There are two questions I field more than any other. The first is predictable: “Can you help me get my book published?”
The easy answer is “Maybe, but I probably won’t. I don’t need any more competition than I already have.” I kid, I’d be happy to help. As long as your book is a gut-wrenching memoir of a karaoke-singing llama.
The second question: “Is it hard being away from home so often?” I wish there were an equally satisfying answer.
I’m the definition of a frequent flier. And by “flier” I mean as a passenger on airplanes, not in the cockpit. And by “frequent” I mean I can reenact the Delta safety video verbatim. You’ve seen it; it — the one that features a red-headed supermodel flight attendant with a no-smoking finger-wag that should merit a PG-13 rating.
Traveling can be brutal. The good news is my wife has me trained to pack and live from a carry-on, even on longer trips. The bad news is they still make me check the bags under my eyes at $15 a pop.
Maybe some of you are airport rats, too.
You know that traveling as much as we do has ups and downs. For me the downs are easy to name: Kodi, Oakli, Jadi, Kason, Koleson.
Unfortunately, it is my beautiful bride of 16 years, Kodi, who tucks my four children into bed more often than I do. She’s the one who gets the last hug of the day from my two girls who no longer need assistance with jammies or tooth brushing, but still crave a moment or two every night to be reminded how much they are loved.
Kodi is also the one who enjoys the sweet and innocent cheek kisses from my 5-year-old son who’s smack in his “dad-is-my-hero” phase.
If you’ve ever had a 5-year-old boy who behaves as though his biological father might be Evel Knievel, you know just what I mean. My kid once demanded a DNA test.
Then there’s my 2-year-old. While I’m fussing with the thermostat in a concrete hotel room somewhere, my wife is snuggling next to our youngest as he drifts into sleep.
I imagine him gripping one of her fingers with his left hand, his own little security system to ensure she doesn’t escape too soon. Only when he’s breathing deeply and lost in the land of baby boy dreams will she gently pry her finger from his and shut the door behind her.
Those are sacred moments.
How about the pros of living at 37,000 feet? Those are just as easy to enumerate and one of them might be reading this very piece: you.
I love meeting readers across the country, and I fully appreciate that being a writer means I need to connect with readers as much as possible.
For me there isn’t anything more exciting than walking onto a stage with 800 people waiting to hear you tell a story. Or sitting at a rickety table in a mom and pop bookstore and having a reader tell you their book moved them to do or feel something entirely new.
I once drove with my good friends Influenza and Please Kill Me Now Sore Throat over seven hours to a January signing in a North Carolina town so small the entire population showed up. All 17 of them.
They gave me a key to the city and put me on the ballot for mayor. It was certainly a trip I’ll never forget. Not necessarily for the day itself, though it was perfectly charming, but for the genuine thank you note I received from the bookstore owner. I’ve never been thanked with such sincerity.
It would have made missing the nighttime routine at the Wright house a bit easier to
swallow. If I could have.
Then there was the recent trip with a first-time flier in her mid-50s.
She talked from takeoff to touchdown to ease her anxiety. I’m embarrassed to admit that I passed most of those three hours trying not to be annoyed.
Doesn’t she know I have episodes of “24” to catch up on? Yes, that was a con. But when we landed and she took my hand in both of hers and thanked me for making her flight so comfortable, well — that was a pro.
When I got a first glance at my recent tour schedule, it was hard not to notice how many nights I’d be spending alone in a hotel with scratchy sheets and $3 bottled water. But it’s easy to see that in places like Salt Lake City, Boise, Indianapolis, Sacramento and Portland, I was going to meet the kindest, most amazing people who’d also made a sacrifice to be there that night.
As I shake their grateful hands, stand in their photos and sign their books, I will sometimes picture my wife at home snuggling with my sleepy 2-year-old. I’ll miss them all, but I’ll thank heaven above she’s there to do it so well.
Then I’ll look back at someone who took precious time from his or her own busy life to share a moment with me and thank me with such sincerity for visiting.
Yes, there pros and cons to living at 37,000 feet. But I wouldn’t change a thing. That’s life. That’s my life.