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Don couldn't make his own farewell party, none of the astronauts can, they have to pay for and throw a party they can't attend since they are in quarantine. At the party I ran into the talented Chris Jones, journalist and author of Too Far From Home. That book started as an article in Esquire magazine. Micki and Don are the focus, we agreed both of them are fascinating. He was also on assignment with the McCain campaign and described traveling with a pool of itinerant journalists who would have betting pools for key choices and how surprised they were when Palin was picked for running mate, they hadn't even put her on their 30 person list. He says McCain really is someone you would enjoy having a beer with and no matter how long ago you last spoke to him he'd remember what you told him and ask after your wife or mother. McCain has an amazing memory.
Don's middle school science teacher was there and said proudly that in 31 years of teaching there were a score of great students but only one Don. Don was just light years beyond his grade level. Chris noted that Don's college profs said the same thing about his brilliance, as a freshman he sounded like a graduate student. The middle school teacher gave an example, he had his students make a simple pinhole camera with cardboard just to see how light enters and reverses the scene inside the box, a two week project. Don is done in about five minutes. So to make it more interesting for Don he has him build one with a double lens reflex viewfinder. So Don goes home to the well stocked Pettit family workshop and bores a hole in metal and builds the thing out of real materials--prisms and all.
The night after the launch we had two of Micki's friends stay with us, we had an extra room. The fact that they were wives of astronauts was cool, but most of all they were great to talk to. Astronaut spouses are well traveled! Mandy is from the UK, Lisa from Sweden. Mandy and Lisa were smart, strong, and fun. Lisa speaks at least five languages, is an engineer by training. Sweden is exceptionally proud of having an astronaut in the space program, they are celebrities back home. Mandy is a RN. Mandy kept us laughing. If I was in the hospital I'd want Mandy to get me laughing back to health.
Kudos to NASA, they gave us VIP treatment, briefings, and a chance to enjoy their facilities. I wish you all could have been there. Seeing it, hearing it, is so much more exciting than watching it on TV.
Jim's mom and dad hadn't seen each other in 30 years, so it was kind of cool to see them in the same temporal plane. Wish I could have gotten a photo of them with Jim. We hung out with Jim's step-brother Dennis and wife Cathy, his half-brother Brandon, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws by the dozens, the same for Don's side of the family and through it all Micki and Don's twin sons Garrett and Evan were literally running circles around all us adults. I said to Garrett, I'm your Aunt Claudia, this is your Uncle Jim (they didn't quite remember us from last summer's Montana family reunion) and he morosely said "everyone here keeps telling me they are an Aunt or Uncle!" Being seven and at a family gathering is its own special trial. Then he took off after Evan, who was lurking, and went into orbit again.
Stayed two nights with our friends Joe and Jen in Orlando. As always, I wish I could see more of them. Jen is doing NaNoWriMo too. Her first novel ever. She recently left her newsroom job (like everyone else in the dying newspaper business) and is figuring out what's next. And writing a novel with bees in it. Joe is writing plays and designing websites and writing articles. We gorged on lightly steamed oysters by the bucketfull at a seafood bar that offered a concrete trough to throw the shells in. Ah bliss.
I am behind in my word count. To my vast disgust my father is ahead of himself, 75% done. Arrrgh. He chuckled wickedly at my angst. I will be writing a lot over Thanksgiving.
Bitter news, Dad has joyously completed his first NaNoWriMo novel and I am only 1/3 of the way through mine. His follows the Faust story through time, mine is a YA fairy tale. OK compare not apples to oranges, OK, but he is done! Finished. Oh the ignomy, oh the shame, where is my word count now?