How far in the past does an event have to have occurred before it can be called “history?” I have no idea. But as for a man’s personal life and times it seems reasonable to say that the day he becomes an octogenarian he can be forgiven if he looks back no further than yesterday for his “history.” With that thought in mind I hope you will accept the following brief memoir as a personal legacy story worth offering.
Our youngest son Nate, an airline pilot, has known for years that I wanted to fly an airplane again for my 80th Birthday present. Although my actual birthday is not until October 3 and because our kids are all productively employed we celebrated it Saturday, September, 30. I don't know when it happened but it seems that our five kids got together. plotted, planned, and pooled their money for the purpose of renting a Piper Cherokee 180 from a small airport west of Springfield. It was "ours" from 2:00 p.m. until?? Since I'm no longer a "legal" pilot Nate was the PIC (Pilot in Command) which was a poignant reversal of our roles. You see I gave Nate his first few flying lessons many years ago.
Although he was PIC, my hands were on the controls the entire time . With all the pre-flight inspection done I climbed into the pilot's seat and taxied out to the end of the runway. Looking down that long strip of asphalt with its white centerline beckoning me on brought back so many memories. Were it not for the fact that I had important things to do my eyes would surely have clouded over. I pushed the throttle forward, we began rolling ever faster. Then . . . that indescribable moment when the airplane's wheels surrender their job to the wings. We were airborne. After an exhilarating take-off, my first in over a decade, we dropped in on a couple of nearby airports so that I could test my long-unused skills in taking-off and landing.
"Slipping The Surly Bonds of Earth"
Both Nate and I were pleasantly pleased to find that I can still “slip the surly bonds of earth” and return to it safely, if not quite as prettily as I could fifteen years ago. The pilot’s “creed,” though says, “any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.” Then I pointed the Cherokee's nose out over the hills and just flew, and flew, and flew; wheeling, turning, climbing, and descending - out gtak over our pristine Table Rock Lake and gorgeous Ozarks exulting in the feeling of once again having a yoke in my hands and making a lovely airplane do what I wanted it to do. It had been over ten years since I last tasted that sublime experience. Finally age began to catch up with me. My heart could have gone on forever, but my body told my mind "Enough." Reluctantly I brought the Cherokee back to its home and climbed out.
End of the Flight . . . . "V" for Victory. . . The Old Man Still Has It.
In The Pilots Seat . . . .
Then . . . our kids surprised me further. They were waiting at the airport with carry out bags full of delicious barbecued brisket and all the "fixings." . We picnicked at tables with now-quiet airplanes sharing the ramp with us. I have never eaten at a restaurant with more pleasing ambience. We ate, we took pictures and shared as only a family can. After demolishing the food Nate took everyone who wanted to go, up for rides around the airport.
Family and Flying - My Two Greatest Gifts From God
(Not All Are Shown In This Picture)
Finally, with dusk gathering around us we moved the party back into town where a succulent chocolate birthday cake with the ominous two numerals 8 and 0 standing guard over rich chocoate frosting was waiting for us. It was way beyond the best birthday of my entire life. I can now continue my walk towards my ultimate end, not saying “I WAS a pilot,” but rather “I AM a pilot.”
Totally, Wonderfully Satiated
I “expect” that will be my final time at the controls of an airplane and what a way to end a passionate love affair. Flying – Family –Food. It just can’t get any better.
Thank you Lord for the privelige of flight. And thank you for giving me such a wonderful family. I am blessed far beyond anything I deserve. You are awesome.
About the author
Don, Once again you nailed it. And once again the poetry of your words sweetened the thrill of breaking the surly bonds of earth. Thanks much for one of the most enthralling of personal legacy stories.
I just hope that through my writing some who read my words will share vicariously in those parts of my life.
And vicariously sharing I did! Although you still have 12 years of age on me, and a skill that I never developed (Pilot), I left the "surly bonds of Earth" with you and shared your Flight--Family--and (spiritually) Food! But it brought back memories of my son who flew prior to his marriage and a "flight" between the jagged edges of Provo Canyon as we flew from Provo into Heber Valley--the next valley to the east. What an exuberant feeling--to be airbound and beyond Earth. Your descriptive style of writing always captures the feelings of your personal legacy. Don, Thanks for letting us share your 80th birthday with you and your family!