27 SepFatherhood–Life Expanding
The best part of having children is all the things you get to do that you would have never done without them. Because of my children I have had an immersive experience into the competitive chess world. I have been on the most memorable journeys through computer games more imaginative than my imagination could ever have been. I have learned to juggle and use diablos. I have been to rock concerts of bands whose members weren’t born yet when I was a teenager. I earned two black belts in taekwondo. I have become a fan of anime, especially that by Miyazaki. There are concert choirs, the world of dance, and Minecraft. Believe me, all of these things are much bigger, more colorful, and more life changing than they sound in a list. There is nothing I could have done in my life without my children that could make up for the riches these experiences with my children have given me. Recently I discovered that when children grow up and leave home the enriching experiences they give me don’t stop.
For my fifty-third birthday my sons bought me a three-day pass to Salt Lake Comic Con. The gift turned out to be much more than just entry to Salt Lake ComiCon—it was a backstage pass into their lives.
My grown kids have a group of friends they all share. Many are married couples. Some are not. They meet for “Bad Movie night” each month where they watch notoriously bad movies together and have a themed dinner (“cereal without milk” night). This is a very intelligent, creative group of young adults who share a broad interest in music, movies, and books. Anime and graphic novels are big among them. I thought I would be spending a couple of days with one or two of my grown children—instead I found myself an honorary member of this elite group of young adults.
I didn’t realize this until the night before when I was making arrangements to travel to Salt Lake City for the convention. It wasn’t as simple as me running up to Provo from Levan, picking up my son and heading to Salt Lake. I was a little annoyed when my son (one of three children who would be going) made it complex by referencing people I didn’t know and asking others on his end of the phone who was meeting who where, which vehicles, and how we would get back. I’m a bit of a loner and have never expanded my social circles outside of my family. Learning that there would be many strangers (to me) involved I became uneasy. I was already committed, though, so Friday morning off I went.
Although I was a newbie I dressed up. I hadn’t dressed in a costume since I went trick-or-treating forty-five years ago. I picked a character from an obscure show based on a comic book—The Shoveler from Mystery Men. This character (from the movie anyway) appeals to me because he is a husband and father like me. He wants to be a super hero and has chosen (or was gifted) shoveling as his power. In other words he smacks people with a shovel. “Honey,” he tells his wife when she tries to tell him to grow up, “I shovel well. No, I shovel very well.” He wears a hard hat with a light attached, his son’s catcher’s vest, and a short handled shovel in a holster on his back. I managed to obtain those items for my costume.
When we pulled into downtown Salt Lake (my third son was driving) it was apparent by the elaborately costumed people on the streets that ComicCon was in session. I’m a mature adult with eight children (the eight children is provable), but my excitement level rose as we searched for a parking place. I was certain that few, if anyone, would recognize me. My character is not colorful. However, no sooner did the doors of the parking garage elevator open on the street level than one of two fellows getting on looked at me and said with excitement, “Oh, Mystery Men, right!?” I knew right then that this was going to be a wonderful time. It was.
The convention was like a giant coming out party for geeks. There were so many costumes—some simple and others elaborate. Most I didn’t recognize because I am not a master geek, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying them. When I did recognize obscure characters from games I’ve watched my sons play such as Big Daddy from Bioshock or Eddie and Joker from Mass Effect I felt the most exhilarating thrill. I nearly cried for joy when I saw a perfect Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service standing there with bow, and broom, and satchel.
My son’s friends were all around me that day and I didn’t know it. It wasn’t until that night when we met for pizza up in the Avenues at one of their apartments that I realized we had met during the day. They were a classy bunch—very individual yet tied together through their common interests. We ate pizza and I was introduced to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. It is a movie based upon a graphic novel. Definitely alternative and yet perfectly executed.
I’m glad I saw it because the next day almost the entire group was dressed as one of the characters from this movie. Even after having seen the movie I wouldn’t have recognized any of them for who they were at the convention. The characters in the movie are pretty normal looking. Others recognized them, however. Yes, there are many masters of geekdom at these conventions. Nothing gratified me more than to hear strangers call out to me, “Shoveler! Can I get your picture?” It happened about ten times.
After that final day at the convention the entire group met at an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant. There were a few married couples, some dating couples, and a few singles. I joined right in with them as if I were still a young college student. I felt completely at home. As they all chatted and joked and ate sushi I looked around the table as happy as I have ever been. It was then I realized that four of this fine group were my children and that all in the group were half my age. I could almost hear the music to “One of these things is not like the other” playing through the stereo system. That brought me back to my senses, but it didn’t ruin the moment. No one there seemed to care that I was old enough to be their dad. My children seemed very comfortable with my presence and even happy that I was part of the group. What beautiful children.
I am a lucky man to have so many children to enrich my life. There are people who choose not to have but one or two children if they have any. Some of these have chosen not to have more children because the responsibility of children seems limiting. The weight of raising children is heavy, indeed, but I have never found it limiting. The opposite seems to be true. My life expands as their lives expand. With eight children I feel like my life will be as broad as the universe before long.