I got manhandled by an astronaut, or how I stopped looking to the stars and enjoy the ones burning brightly beside me

Unlike most boys, I never wanted to be a policeman or a firefighter or an astronaut. At least as far as I remember. My earliest thoughts about any future usually revolved around kids. Yes, it’s cliche to liken myself to Holden Caulfield, but all I had ever wanted to be was someone who kids, and particularly boys, could look up to. 

I owe all this to my father, a man who served as a surrogate dad for many of my friends, primarily through soccer. I had one friend whose dad roughed up him and his two brothers on occasion and who at one point we had to come get in junior high by driving our four-wheelers into the city to pick him up. I had another who, as far as I knew, had seen his dad fewer times than Dane Cook has actually told a joke. That’s not a lot, by the way. 

Each of these two — and more — looked to my dad for guidance or acceptance from time to time. As a result some of the awe I bestowed on my father certainly came as I looked at  him through their eyes. 

I was looking through an old journal the other day, the first one I had ever written, and found a horrible horrible poem I had written horribly. But in it there was a line about the only thing I wanted in the future was to be a husband and a dad.None of this astronaut stuff for me.

That dream stayed with me for most of my life, well until I had a son of my own, when it was no longer a dream. I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. Not the nocturnal ones. As Aesop Rock puts it in “No Regrets,” “You can dream a little dream, Or you can live a little dream, I’d rather live it, Cuz dreamers always chase, But never get it.”

But it’s easy to forgot why you had a kid in the first place. It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday. 

On Saturday, some of that childlike wonder returned when I took Ky and Jessica to Marietta College’s new planetarium.  We waited in the lobby area for the group before us to be finished with the presentation and Ky played on these ball like chairs that reminded me of planets. When we told him Story Musgrave, an MC alumnus and astronaut, was down the hall signing pictures, his eyes grew to the size of the moon.


Kyan before heading into the planetarium at Marietta College

Kyan before heading into the planetarium at Marietta College


Once seated, we looked up and to the side and beyond us, as a short little film played around us on the half dome, 360 degree screen. The audience let out a collective gasp as stars zoomed past us, making any scene from Star Wars or Star Trek seem amateurish. 

After a second presentation later in the day, we decided to meet the astronaut. I asked Musgrave a question about the awe of space and he ignored me. Unfazed, I then asked for a picture and he came around the desk where he was signing his own biography and put his strong hands around the back of my neck, turning me this way and that until he had me  positioned where he wanted me for the picture. We tried asking a few more questions, but he seemed more interested in pushing his books on those in line. 


Me and Story Musgrave

Me and Story Musgrave


We moved on, a little bummed. Perhaps once you’ve seen the splendor of space and its celestial bodies up close, mere mortals aren’t worth your time. Or, perhaps, I was right all along to set my eyes and dreams somewhere much closer, like my father and son. 


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