On a mission

I think there are several reasons I don’t like to fly. One of them was my dad was a pilot. For a short period of time he shared a small plane with several other people. But it didn’t last long because it was very expensive. The first time I can remember being in a plane was with my dad and his instructor. It was very exciting. I also remember flying with a friend of my parents who had an airplane and landing strip in his backyard. I remember liking that as well. The people below looked like little dots from the sky.

My dad was very involved with a local aviation club. This is where I think my problem started. My dad was the head of a search and rescue crew. That meant we frequently got calls in the middle of the night about small planes that went down. The phone would ring non-stop for about an hour. Then my dad would spend the rest of the night with a crew searching until they found the plane.

My dad would field many calls in the middle of the night. I’m not sure why that’s when most of the calls came. (Maybe the calls in the middle of the night were the most memorable). There were so many calls I thought plane crashes happened all the time. The phone calls woke us kids up and it was worrisome. It seemed like dad was always on a mission.

Then every year the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) would attract pilots from all over the world to OshKosh, WI. Year after year my dad received reports of plane crashes from this event. Every year he volunteered at the event, but I never went. We didn’t do family things. One time my dad gave me a book about flying. It was the only thing he ever gave me. I think someone gave it to him and I gave it away without reading it.

Other than that, I only flew commercially once as a child the summer I turned 12. We went on a ‘vacation’. Meaning that my Aunt Grace, Luke, and I drove down to Texas with my mom and Matt to the hospital where we left them for the remainder of the summer. Luke and I flew back home with our aunt. It was a scary experience without our mom. It was our first time on a big plane and my brother got so scared during take off that he choked on his gum. The Dallas airport was huge. I think we got lost. Not only was our mom not with us, she wouldn’t be with us for the whole summer which we worried about. I remember crying a lot that summer. But Matt was supposed to come back healed. (He didn’t). Mom wrote us letters from the hospital, but that was about it.

Except for two early experiences of wonder, flying was paired with leaving my mother behind and a lot of calls in the middle of the night about plane crashes.

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