Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Aged P. and His Flying Machine

I got an e-mail from the Aged P. yesterday blithely telling me that he just learned to do a barrel roll in his dinky open-cockpit airplane. The Aged P., if you will recall, is my 82-year-old father. Today's feats were to include a few loop-de-loops and “a little sight-seeing,” whatever that means.

You would think that the Aged P., having postponed parenthood until his mid-40s, would have had ample time to get daredevil pursuits like aerobatic airplane flying out of his system. No. Way. The only way he’ll get it out of his system if he goes down one day in a blaze of glory. And, not to be morbid, but I’m pretty sure that would be fine with him. Of course, he may well be immortal.

My dad didn’t start taking flying lessons until he was in his late 70s. He has since told me, however, that he had been kicking himself ever since World War II (yes, he’s that old!) for opting for the Army Air Corps band instead of signing his own death warrant signing up for fighter-pilot training. I’m fairly certain that I’m on the planet today simply because in 1944 my dad was itching to become the next Charlie Parker and not the next Charles Lindbergh.

So there his dream of flying was--on the back burner for more than 50 years. A few years after my mom died, it was back up on the front burner with the flame turned up full blast. There are probably two reasons for this: 1) My mom’s death made him realize that death can come suddenly and unexpectedly--so he’d better get cracking if he ever wanted to earn his wings. 2) My mom was no longer around to curb his enthusiasm for expensive hobbies--and let me tell you, flying lessons (and airplanes) ain’t cheap! (My parents and their crazy relationship with money is a topic for another blog post or, realistically, several posts.)

At age 79, my dad had emergency heart bypass surgery--only a minor setback for a man as determined as he was to pilot a plane. By the time he was 80, he had his license and was regularly flying up to a small airport in Wisconsin to have a hamburger and a chinwag with other codgerish pilots. That got old fairly quickly, and he started talking about how he might fly his midget plane out to Portland to visit me. “All I’d have to do is fly straight down I-80,” he assured me. ("Then why not just drive?" I wanted to ask.) Thankfully, he abandoned that crackpot idea after one of the codgers reminded him that there are mountains--big ones, with their own unpredictable weather systems--between Chicago and Portland. So he "scaled back" his ambitions to aerobatics. My sister is horrified. My oldest brother is amused. And me? I’m just glad that he’s having such a hell of a good time.

6 Comments:

Blogger Rusty said...

Sounds like a hoot. I think I'd like to take flying lessons some day...

9:47 PM  
Blogger Cagey said...

I think it is wonderful that he is fulfilling dreams! My older relatives slowly go paranoid in their 70s because they are so afraid of dying. One of my great-aunts is 84 and slowly starving herself because she is afraid of SALT now. Sigh. What's the point of living if your quality of life becomes zero?

8:23 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Pieman,

Save your pennies. Starting now.

Cagey,

That is really sad about your great aunt. There are too many senior citizens like her who let fear rule their lives. I hope that changes one day.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

That is great! What a view on life you and your Dad have. Love it.

5:42 AM  
Blogger Jilly said...

Oh my, I can't believe it! 82 years old and doing barrel rolls, that just puts the rest of us to shame!

2:52 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Sharon,

Yes. My dad does live life to the fullest. I'm grateful for that and the fact that he is healthy enough to do so.

Jilly,

I don't think he necessarily puts the rest of us to shame. Everyone has their own version of "barrel rolls"--it's just whatever each person does to fulfill her/his goals or dreams. Wow! Where did that come from? Should I write a self-help book or what?

8:29 PM  

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