Welcoming Life’s Milestones

Oh groan. Another birthday, a milestone. Another layer of wrinkles as if life were some sort of onion. Hopefully, no one will remember this year and I’ll slip under the radar. In a world of instant communication and universal slathering of anything by anyone, allowing a milestone to grow smaller in the rear view mirror has become an impossibility.

What an ungrateful sod I am. For someone who’s fought to stay alive and relished every near miss with a sneer and a gallon of sweat, I don’t seem all that thankful.

I am. Facebook and a few others allow me to wallow in momentary limelight without having to put on a coat and tie. Their good wishes are appreciated, especially when I sneak a look at their posts, and wonder why they’ve aged and I haven’t. I still see the cute face or the strong jaws I recall. Fine people then and now, even if we don’t see one another anymore except on the small screen.

What about the other “important” milestones?

How about getting fired for the first time? Ouch. I remember that little milestone of personal achievement, especially like last night, at two in the morning. Young, cocky, and unafraid. The boss was a class A jerk. We all agreed, and yet, I got the sack.


Working and paying for school, and not staying ahead of the game, how could he do this to me, and still live with himself? Another job came along, especially after I made up a story about my “layoff.” I will admit to remaining a jerk in a lot of ways over the succeeding, but I did get much better at reading people and learning to check out lines in the sand.

Can losing a friend be a milestone? When Herb and John died, I was simply too young, and besides that was the war. Most of the time, we were invulnerable or scared to death. We drank seabreezes then, light on the canned grapefruit juice and forget the cranberry juice. Fill the glass with clear death, but that was then, this is now.

Much later, Eddie’s passing struck me hard especially hard. We had been pals, in the yesterday sense of the word. He introduced me to his yacht club, and then his dad’s country club. We’d gotten our driver’s licenses together and spent Friday nights in his convertible at the drive-in…restaurant. The movies came on Saturday night. We even snuck out together. The same girl let us feel her bare skin, at different times, of course, all in an effort to find the pathway to growing up. We’d even planned a rafting trip down the Mississippi river after high school, before our freshman year at Penn State. But I moved on before graduation…military kid, and all…and, we did none of those things. I went to a cheaper community college, and he went to Doane. Imagine my surprise when we reconnected decades later and I found out he did the Mississippi, but with another friend.

It didn’t matter. When I called to check in with him on one Thanksgiving and heard he was dead, I mourned. Even his wife hadn’t called to tell me about his passing. Not his first or his second. I’m not stupid, so I know where that put me in his milestone category. Is learning that some friends are simply not the friends we thought we were to them a milestone? Or maybe that’s just growing up, and I hadn’t yet learned. I suppose in too many ways, I still am.

There are as many kinds of milestones as there are people. Check the internet. That’s their list, but these two mean something to me. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that another birthday has a way of peeling back the onionskin of life.
Layers and reflection.

But no worries. If you happen to tear-up when the milestone overtakes you, it’s not you, it’s the damn onion.

Meet Oliver

I grew up on military bases throughout the country, and like all boys, played good guys and bad. Although usually I favored the good, coaxing me into an afternoon of baseball or hiking the Southern California hills didn’t take much, unless a book grabbed me first.

When the time came for rites of passage, Herb and I, my best buddy and roommate in high school, joined a Marine college program. But Herb left school early, even though those were the days of limited options for guys our age. Sometimes things just don’t work out.  A year or so after graduating, I stepped onto a sweaty tarmac not far from where Herb had died.

Thirty guys and I flew days and nights trying to keep the world safe for….well, that’s not really true, is it? The only reason any of us ever went into those mountains at night, scaring ourselves silly was because of other Marines. The phrase “launch emergency medevac” at two in the morning haunts me today. I think somewhere that damn radio is still whispering in the night when the monsoons blow and the clouds hide rocks.

I later traveled on to grad school and spent a while wandering. Lots of us did back then. Some found their way back, others did not. An nice, electric model replaced the old Smith Corona portable typewriter. If you read “Synonymy”, you caught me during that period of my life. There was a novel too, Western Sunrise. I loved the name but don’t think anyone will ever see that book. I wrote at night and taught at an all Navajo high school during the day. I did finally move along and try my hand working for the man and being the man. I flew for a while and even managed a liquor store. Interesting times, A family even came my way, but I never quit writing.  A Zenith and a Mac, and even a few PCs finally supplanted the old typewriters. There’s a Lenovo notebook now that travels with me. I’ve often wondered if the first Smith is in someone’s closet or on the shelf of a thrift store in Bangkok. I guess, I’ll never know.

I scored a publisher for Marsh Island and Blind Marsh a few years ago. The imprint went the way of most nice people in this shrinking, cutthroat industry. Because they were nice folks, I got the rights to my work back. In 2018 both rewritten and revised books, along with a sequel Laureate’s Legacy will be published. I’m very excited by the prospect of seeing old friends do well.

Last year, Levant Mirage found success in the eBook world, and I sign paper copies occasionally at Barnes & Noble.  On April 14, 2017, Camelot Games, a wild and woolly romantic political thriller emerged into a frightening new world.

Bequeathed and Tin Soldiers are both working titles of either completed drafts or electrons zipping around inside my laptop looking for a way out. No fear though, I’ve got their number memorized and it’s 2018 and 2019.

Thanks for checking me out.

All the best,