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Tom Cleaver
887 articles

2020 – the year when everything ran together like spilled paint

December 28, 2020 · in Aviation · · 27 · 1.9K

I want to be clear it is not a joke when I tell you that looking back on this year and trying to gauge its scope and its contents is like wrestling an oily pig in a carnival hall-of-mirrors. It was like dropping ten open bottles of paint on a hardwood floor simultaneously.

2020 contained Great Difficulty, Near-Disaster, Lots of Problems, and right smack dab in the middle of it, the Most Successful Year of my professional career to date. Go figure. Like William Goldman said when he created The Three Rules of Hollywood, "Nobody. Knows. Anything. (if they did, they'd all be rich)". If there was ever a year in which it became clear that rule applies to more than Hollywood - that it applies to everything - 2020 was it.

Right as everything started to circle the bowl with the announcement of the pandemic's outbreak, on March 3 SWMBO managed to stand up, take a turn, and fall down (she has Parkinson's). Things didn't get better over the afternoon, though she got to her feet and made things worse by thinking all was well and walking around. When she fell again in the bathroom that night, in a space too tight for me to help her up, we finally called 9-1-1 and the paramedics got her out of there and into an ambulance. Fortunately we live near a hospital, where they determined she had a potentially-broken hip, and she was transferred on to Kaiser, where she's insured, and the X-ray determined the hip was fractured and the hip joint was broken. The next day she became a Bionic Woman with a hip replacement. So far, so good. Then she went to a recovery home, about which treatment I cannot say enough bad, with the only good thing being she got out a week before the first Covid-19 infection showed up in the place. The 14 days of Crucial Treatment After The Operation was for naught; we've spent the rest of the year trying to crawl out of that hole.

In the meantime, I began work on "The Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club: Naval Aviation in the Vietnam War." I managed to "frat'nize" with Rear Admiral Denny Wisely, Captain Roy Cash, Jr., and Commander Curt Dose, MiG-killers all, who introduced me to their opposite numbers in the VPAF, with whom they are now good friends, one of whom rose to Lt. General and retired as Vice Commander of the Vietnam People's Air Force. Very interesting people all around, and all in all a project that was a real eye-opener for this Vietnam vet.

SWMBO seemed to be getting out of the hole, with a good physical therapist, and I thought she'd be walking on her own in a month by the end of May. Then over Memorial Day weekend, she reached for something while in her wheelchair and fell out. Only a short drop, nothing seemed amiss, but with the 20/10 vision in arrears that came, The Defining Incident. Progress stopped over the summer, despite continuing therapy.

I finished Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club while also her caregiver, and moved on to "Downtown: The US Air Force in Vietnam," where I became friends with fellow aviation history author and MiG-killer in Operation Bolo Colonel Ralph Wetterhahn, and Colonel Ivy McCoy, Thud driver and Phantom MiG-killer. That manuscript was completed in early September.

About the same time, SWMBO managed to fall out of the hospital bed set up here. I'll save you the guess of what part of her anatomy she landed on. After a week of pain and increasing loss of movement, a trip to the ER revealed that the replacement hip was broken, and the leg was separated from the joint. Repair surgery was scheduled...

And then the next week we went to a regular appointment with her Parkinson's neurologist, who spotted the swollen leg and immediately had us sent down to the ER, where an ultrasound revealed a blood clot in the leg where surgery was needed. So, for the past 80 days, she has been bedridden while we get through 90 days of blood thinner therapy, which ends January 6. Despite the massive Covid-19 outbreak here, they have the ability to operate on her soon thereafter for repair of the hip. This time, she's coming directly home, where our good physical therapist and I will attempt to not make the mistakes made a year ago.

And in the midst of all that, my book "I Will Run Wild" received the equivalent of an "Oscar" from Kirkus Reviews - a "must read" starred review - and was released to sales so good that at the end of the first month Osprey contacted me to inquire if I had any corrections to make before they went to a Second Printing.

Like I said. "Nobody. Knows. Anything."

And somehow, those times spent taking a break from caregiving and writing, turned into enough time to create the following models. One of my most productive years.

Yeah, if I did know anything, I would be rich.

In no particular order than how they show up in the computer files...

T-T-T-That's all, folks!

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27 responses

  1. it is an interesting thing that in many cases (our hobby and also writing/authoring included), a seemingly lack of time might have an adversary, positive effect in productivity (quality wise as well). This seems to be the case here, Tom.
    Congratulations, my friend, on your authoring and following success of your books and on your beautiful and well researched models (together with the great accompanying articles, published in Modelingmadness and shared here).
    Keep up the good work!

  2. I wish you and your wife the best, Tom. Let’s hope the new year brings better fortune. Congratulations on the professional success and the amazing model production.!

  3. Tom, besides your very productive modelling year (30 models!) it’s good to know that your “Mr Writer” side is also exceeding expectations, well done! If I get a copy of your latest book I’ll just might send you a pm for an autograph. I wish you a 2021 better where 2020 definitely was not.

    • Pedro: that can be done. I can sign a sticker you can put in the book. Otherwise shipping it around is a financial killer.

      It'll be 30 models if I get this third P-51D painted and decaled in the next three days.

  4. From another old Warner Bros. Looney Tune- "THIS shouldn't happen to a DOG".
    Yeah you have had an up and down year. Sure hope it's all uphill for SWMBO now. (Maybe you could clue us in to her actual name?)
    I am jealous as hell of your energy, I have nothing of the sort. 30 beauties in a year? Yikes.
    Guess what's my favorite? (Cobra). Happy New Year

  5. Thanks for so many great builds and the fantastic accompanying historical background for each build, Tom.
    I was a good dad this year and received a copy of your 'Holding the Line' for Christmas from my daughter (on order- waiting for delivery).
    Wishing all the best for you and your wife in 2021.

  6. Tom:
    You have been a constant inspiration to me as I returned to this childhood hobby. Viewing your builds on this and other sites as I was contemplating that return in the years prior to retirement gave me lots of enjoyment as I tried to catch up on the advancements in modeling since the Frog years. Having comments from you on a build of mine made my day on that project.
    I hope your wife has a full recovery. She must be so resilient to go through all that, take the lickin's and keep tickin'. That, the books, the models in the year of the plague - Superhuman.
    I have to admit I haven't sampled any of your literary output yet, but I'd like to rectify that this year. What is the book you are most proud of?

    I hope 2021 is better for both of you, for all of us. Keep on rockin' in the free world.

    All the best

    • @aldog - Well, I like them all, but I think the reason that "I Will Run Wild" has had the success it has is because two years ago when I wrote it, I managed to reach through time and touch the Zeitgeist of 2020. It's a story of people who had the world fall on top of them through nothing they did, faced dark times and defeat, and found a way to hang on and muscle through, and in so doing lay "the cornerstone of victory" as President Roosevelt put it back then. So, that's the one I would recommend - it also ends up being "book one" of what turned out to be my "Pacific War Quadrilogy" - I'm so well organized that I wrote #3 (Pacific Thunder) first, followed by #4 (Tidal Wave), then came up with this accidentally while writing what I thought at first was a background chapter to #2 (Under The Southern Cross) that was going to be #1 of a trilogy, which comes out next May. How's that for an orderly project?

  7. Who say's modeling therapy doesn't work. It offers a beginning, middle and end. Has a story arc that can have a happy ending or you can start over. Can be engrossing and offers continuity with a pleasant distraction with practice. Choosing the right model helps.
    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was a S!#% show too. To steal from Dicken's . Cheers to peace of mind and modeling TC.

  8. A very fine collection Tom. Learned a lot this year thanks to you

  9. Thanks a lot for all these great models you build, Tom.
    Also the added history parts are nice to read.
    I did enjoy looking at them and learned a lot from your building threads.
    Wishing you and your family all the best for 2021.

  10. Models great, books great. Still reading IWRW.

    My very best wishes to your 'better half', Tom. Everything crossed for calmer waters after January.

  11. Congratulations on your successes this year, and I sincerely hope that Mrs Cleaver makes a recovery very soon.

  12. Beautiful collection.

  13. Wow, that is some record of model production Tom. Nice work all around, and may 2021 be kinder to your wife. I know from experience how trying coping with a spouse with lots of medical issues can be. My spouse and I both stated for better or worse and in sickness and health and we meant every word.

  14. As usual, Tom, your work amazes me...not just the plastic and paint, but also the words and history which brings the whole build to life. You did all off those while I'm still plugging away of on my fifth or sixth build.
    I hope your wife has a better new year health-wise and may you both stay "invisible" to the virus.
    Lastly, thanks so very much for all of the help and info...answering my many questions during my work.

  15. Nice production Tom.

  16. Man alive, I have got to learn to move through builds a little faster. Of course, I do have a couple of teens still at home and 9 grandkids to keep up with, so...guess I should cut myself a little slack! Great collection Tom, and I need to get some of those recent books to read! They sound right up my alley of interest.

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