On August 9, I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke that paralyzed the left side of my body. I was in the ICU for three days, the Neuro Ward for four days, and a rehab hospital for three weeks. I was discharged on September 6 and have been trying to return to normal everyday life. I’m thankful for how much I’ve recovered in six weeks: I can walk on my own feet, though I’m not exactly skipping or running just yet; I can grasp items and move my fingers okay, though my arm and hand still lack feeling. I try not to let these things limit me: I do laundry and cook for my family, been working on a job proposal, and even prepared a nice slow-cook ham when our Dungeons & Dragons group met last weekend.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be a hundred percent my old self, but I remain grateful for what I can get. And silly as it may sound, pop and geek culture remain the things that make me feel closest to normal: my nerdy fandoms are the clearest extension of who I am and what I am about. Along with my family, geek life is the compass that guides my sense of identity.

These fan interests played a big part in my recovery, keeping me sane and focused as I worked to regain control of my body. My D&D group met twice at the rehab hospital, following our regular schedule every other weekend; physical and occupational therapy included re-learning to throw my trusty d20 die and imitating a Ray Harryhausen stop motion figure as I learned to move my knee better. I listened to Television’s Marquee Moon repeatedly when it helped improve movement in my hand, and from my hospital bed I wrote a short blog post about the Wu-Tang Clan promised to a friend before the stroke. I read Love & Rockets and Alack Sinner to pass the time, watched horror movies and TV shows on Netflix and Hulu.

During her daily visits to the hospital, my daughter Haruna and I sometimes pored over the book The Art Of Fire Emblem: Awakening; it was a game we spent this past summer playing and talking about, both the tactical battles and the ludicrous (but still strategic) dating sim aspects. With my wife Barbara, we three spent a few other evenings playing Ticket To Ride in the dining area. Haruna also introduced me to Miraculous, which baffles me to no end and which she delights in explaining to me in way too much detail.

Most of all, though, there was MegaCon Tampa. Last year we took Haruna to that con as her birthday gift and this year we promised we would do the same. Comic conventions have been her favorite family events in the past few years, as she calls it a combination of Christmas and Halloween. She loves meeting her favorite voice actors and shopping at the vendor tables, and she has grown into her own, uniquely geeky self before our very eyes. I had no intention of letting her down about Megacon Tampa, and attending the con became a goal that motivated me during my physical therapy sessions. As my body got better, we spoke more and more about attending the show, what we would do there, what special guests we could meet, and even invited one of Haruna’s friends to join us. We discussed who Haruna would cosplay as, and she decided on Donnel, the mighty hayseed warrior from Fire Emblem: Awakening. We also had to make some concessions to reality: we cut short the visit to a day trip on Sunday instead of attending the whole weekend; and while I intend to walk on my own as much as I can, I’ll also be using a wheelchair because exhaustion sets in quickly.

We are now at Megacon Tampa, and this will be a very special event for us because of what we’ve all gone through to get here. Life goes on, we get stronger every day, and I’m gonna geek out like I’ve never geeked out before.