Constable: Glen Ellyn seeker is less tourist, more detour-ist in journey toward home
Sitting in the gazebo in the backyard of his Glen Ellyn home, author Tom Montgomery Fate is still on a journey.
"It's a big idea, home," says Fate, whose sixth and latest book, "The Long Way Home: Detours and Discoveries," is a sort of travel memoir about his quest to examine what it really means to be home.
"For birds, home is both verb and noun, both journey and destination," says Fate. "It's not about the arrival."
Fate's personal pilgrimage starts as a boy growing up in Maquoketa, Iowa, and has stops as a journalist in Nicaragua during the Sandinista revolution, teaching English in the Philippines, praying in a sweat lodge at an American Indian reservation in South Dakota, taking sabbaticals at Benedictine abbeys in Minnesota and Iowa, learning about nature in an Oregon forest and fishing on numerous outings with his pastor father, his three older brothers and his son.
"I'm nostalgic," Fate says. "I think a lot of writers are, because it's about memory."
The College of DuPage library will host a virtual book launch and discussion at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, through the website library.cod.edu/blog/Tom-Montgomery-Fate-discusses-The-Long-Way-Home. An in-person reading and discussion with Fate is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 28, at the Glen Ellyn Public Library, 400 Duane St.
A retired English teacher from the College of DuPage, Fate, 61, has a master's degree in creative writing from the University of Iowa and a master's degree in religion from the Chicago Theological Seminary. He's read his essays on National Public Radio and written for numerous newspapers and literary publications, and he's mentoring writing students at St. Francis College in Joliet. Rave reviews for his book are posted on tomfate.com.
"I'm thankful I grew up in a small community," he says, recalling days of fishing near the dam with his dad. Folks mostly talked about high school football games and fluctuations in the price of corn. They not only knew their neighbors, but they also probably knew their neighbors' parents and even grandparents.
"That's less common these days. We're always on the move," Fate says. Saying that he's "from Iowa, but I'm also out of Iowa," Fate lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, moved west to Oak Park and then farther west to Glen Ellyn.
"I'm migrating back to Iowa -- slowly," he says.
His father, Russ, who attended the Divinity School at the University of Chicago and became a United Church of Christ minister, died of Alzheimer's disease at age 88 in 2013. His mother, Dee, died at age 95 in 2020 after contracting the coronavirus. They were both active in civil rights and progressive causes. Illinois Sen. Paul Simon spent the night at the Fate home while campaigning for the Iowa caucus during his failed 1988 presidential campaign.
Interested in justice and social causes, Fate spent the summer in Nicaragua after his first year of grad school. He returned with his girlfriend, Carol, a psychology major who shared his interests, and they were married in Managua. He and his wife, an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ, have three children. Carol works as a supervisor of a home-visiting program supporting families in DuPage County through the Cooperative Association for Special Education.
Their daughter Tessa, 28, has a doctoral degree in physical therapy and works in St. Louis. Daughter Abby, 25, graduated from Valparaiso University and works as a Jesuit Volunteer Corps and AmeriCorps volunteer with Thrive Central Oregon, which addresses housing and financial insecurity. Son Bennett, who turns 21 this week, is studying environmental science at Iowa State University.
Not willing to be simply a tourist on his travels, Fate becomes a detour-ist, changing his paths, and his feelings, in whatever way the journey takes him. He embraces the "mitakuye oyasin" belief of Francis White Lance of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which translates as "I'm related to all that is," sort of a one with everything, including birds, fish, flowers, bugs, rocks and other people.
"I talk a lot in the book about belonging," Fate says. "When you belong, your longings are calmed, and you're at home."