Dear Neil...

My Wonder Years generation...

"Because I don't deserve it," was your response when an interviewer reminded you of how valuable the world sees you. 

I get it. But deadly happenstance, intelligence, perseverance and sheer bravery - or was that an explorer's naiveté and exuberance - you, Neil Armstrong, was the one NASA chose to be the first astronaut to set foot on the moon.

To you, that decision, that act, that job, was just one task in a long line of career - Navy & Air force - duties you had taken under your belt over the years, often at the cost to your marriage and the loneliness of your children. Janet knew, ultimately Rick and Mark knew too, that your job wasn't just a job. It was as much a calling as Magellan and Columbus were attracted to ships and the high seas.

It wouldn't have mattered to you if you had not been the Chosen One. In fact, I'd bet all the moon dust on the moon that you would have much preferred it that way, for
Ed White, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Roger Chaffee
Ed, Gus and Roger would still be alive, and it goes without saying that you would have given not the moon but the entire universe to have your wee girl, Muffin, back in your arms. Karen. Your universe. No rocket needed.

But with great loss often comes great gains, and you motored on to achieve not only for yourself but for the world... and for one wee Canadian girl at the tender age of 5, a glimpse to what was truly possible in life.

I am the daughter of an RCMP Constable, one who was taught that big girls don't cry in public. And for my father, I've more or less heeded that call, all these 54 years... 

until the movie, First Man.

I know you were not here to see the movie, the visual encapsulation of your long and storied life, and maybe, had you been, no movie would have ever been made, or it would have been made and at the thought of a humble boy like you being on the big screen, your frown at such a frivolous project may have never turned upside down. But for us, Neil, down here, in Normalville, you astronauts who lived in Togetherville were men apart, in essence, absolutely The Right Stuff, and we bask in your glory.

At age 5, I was rather confused about the whole event but knew to be in awe, for I saw the awestruck adult faces around me and I knew I must pay attention. I knew where the moon was and knew no amount of wishing or jumping cows could get me or any other average human there. I watched the grainy pictures on our black and white television while my Mom kept repeating to me, "Look, see Barbie, men are on the moon!" I was but one child born amid the burgeoning era of technology and to me, my future was headed for the Anything Is Possible World.

All these years that gift of the Possible has never left me. I am a product of my times, a Neil Armstrongphile that if you work hard and stay focused, the world, the universe, is your oyster.

Decades meandered on, and you and I got older, and that naïve wonder waned until I hit the movie theatre last weekend and again took flight with you.

This time around, confusion did not reign, and appreciation for the man over the astronaut was coloured full and I was carried away with you - the worry, the fear, the excitement, the sorrow and the joy, and with it even this big girl cried in public.

I miss you, Neil, and I miss those halcyon days. I miss the wonder and the excitement and the belief in greater things than oneself. You and I, Neil, were part of a generation who looked outward and not inward, a people who looked to do for others and not just for ourselves.

"Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

Today, society is obsessed with naval gazing instead of star gazing and in our myopic view we no longer collectively reach for the stars.

In First Man, you and I once again were strapped in and going for gold, seeking the unknown and prepared for anything.

I doubt there will be a day in my life until I join you in the Hereafter that I will not be indebted to you and your thirst for the Possible. You were wrong, Neil. You deserved it all. The gifts you received as our man on the moon are still giving to those of us who gleefully rode with you.


As your sons want, when I catch the moon in my sights, I will wink, and you and I will share that exploration inside joke.