Sending Howard to a Convention

Wind rushed past the sides of the van as the wheels rumbled down the freeway. Howard and I were on our way to the airport so that he could board a plane to GenCon. He would be gone for a week, I wanted to spend the thirty minutes of drive talking. I wanted to be with him as thoroughly as possible to make up for having to do without him. But I was tired. I cast about in my mind for conversational topics and kept pulling up the equivalent of tin cans and old boots. It wasn’t that my head was empty. My head was over-full with thoughts about the convention he faced, the things which could go wrong, possible ways to address the things which could go wrong, and then further along the causal chain of could-go-wrong clear out beyond the bounds of rationality. I looked over at Howard. He gripped the steering wheel and occasionally expressed frustration with the drivers around us. He was as full of stress as I was, yet the only thing to do was drive Howard to the airport and deal with everything beyond that when it came. We’d spent all morning scrambling with last minute business tasks. This was our chance to shed all that and be Howard and Sandra together, if only we could dodge the business thoughts and talk about something else. I commented on how the smoke from distant fires collects in the Salt Lake valley. As we descended into the valley I peered across to the barely discernible mountain ridge on the other side. Then I sat back and realized that Howard and I had fallen silent again, surrounded by thoughts we weren’t saying. I could feel the edges of business anxiety in my head. I wanted to be chatting and laughing with Howard about something cheerful, but the best we managed was a mellow companionableness as we drove down the road.

Howard hugged me tight before rolling away with his two suitcases, one full of clothes to wear, the other full of merchandise which arrived too late to be shipped. I did not stay to watch him enter the airport, the curb was needed for another farewell. The drive home from the airport was also silent, until the fourth time I had to drag my brain back from a path filled with useless worry. Then I turned on music and sang loud enough to drown out my thoughts. I continued to distract myself until late in the evening because my brain was ready to believe that I’d committed a failure of paperwork which would render Howard’s convention trip into an utter disaster. I fell asleep convinced that I’d be awakened at six in the morning by a panicked phone call.

I woke at eight, no phone call had come. Email gave me a quick note from Howard “Nice hotel and a good night’s sleep. So far so good, off to the convention center in 20 minutes.” He’d successfully arrived using the flight I’d booked. He’d stayed in the hotel that I’d reserved. Neither of these things had resulted in catastrophe, my weight of responsibility felt lighter. All the various preparations I’ve made since last January will either work or they won’t. It is all out of my hands. I am so happy to have it all out of my hands. I’m certain the booth set up brought its frustrations and stresses, but I did not witness them or be stressed by them. Instead I get to see Howard’s tweet at the end of the day “Rocked the booth prep for GenCon today. Planning to totally rock the show tomorrow.”

In comparison with Howard’s day mine is tame. He helped assemble the miniature shop in which he will live and work for the next five days until he disassembles it and comes home. I spent the day putting things in order, building shelves to store t-shirts, stretching out in my spaces. Sometimes when Howard goes on a trip, I sort of gasp with relief and collapse into a pile of post-convention-preparation uselessness. It is a definite “cats away, mice will play” feeling. For the span of time while he is gone, I can take more time off of work. Sometimes it worries me that I feel relief to have him gone. Then there are other times when I miss him terribly and can’t go to bed before early morning because the house feels wrong without him here. Today I went about my work and in the quiet spaces I missed Howard in a quiet way. My meanderings kept carrying me back to the kitchen and the flowers he bought for me on Monday because Monday was a rough day. Then I discovered the treat he hid for me to find. I’ll be glad when Howard can come back home to relax with me. Though it is going to be several weeks more before that occurs.