A Dad's Voyage to Seek Out New Ways to Stay Connected
A Guest Post by Author J. Boyce Gleason
There was a time when I was stretched pretty thin between work and family. My three kids were young, and my wife was at home raising them while I was downtown trying to reach a point in my career where I could afford to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.
"It’s a tough time of life," my then boss told me. "Your family and your job both need more of you than you can give. You end up disappointing everyone."
I traveled a lot. And even when I was in town, my commute was an hour and a half each way. Three hours in a car on top of a long workday can estrange you from your family. And it did. I’d get home long past the dinner hour and try to insert myself back into their lives. I’d ask my sons about their day at school and get strange looks as if it weren’t my business to know.
It was a difficult and frustrating time. I felt cut-off from the very people I was struggling so hard to support.
One day, I noticed my oldest son watching a new TV show called Star Trek, the Next Generation. I’d been a fan of the original series. When I was growing up, it was the only show my brothers and I were allowed to watch on a school night. I made it a point to catch Next Generation with my son whenever I could. Even when I couldn’t get home in time, he’d fill me in on what I’d missed. It gave us a way to connect when connecting wasn’t so easy.
Led by Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean Luc Picard, the show had an eclectic cast of characters and proved to be a worthy successor to the original series. It lasted for 178 episodes during its seven seasons (I know, when was the last time you saw a TV show that had 25 episodes per season?). Along the way, Stewart and his crew garnered 19 Emmys, two Hugos and a Peabody award. Their last episode was watched by 30 million people and led to four feature films.
My son and I watched them all. Despite being so identified with his role as a Star Trek captain, Stewart was able to continue his career as an actor, landing lucrative roles in a number of films, including the leading role in the X-men series. Other Star Trek shows filled in the years but nothing quite lived up to Next Generation.
Three years ago Paramount+ announced a reboot of Next Generations called Star Trek: Picard. Eighteen years after their last feature film, the show is a love letter to Stewart and his merry band of characters. The aging stars (Stewart is 83) once again gathered to explore the galaxy as well as their inner demons. And, once again, against all odds, they save the universe, their souls, and humanity.
Although my son is now 40 years old and has children of his own, we checked in regularly about the series. It is well-written, and true to the Star Trek genre. It’s also been nice to see again the characters we loved so many years ago.
It was with some sadness that I watched the show’s final episode two nights ago. The producers, of course, left room for a spin-off with younger actors to support a few returning cast members, but I doubt it will be the same.
My kids have all grown and, thankfully, live close by so that my wife and I see them on a regular basis. And, thankfully, I’m no longer stretched between work and family. But I’ll always owe a debt to Next Generation for helping me find a way to connect with my oldest son, when connecting wasn’t so easy. While Jean Luc Picard was out seeking strange new worlds and civilizations, he also was helping me find my way home.
J. Boyce Gleason is a dad to three sons, three daughters-in-law, and five granddaughters. He is an author of award-winning historical novels for mature audiences, including Anvil of God and Wheel of the Fates, Books I & II of The Carolingian Chronicles. The third book in the series, Crown of A King, will be released May15, 2023, and is available now for preorder. Before turning his talents to writing, Gleason worked as a press secretary on Capitol Hill for two U.S. Representatives and served in the private sector as a public affairs and crisis management consultant. Gleason's work on some of the most visible corporate crises in recent U.S. history earned him national recognition and made him a featured speaker and advisor to corporate, academic, civil rights, and nonprofit institutions. He earned an AB in history from Dartmouth College and brings a strong understanding of the events that shaped history to his writing. He and his wife, Mary Margaret, live in Virginia. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @jboycegleason.