Flight Paths…

I am flying through life, cruising in a flight path between two other aircraft, each flying in opposite directions.  Each one being piloted by two amazing flight instructors…

The Landing

I just had the last face to face conversation I will ever have with my father.  He’ll be on hospice soon and though I’m not sure when he’ll go, I am certain we just met eye to eye for the final time.  I’m back at my hotel now preparing to head back from Las Vegas to my home in San Diego in the morning.  Our final conversation was not the best one my father and I ever had but it certainly was not the worst.  There were smiles and humor.

My father is an airplane, descending and preparing for his final approach.  It might be a bumpy landing, but it shouldn’t be a crash.  As I left him this evening, I honored him with a warm kiss on the head, I told him that I love him, and I quickly swallowed some tears as I turned my back and walked away from him for the last time.  My final memory of seeing my father alive will be one of seeing him in a wheelchair, eating a green Otter Pop, and arguing with his care giver about some little thing.

The Take Off

This morning, before I left to spend my final day with my father, I received and email from my daughter, now living in Athens, Greece.  It was an upbeat correspondence.  She shared a few stories with me full of local flavor, and she attached some pictures of the city.  Not the touristy kind of pictures one might expect, but pictures of places which need to be sniffed out.  My daughter has a good nose for, off the beaten path. 

With clear skies and adventures ahead, the airplane of my daughter’s life is just taking off.  Her course is upward and wide open.  Brave, intelligent, and curious, my daughter’s flight through life will no doubt be scenic, perhaps a bit bumpy at times, and will be in great contrast to the flight of my father.  She’s already a good pilot and getting better every year.

Cruising Altitude: Me, Part I

For my part, I am now in a flight pattern sandwiched somewhere between the flight paths of my father and my daughter.  I am at the cruising altitude of life. Having flown small planes in real life, I can say that the cruising part is boring.  Taking off and landing, that’s where the excitement is, and where the best lessons are learned.  There is much though, that I can learn from observing the current flight paths of both my father and my daughter.  Lessons which can help me steer a better course for the remainder of my trip; that I enjoy the views and have a quality landing with little regret.

I will try and learn from the examples my daughter sets before me, as well as to remember the examples my father had set.  There is much wisdom from each.  My father worked hard to provide me with a good life.  He taught me much, and most of what I have today, I owe to my father’s hard work, love and dedication.  But what I can learn from my daughter is invaluable because it’s fresh, sincere, and rooted in the infallible self-belief of her own free will and directionality.

Mulan On Steroids

She had planned to move from Chicago to Athens to study abroad for seven months.  Things didn’t go so well on moving day.  The day she was to depart for Athens, the company she had contracted to pick up and store her belongings did not come through.  Rather than admit defeat and contact her friends or another moving company for help, my daughter took matters into her own hands; U-Haul.

She had rarely driven outside the suburban community where she grew up, Temecula, CA.  She had never driven in the snow, had never driven anything larger than an economy car, and had never driven in the city.  So when she found herself in a moving van, in downtown Chicago, in a snow storm, with just a few hours to spare to put all her furniture and belongings into storage and hop a plane to Greece, I cringed and I doubted severely.  Despite my doubt, or perhaps because of it, she would move her entire 5th story apartment in these conditions, by herself, and in just over a few hours – queen bed included.  For all of her academic accomplishments, I saw this as her finest hour.  She made the plane to Athens on time.

Cruising Altitude: Me, Part II

For nearly a year, I have been writing about making positive changes in my life – about taking back my potential – cutting out the drinking, eating completely clean, and avoiding the inherent turbulence on the flight path of life in modernity.  Well, I haven’t done too well with that plan.  I have simply cruised on autopilot, letting my momentum carry me forward from week to week.  I have let momentum chart my course.  With that lack of planning and discipline, I can’t believe I’m still airborne.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I am hopeful in the context this day – of seeing my daughter’s flight taking off, and my father’s flight landing, I will apply lessons from both journeys, that I make better choices for my own.  At the very least, maybe I can avoid that dreaded “water landing”.  Be well.  rc

Please check back in two weeks to see what transpires when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Finger Eleven.  Enjoy….


29 responses

  1. Your Dad sounds like a feisty old pilot! From my experiences, those are the best ones 🙂

    I’m sure his landing will leave you proud.

    Your daughter seems to have a bit of the ole’ grandpa in her too, Roy!

    The last time I saw my mom before she died, she hugged me with a strength I thought she had long lost. That hug stays with me…

    Be well, brother.

  2. Tears to my eyes Roy! I can so relate to this post! A little too close for comfort but the learning – yes, the learning!

    My mom & dad’s death were not pretty so yes we have to learn & those younger – so much to gather from them. You daughter sounds just friggin amazing! Hey, you did good there! Own it!

    A relative was just diagnosed with stage 4 cancer – although I have seen so many leave me – she is 50 – much younger than the others. It really makes on think even more than I did when I lost other loved one.

    Roy – an amazing post – really! Thank you so much for it & for sharing!

    • Thank you Jody. I’m sorry to hear about your relative — 50 is young, too young. My oldest client is 89. He attends a memorial service nearly every month of his life. He and I have great discussions about this, and I am better for his wisdom. “Dying”, he often says, “Is what we’re here for”. Hard to argue, but the circumstances are rarely ideal.

  3. What a beautiful post!!! It’s true we have so much to learn from others. My boys are reaching the age they become fascinating and interesting people in their own right.
    I am sorry about your father. 😦

    • Well Julie, I don’t know about “remarkable” but I appreciate that you took the time. I know you have things in your life that offer you some pretty remarkable perspective. Funny, I thought of Lizzy a couple of times since Chels has been gone. Yes, we get to watch the airplanes take off….

  4. What a beautiful way of viewing the journey of life. I truly hope that you’ll be inspired by both your father and daughter to add meaning to your flight, auto pilot tends to lack the thrill of taking off and landing.

    So often when we lose someone, through death or distance, we focus on their positive qualities and what we wish we’d done differently in our interactions with them. My brother’s death last year has taught me to love deeper, give more genuine compliments and tell the people I care about how important they are to me. I hope that the coming months will bring some of the same changes to your life; it lessens the sting of loss.

    All the best Roy.

    • Thanks Karen! I know it sounds cheesy to say in the context of a blog comment, but I thought about your brother’s death a couple of times when I was writing this. You and I have never met, but the experiences you have shared through your blog have really impacted the direction of this one.

  5. Wow. Just wow. I am truly comforted by everything you’ve written here. I think about my life — a lot. And what lies ahead for my children’s own lives — especially me not being there for them when I finally accomplish my own Landing. I’ve worried about that. But what you’ve shared truly warms my heart. Everything will be okay.

    • Josie, this may sound corny but I have truly come to embrace that I am here to learn from my child. My father never viewed my adult life in this way. He always had to be the teacher. Learning from my daughter, and accepting that I can learn from my daughter, has been the great joy of parenthood — so far.

  6. I learned to fly “gliders” when in Reno. My instructor was a full-bird colonel who was the first pilot to fly non-stop from California to Viet Nam. On my second “lesson” he said: “Im gonna take her down because I have a meeting soon.” Usually you circle the landing strip in ever decending circles. This method is very “safe” because you really have only one chance to line up your flightpath: NO MOTOR. I said OK and he took over. He nose-dived straight down toward the airfield. (I was going out with his daughter. Later he told me he wanted to see how big “a man” I was). I was in the front seat. When you look out front in a glider, you only see two things: the sky and a ribbon to tell you how “trim” you are. So, all I saw was the ground coming up at over 75 MPH. He waited untill the VERY LAST SECOND, pulled up the nose and hit the runway lickety split at 75 MPH. We were moving fast. Suddenly he turned toward the port (left) side and we were heading directly toward the hanger. I thought we were going to smash into the door…gliders have no “brakes.”….We stopped rolling 3 feet from the door. I was never so scared in all my life, but I never let out a wimper. After that, Vern and I became good friends…and I got my liscense. Flying and life are so integrated. I learned to fight my fear with my trust…and I saved that “lesson” forever and to today.

  7. Please make sure you your flightpath includes the Great American Novel; you have so much to offer the world! P.S. Do you offer complimentary cocktails to your passengers flying coach?

  8. Douglas, I swear to you it’s still on the priority list! It’s ben a rough year. Slowly getting better. Sundays are dedicated to determining and prioritizing the best and most relevant essays to self publish as a book. Now if I only had an editor….

  9. Thanks Stephanie. Picnic on the runways sounds pretty fun. My daughter and I actually did picnics at the end of the runway when she was very little at the old Stapleton Airport in Denver. Dad’s not gone yet, and he’ll fight the fighter’s fight, but we agreed this would be our last visit.

  10. I’m a first-time reader of your blog. What beautiful writing you have, a wonderful way of weaving your insights together with what’s going on with your loved ones. I’m so glad you had a decent last visit with your dad, even though that is so bittersweet. I hope his landing is soft. It sounds like you have a wonderful relationship with your daughter. I’m sure both of these relationships have shaped you into the man you’ve apparently become. And, the song at the end…perfect.

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