pushed up above the leaves

The plane shuddered and then rocked — not violently, but severely — from side to side. Water splashed up and out of my glass. The seatbelt light came on, and the captain announced that we were in some moderate turbulence.

I took a deep breath, put my faith in science and aeronautical engineering, and made sure my seatbelt was fastened. So it went from the Rocky Mountains to Lake Michigan. To tune it out as much as possible, I worked on the second draft of the comic script I wrote before PAX. When I finished that, I opened up a new document and worked out the page beats for six short comic stories that I’ve been playing around with in the back of my mind for about a year.

It was a very productive flight, and I was so focused on being A Writer, I didn’t even realize that the turbulence had stopped, or for how long the air had been smooth.

I grabbed the flight attendant’s attention and asked for some more water. When he walked toward the front of the cabin, I got my first good look at the man in seat 1B, across the aisle and one row ahead of me.

I … I think that’s Ray Gideon, I thought.

Ray wrote Stand By Me with Bruce Evans. The last time I saw him was on my 25th birthday at my parents house.

He looks like Ray, but a little olde– then I realized that, yes we probably would have aged at the same universal constant rate of time.

I unfastened my seatbelt, took off my headphones, and walked up to him.

“Excuse me,” I said, “did you write Stand By Me?”

He looked up at me, and I knew it was him before he answered.

“Yes, I did,” he began.

“I love that movie so much,” I said with a smile. I paused for a second as he smiled back at me. “I was Gordie in that movie,” I added.

I watched his brain try to match up the way I look now with the way I looked when I was twenty-five, and the way I looked when I was thirteen.

“Oh my God! Wil!” He burst out of his seat and wrapped me in a joyful hug.

“I thought it was you, but I wasn’t sure and … man, I am so happy to see you!”

He held me at arm’s length, the way a parent does, and looked at me.

“I didn’t recognize you at all! You’re so … the beard and …”

We laughed together, and for the next hour or so, caught up on our lives. By the time we began our descent into Montreal, we’d traded numbers and planned to get together when we got back to Los Angeles.

As I walked out of the airport and toward the arrival lounge to meet my convention liaison, I reflected on the conversation Ray and I had on the plane. I told him about marrying Anne, raising the boys, adopting Ryan, and getting both Ryan and Nolan successfully through school and into the beginnings of happy and healthy adult lives. It’s never easy raising a family, but it was extra hard for me because of the relentless legal and emotional assaults from Anne’s ex-husband during their entire childhoods. But when it got really rough, I strapped in, focused on what was important during the turbulence, and eventually learned to ignore the annoying and nauseating things outside that I couldn’t control.

I focused on what was important, what was right in front of me, and when that plane landed, the rough air was barely a memory.

I cleared customs and found my con liaison.

“How was your flight?” He said.

“A little rough in places, but not bad,” I said.

Not bad at all.


38 thoughts on “pushed up above the leaves”

  1. Wil, this made me tear up. Thank you for being such an amazing example of a family man – and, really, pretty much an amazing person in general. You’re awesome.

    (And on another note, those nesting dolls in your header pic are straight-up ridiculous and I want a set.)

  2. Thanks for the post. It was great.

    I have a general comment for the site, though. As much as I like the Russian doll picture, it’s way too big for the title picture of the site. It takes up most of the screen, so a user has to scroll down before he or she can find your posts. You might want to find a different picture that can be used as a banner across the top.

  3. Wil, that was beautifully written. I plan on printing it and posting it on our fridge for a reminder to my husband that raising Kain will be well worth all the drama his father puts us through. Sometimes it takes something like this blog to remember that. Thank you.

  4. Very cool story. Have really enjoyed your blog. I didn’t know about it until TableTop, but have since bought and read “Just a Geek” and have gone through some of the older posts. I admire your courage to post your thoughts and feelings on life. You are much braver than I am.

  5. My husband is a step-dad, too, and what you two do for your families is amazing and wonderful. The amount of love one can have for a child that is not of their blood is astounding, considering the lack of love one has for someone of their blood. I don’t mean to blather, but when I see my husband in action with our daughter, guiding her, being silly and clever, and seeing it have a profoundly positive affect on her personality and behavior, I know that I’m in the best family ever. And my daughter’s well being is where it should be, with adults who care for her without question.

  6. Wil, thanks for sharing this story. As a child of divorce, having lived through custody battles and now helping some of my friends through the same things, it’s a good reminder to know that there are other people who have made it through these trials. There is no wrong or right way to make a family. All you can do is your best to love the people in your life and fight for what you know is right. Thanks for sharing your happy endings and reminding us that good things can happen from struggles.

  7. That is so cool. The same thing happened to me on my way to Calgary last week. Made my connection in Minneapolis and behind me in line was my first manager and mentor, on her way to Banff. It must be something about heading to Canada that makes people meet people they know on the plane. And yeah, life as rough ride metaphor is sublime. Keep on writing, I am enjoying all of it.

  8. What a delightful story! I agree with some other commenters; this story is well-crafted. You took a chance meeting and made it captivating and entertaining. I especially like the way you came full-circle at the end. Well done.

  9. I love you Wil Wheaton. I know I have professed this love before (mostly on G+ and Facebook) and I truly don’t want you to think that it is a weird stalker-y kind of love. I just believe, truly and deeply, that you are a nice guy with a great sense of humor who is going through life in this universe at that same time I am – and I am thankful for that happy coincidence; I feel blessed to be sharing the universe with you. I always enjoy what you write, but today was especially poignant. Thank you.

  10. awesome. on a slightly related topic, i was watching the video of the PAX game, and noticed that you omitted CSI from your list. a small part, perhaps, but a good one nevertheless… the omission of The Last Starfighter is more understandable. Aeofel lives.

  11. You are an amazing guy and a great role model, not only for your own sons but for all young people. If only all fathers loved their families and felt such devotion to them as you do the world would be a better place.

  12. Dammit, there’s something in my eye.

    My step-dad adopted me, too. It’s a singular life experience- being chosen to be loved, not just being a tag on in Mom’s new relationship.

    Dammit- more crap in my eyes…

  13. Thanks for sharing. Something about this story grabbed ahold of my heart. I’ve been feeling as if life was rough of late and you reminded me that, overall, it’s not been bad at all.

  14. I like it when I read something and by the end of it I’m sitting here all smiley for apparently no reason – but to me, and to the writer, we know its because words have meaning especially when smooshed together so eloquently :)

  15. Just wanted to say that I truly appreciate the sentiment expressed in this entry. I was at Phoenix Comicon and heard you speak regarding your relationship with your sons and it was quite touching. I too have an absent ex and sons raised by a step-father, so it meant alot to me. You are a funny, poignant and talented man and I thoroughly enjoy reading and watching you. Also I wanted to comment and find out if I was in fact a robot or a dick. Time will tell.

  16. Such a small world, when you can run into someone from your professional past on an airplane like that!

    I’m lovin’ the blog and I’m glad you’re able to share yourself with us all, like a regular guy. :)

  17. This was lovely written. I now have one more reason to watch Stand By Me. I am quickly running out of excuses not to Wil, you bad man.

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