Absolute Proof He's Loved

-- inspired by the death of Jim Baen (of Tor and others), hat-tipped to Andrew Cory from DeansWorld --

I've got to admit, I didn't recognize the name "Jim Baen". But then, I've been on the mommy-track for almost a decade. Cut me some slack. And the fact that I didn't recognize the name is exactly why I clicked on the link. I was curious to see just who he was, not that an obit will really tell you ... (which is why I feel compelled to write my own obit, but thats a WHOLE other post that will doubtless mention my many and varied objections to orange coffins)

Jim Baen, among other things, was the "Boss" for awhile at Tor, a bastion and hope for the future of Science Fiction as a genre. So many times business clumsily destroys art while trying to save it, but Baen seems to have been one of those rare people that was a master at both. And, thus, Tor Publishing flourished. At least long enough to have a role in the moment that played out in my mind when I saw it again in print ...

So. Here it is, a memory. Absolute incontrovertable proof for my husband that he's loved beyond imagining ...

Once upon a time, in a land far way, known as Corporate-Land, my husband was a force to be reckoned with. The youngest this-n-that, the most promising of the promising, a name whispered with either admiration or fear. Sometimes both. Board-members and secretaries bowed to his whims, thrilled to simply be near him. Engineers forgot to go home, mesmerized by their projects. The very air around him sparkled!

All was well in Corporate-Land, until the lazy duplicitous Idiot-department foolishly supposed that they could slack on their part of a project because it would never NEVER never get to the final stage where their component was needed. It was impossible that Mr. Director could pull it off. A feat of MAMMOTH proportions. Genius was not enough. It would take ... magic.

Poor Idiot-department! It was beyond them to understand that sometimes genius and loyalty and admiration and skill and fear combined are indeed the equivalent of magic, especially when weilded with an iron will.

And so a darkness fell on Corporate-Land, exemplified by the unheard act of Mr. Husband firing the entire Idiot-department in a blaze of fury. While it made him feel a little better (although probably not as better as yelling "off with their heads"), it left all in Corporate-Land in a dire predicament. Hundreds of jobs depended him. Failure would have far-reaching implications. (Imagine small children huddled in snow-banks dressed in rags and selling matches on Christmas Eve)

Could he save them? Could one man save them all? Could he do six-months worth of work for an entire department in only six-weeks? No.

But could he do it with a team of six hand-picked engineers who were willing to march into Hell at his side, to work around the clock, going so far as having their wives bring their clothes to the office so they didn't waste time commuting? Literally, sometimes living at the office? Considering speeding tickets a fully forgivable work-related expense? Yes. Yes He Could! Ok, well, maybe.

And so the days passed. Cryptic messages in the middle of the night -- Wake him up Now! Tell him to check his email, send me revisions, I'm taking ten minutes for food and a shower -- I became the Gatekeeper of Sleep, the one you must convince to get him up and functional at 3:00am.

Suddenly, I think it was Day 16, he stopped what he was doing (which was reviewing reports while I drove him to work -- that whole fifteen minute drive, at that little wooded wigglely short-cut aross Papermill Rd) and he looked over at me oddly. "Its been awhile since we had dinner together. I. Will. Do. That. How about Tuesday night? From 6:00 - 10:00 you will have my full attention!"

You might think it odd that I remember that. But I was so surprised. Shocked really. Touched. One of those moments where everything stands still in crystal clarity for a heartbeat. Because I knew what it cost him to do that. Given an extra four hours he could have -- slept -- eaten food with a fork -- taken a bath -- watched a movie -- played a game -- read a book. Instead, he gave me four hours he couldn't really afford to give.

I planned an extravegant menu. All his favorites. The right food. The right music. The right everything. And while I had all this planning and listing going on in my head, I did what I did many Tuesday mornings. While not being OCD, I'm admittedly a little OC (in mostly very constructive ways) I called the local bookstore and asked if a new book had come out by my favorite non-dead and still-writing author. I suppose I should say "OUR" favorite. And, wonder upon wonders, THAT was the day it came in. Completely unexpected. In-stock. Just a few miles away. I might have shrieked "Hold it!" as I flung down the phone and flew to the car. On the way, it dawned on me that I was about to pay retail for a hard-back. I only flinched once. Or maybe twice. Which is still amazing.

I dashed into the store, breathless lest it was a mistake, that it was some other author, that it was a reprint of an older book, that they had been robbed before I could get there and the only thing taken was the book! There. It was there. And it was by the right author. And it was an addition to my extra-favorite series. And it was in paperback. And it was huge! And, after all these years, it was by a new company. Tor Publishing. I don't know why he was dropped by his previous publisher, and I just don't care. Somehow Tor Publishing found him, dragged him back from obscurity, and there it was. In my hands. Heavy and smooth. New-book smell. Perfect spine. Practically perfect in every way. Only one copy.

I had them gift-wrap it.

When I picked him up from work, he seemed so ... old. (The kind of old like 100 year old. Not that fake-old some people get at forty) I have no patience. I handed him the attractive little package from Davis-Kidd-Booksellers. He opened it. He stared at it, stunned. He looked at me warily (or maybe hopefully). I forced the words to come out of my mouth "You're having finger-food for dinner, so you can eat and read at the same time." He murmured "Are you sure?" in that soft hesitant tone one would use to ask "Are you sure you want to give me your kidney?"

He finished it around 2:00am, which I know because I had already gone to bed but not really asleep-asleep, kind of waiting on him. He kissed me and whispered "You're gonna love the ending" and snuggled in, finally peacefully relaxed for the first time in weeks.

Now, after all this time, I realize that I probably have Jim Baen at Tor Publishing to thank for making that moment possible. And how am I going to thank him? In a few weeks, the next book in that series is going to come out. And I'm going to buy it. And I'm going to let my husband read it first. Because I want him to be able to look back and have absolute proof that I loved him when he's picking out my coffin.


I aspire to be a wife such as yourself!! You're a good woman.

Leni | 07/02/2006 - 11:36 PM

What a wonderful story you tell!

Leah | 07/04/2006 - 05:43 AM
Make Waves

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