Earhart movie, which, I must point out first and foremost, was not a very good film. But it looked beautiful and it hit most of the important big events in a way that Schuyler could grasp, and so for a nine-year-old with an interest in the subject, it wasn't bad. One of the few parts of the film that was really compelling was the very ending. (SPOILER: She disappears, probably as fish food.) We talked at length about that after we left the movie.

"What happened to her?" asked Schuyler. "Did she die?" She accompanied this with her self-created sign language for dying.

Julie and I looked at each other as if to weigh exactly how to answer this, but the thing is, Schuyler already knew that Earhart had disappeared. She did a report on her last year. That answer wasn't very satisfactory to her, however, and she wanted more from us.

"Yeah," I said, just putting it out there for her. "She probably crashed her plane and died. That's really sad, isn't it?" Schuyler nodded, clearly not liking where the discussion had gone.

"But here's the thing," I said. "Amelia Earhart died doing the thing that she wanted to do more than anything else in the world. She wanted to fly airplanes, right? And I'll bet that if you could ask her how she would have wanted to go, she would have said that she wanted to die flying her airplane, doing the thing she loved the most."

She turned this over in her head for a few moments and then nodded. "Yeah," she said.

"The cool thing about Amelia Earhart was that she wanted to be a pilot and fly airplanes, and she made that dream come true. I like that she's your hero, because that's what you're going to do, too. Whatever you decide you want to do, you're going to make it happen. I know that."

Schuyler liked that answer. Well, I like it, too.


Elizabeth said...

You're an awesome father. Truly.

Erin said...

I have to second what Elizabeth said.

I also want to pass along this segment: http://watch.discoverychannel.ca/daily-planet/october-2009/daily-planet-october-22-2009/#clip226911

It discusses the distinct possibilty of what happened to Amelia Earhart. The segment starts around the 6:30 mark. I think you and Schuyler will enjoy it.

Fredd said...

Schuyler appears to be the same age as my little girl, such a great age. Tomorrow, although no rubber swords will be involved, I will wield rubber fingers, as my Frankenstein outfit will likely scare the beejeebers out of every little tyke that dares to grace our doorstep.

Anonymous said...

You're such a great dad. You give such good answers.

jocalyn said...

Schuyler is a lucky girl to have such an awesome daddy.

Hook 'em.

Sarah said...

Schuyler seems wise beyond her years in many ways - an old soul I guess is what some would call it. Hope you guys had a great time in Dallas and looking forward to hearing about her surprise.

Claire said...

I'd love to see Schuyler's report about Amelia. Can you ask her if you can put it on the website?

Anonymous said...

There are two popular but unauthorized signs for "die" and I'm curious about which one Schuyler uses. Sign #1 is right index finger expended and drawn across the throat. Sign #2 is right fist raised above head, parallel with right shoulder eyes closed and head slumps onto left shoulder. In both cases, it is up to the discretion of the signer whether the tongue is stuck out or not.

Frank Brusca said...

Yesterday I was listening to Joni Mitchell's Hejira album. When the song Amelia started I thought of Schuyler. I think she'll enjoy that song and its themes when she's older.

grandefille said...

The more I read about Schuyler's interest in flying, the more I think I should recommend Rob Simbeck's "Daughter of the Air," about Nashville's own Cornelia Fort. Her story also ends sadly, aargh, but her determination to blaze her own path and refusal to accept what society wanted her to be and do is an excellent example for anybody raising daughters. Even 60-plus years later.

I told the Queen Mum about y'all's adventure in the air and she cried happy tears for y'all, again. As did I. Our joy for y'all's wins (and our support for your challenges) knows no bounds.

Love from Tennessee.