Planes, Ghosts, and a Daughter’s Love

Originally appeared at More.com.


A visit to an air show helped her connect with the planes that fascinate her and with the pilot father she lost.

It started before I was born. My “plane thing,” as I call it. My dad worked for a large oil company as an aviation fuels marketing manager, and the job gave him liberal use of a 1959 Beech Twin Engine Bonanza for business and personal trips. He was based in Boston in the early ‘60s, and transferred to Illinois when I was 2.

IMG_1358Planes had entered his life long before I had. When he joined the Navy in 1942, he first flew a Stearman he dubbed “the Yellow Peril.” It was his first Navy trainer as he learned to become a flight instructor. Then he flew an SNJ trainer, and finally, an SBD Dauntless. He left the Navy in 1945 when he got married and later told me he wished he had stayed in.

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I am the smallest one here. 

So the Twin Bonanza wasn’t a leap when it “arrived.” He knew planes. While my mother was carrying me in 1962 and into the summer of 1963, I was in that Bonanza going to Wisconsin to visit relatives. This didn’t abate when I arrived. I have a photo of my family in front of it. My dad stands tall and thin, aviator glasses over his blue eyes and his hands on his hips, looking very much like a pilot (all seriousness). The family stood to his left: my auburn haired mother, a kerchief on her head; my sister, tall and blond also in a kerchief; my oldest brother John, in the same glasses and displaying the same pose as my dad; my 5-year-old, dark haired second brother, in overalls; and then a tiny blond girl in overalls that (horrors!) matched her brother’s (2-year-old me).

My fascination for planes — their noise, their lines, the very concept of being that high in the sky — continued unabated into adulthood. But I kept my distance in a way. I wasn’t remotely interested in learning to fly. I have an overdeveloped sense of balance, and my ears and stomach would not allow it. I settled into finding out which ones flew when, the difference between a turbo prop and a jet, how a jet worked. I recognized their sounds when they flew overhead, wanting to be able to identify them in the sky.

When my dad passed away in 2005, I knew I was missing some pieces of his history. I didn’t have regrets, really, just one more day with him, knowing in advance that it was the last one. That is when I would’ve have picked his brain more, and written things down. Instead, I’ve settled for learning more about his aircraft experiences through my older siblings and my mother. (And these conversations generally include large amounts of Wild Turkey and laughter).

So when the opportunity arose to see one of the only, still flying, SBD Dauntlesses at the Planes of Fame Chino Air Show in California, I knew I had to go. My  then fiancé, an aerospace engineer by training, a World War II buff by hobby, found my plane (and car, but I digress) fascination unusual. The fact that I had completely lost track of time in the Seattle Air Museum when he and I had gone there, and honestly, was not ready to leave when he was, bordered on the downright weird.

If asked to explain why airplanes were such a big deal to me, I could never do it. Perhaps, like my green eyes, it’s genetic. All I know is it has always been there. Always will be. A plane going overhead will stop me in my tracks, as my eyes seek it, wanting the catalog in my head to determine its type: 737, 747, 767, Beech, Airbus, Learjet, Citation, King Air, Cessna. I recognize engine types when I hear them.  I even liked the names: the simplicity of the numerical varieties made some sort of weird Soduku sense to my otherwise mathematically-challenged brain.

We got to the airshow and parked in the middle of a dark brown farm field scattered with nearly white pieces of hay. The earth had been mashed down and slightly watered to contain the dust as SUVs, cars, and trucks bounced over the uneven terrain to park. The hot sun was tempered a bit by a fairly stiff breeze. An introvert to a fault, I am overwhelmed by crowds at times. (When I go to the mall, I go directly to the store I need and leave, I never wander). But on that day, I simply didn’t notice all the other people. my fiance’s son and a good friend of his were with us.

Initially, we wandered around and looked at the planes parked so that we could get close to them. Then my fiance looked down at me, and asked me where I wanted to go. “I want to find it,” I said simply. He took my hand and led me down the wide aisles, winding through the accumulating crowd. I kept my head down, focused on pavement, suddenly wondering if this had been a bad idea. I seemed to be overcome with emotions I had forgotten. I missed my dad in a new way: I wanted him there to tell me about that plane. About places, times. I wanted to hear his sarcasm, his laugh, his repetitive stories. Just once more.

“There she is,” he said, coming to a halt. I took a deep breath, held it, and looked up. Sitting there, 20 feet behind a metal gate, among Helldivers and Spitfires, its nose to me, was the dark-blue, propellered, dive-bomber with the Navy insignia that I knew from photos on my parents’ walls. I let the air out of my lungs. “You’re awfully quiet,” he said, watching me, as I observed the show volunteers remove the chock blocks from behind the plane’s gear. I could only nod from behind my dark glasses. The pilot jumped up onto the wing and climbed inside the front cockpit as I watched. The engine started up noisily, blue smoke coming out from it in protest. The prop rotated slowly once, then twice, until the motor caught. The gear started to move, and as the plane turned to head for the runway, I let out a gasp when the side of it presented itself to me revealing the number 39.

I slid my sunglasses up off my eyes to turn back and look up at him. “The number,” I said quietly, feeling disbelief, total belief, sadness, and delight. “That’s how old my dad was when I was born.”

He smiled. “He’s here again, isn’t he?” he said. I nodded and slid the glasses back down to watch the small, blue dive-bomber lumber down the runway and take off. Its gear went up, and I had to blink several times to fight the tears that welled at the edges of my eyes.

I didn’t want to breathe. Oh he was there.

As I watched the plane turn and climb toward the sun, the poem he loved, “High Flight” by John Magee, went through my head:

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

of sun-split clouds — and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue,

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace

Where never lark, or even eagle flew —

And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untresspassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

People wonder whether those who have died can see what is going on “down here.” I can only speak from my experience when I say: Not only do I know this is true, but I also know my dad has had his hands, wishes, and thoughts guiding my life since he passed on in ways he never did when he was alive. And the gap created by his death, while in no way overshadowed, is lessened at times, when he lets me know, in his own way, he’s still got my back.

 

 

People who talk to the dead..

  

I have started watching a TV show called Monica the Medium.  The woman in it is 22, in college, and talks to the dead. (Or rather, the dead seek her out and talk to her.) She was raised in a religious family and struggled with this gift. It’s fascinating to watch her in it and how she knows things she couldn’t know and touches lives in a positive way: giving them closure, hope and love. (I know this is a TV show, FAKE! STAGED! You say, but stay with me and you’ll understand my perspective).

 I think I’d love to have such a gift. 

I confess that after my dad passed away in 2005 the thought of dying no longer frightened me. Is this what faith in something is, I wondered. I “just know” he will be waiting with a Cosmo and a “hey kid!” (He called me “kid” up to the day he died, when I was 41 and had two children, three if you count my ex, but I digress.)

I saw a medium one year after he died. A friend of mine had told me about her and she was supposedly the real deal — helped the police solve crimes, things like that. I had started reading a lot of books after he died about near death experiences in an effort to understand what I will probably never understand until I die. It wasn’t so much closure I was looking for. It was more of a “I want to know he’s OK” kind of thing. I ran into some pretty wonderful books which I will list in my next post. 

My medium was tiny and British, quietly confident, and gave off this glow. The minute I walked into the reading room she looked at me and said “your dad is laughing and says the four wakes were overkill. Who’s the brown and black dog with him?” My mouth dropped open. 

We’d had four wakes: FL, WI, ME and off the coast of Texas thanks to the Navy. None were public. 

The dog was Molly, his Yorkie, who died in 2002.

 I sat down at a table and she pulled out some tarot cards. 

She shuffled them in silence, had me pick six, and laid them in a spread on the table. She flipped over a card. 

“You have his watch.”  

I do. 

“He’s spending more time with your mom’s mom than his own.” 

(Eva was one of a kind. Love in its purest form.)

“He says he hears you.”

I talk to him every day.

She told me other things but the one thing I will never forget is “be aware.” 

Doing that has changed death for me . I’m sure my dad communicates. There are far too many coincidences for them to be that. I’m sure he was involved in my second husband and I finding each other. (He’s a bit like him and my dad would love him and say I finally found the man that deserves me.) Every year on his birthday and death anniversary he sends me a sign. It’s an obscure song on the radio, or a Stearman flying over the house (he flew them in the Navy), a passage in a book, a tv commercial, or a car (a 1992 Olds) in traffic…a light blinking, the fact that he appeared in my husband’s dream, before we married, giving his approval (and my husband never remembers his dreams.)

And weirdest of all: my cat Luna’s death this week. I asked my dad, that night, when I couldn’t sleep, in my fog of grief, to please give me a message that he had her and she was no longer in pain. 

And tonight the red Stearman flew over my house. 

She’s fine. She’s with my dad. He loved animals. And it makes sense to me that anything connected to me and that I love on earth goes directly to him. 

It’s my way of communicating with him. 

 And it’s working. 

Human Life

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about life and being a human being.

(Stop reading now if you’re not in a thoughtful mood.)

I look at people who commit crimes and I wonder about mental illness and chemical or structural issues in the brain that can cause depression and schizophrenia, etc. if this is true, then what if a chemical imbalance is discovered that eliminates the understanding of consequences and empathy? This would sure explain a lot when it comes to inexplicable, horrific crimes that are committed against human beings by another human being. The lack of empathy and the non-existent connection of actions and consequences.  The poor impulse control.

And then I go down the road of it being proven that being gay is a genetic mutation.

I’m wondering if being transgender is also a genetic mutation.

Which means that all the religious people who say transgender people and gay people are sick and “choosing” to do “horrible things” don’t understand the science behind this. So science goes out the window when you are religious?

Why on earth would a person choose to be gay or transgender and deal with all of the biases and hatred generated towards them? Who on earth would CHOOSE to be hated so much? None of my gay friends say it’s a choice. They were born this way.

Normal is a setting on a washing machine.

The implications that serial killers and rapists are suffering from a “curable” mental condition means we, as a society must re-examine our judicial and penal systems. And that won’t happen if religion keeps saying these actions are “the devil incarnate”.

Back to the Bible: Jesus preached tolerance and acceptance, and in fact, most religions are mainly about not being a jerk to each other, and lately in all types of religious communities I see nothing but hatred and intolerance. I am really starting to believe religion is the cause of a lot of conflict in the world.

Breaks my heart and shatters my too empathetic soul to see how we treat one another.

All in the name of whatever God we profess to believe in.

(End of philosophical ramble.)

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Cats die everyday…

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Not her. Not yet.
Not StellaLuna.

Not my Luna
My LunaBug
My Poof

Why do we chose to love someone or something (is an animal a “thing” or a “one”?) when it hurts so much when their time on earth ends?

She was a…

  • Five-year-old polydactyl torbie cat
  • Who sat like a ballet dancer (toes in front) and crossed her front legs when she walked
  • “Meow”  No. Luna’s voice was a sweet Guinea pig squeak
  • She loved drinking very cold water (ice cube freak)
  • She only ate kitten chow. I called it Crack. “Want some crack?” Squeak!
  • A brush in your hand – she’d follow you around with her tail up.
  • Terrified of my stepson (too loud and too fast -she hid under the bed)
  • Picked on by Mocha (a year older, not related)

Do cats have souls? Is there an afterlife for them? Is it with humans? Did my dad greet her?

What animals have souls? My sons (14 and 17) both gave this answer. “Maybe it has to do with love.”

Cats die everyday. This one mattered. This one hurts. I feel her absence after only 5 years.

I will miss you, Luna bug. I am glad you are no longer suffering. 

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Just for you! Secret! Final Step! Limited Time!

Email subject lines are becoming… 
Damn misleading
Annoying
Repetitive
Just silly

Here are a few gems from today:

Final Steps Required! Do not ignore!

Exclusive invitation!

This one weird trick for _____________

What can you change in seven years

CONFIRM Product order (when I didn’t order anything!)

Free test! Predict your future!

The SPAM folder ones are even better!
Your ATM card worth $1.5M!
The best multiple streams of income EVER!
Understated but sexy

Makes me want to OPT-OUT of everything today.  But then I found this, laughed, and deleted a ton of crap from my inbox…

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About this aging thing….

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I’d like to Opt Out.

Seriously.  Why was I so sure I would dodge this?   I remember turning 40 and thinking, “Hey, this isn’t so bad. I don’t look or feel any different than I did in my late 30s.”  I kinda cruised through 41, 42, 43 and 44…

Then came 45.

  • My gallbladder quit and had to come out.
  • Cartwheels hurt. (so I stopped)
  • My back issues increased (degenerative disc?!)
  • My endurance vanished (can’t work out)
  • At 48
    • I started to need more sleep and never got it.
    • My colon rebelled. (Diverticulits)
    • My back REALLY went on strike
    • I had to stop riding (read, see my shrink)
  • At 51
    • I had to have colon surgery and my left ovary removed
      • I got Pulmonary Embolisms
      • I got Pancreatitis
    • That tossed me into menopause
      • Hot flashes (how’s 20 a day sound?)
      • Getting up 4 times a night to pee
      • Tired. All. The. Time.
      • No attention span.
      • No endurance.
      • Back really rebelled: can’t hike, bike or walk long distances.
      • Wrinkles.
      • My no ass is now all in my waist.
      • I am five eight and 140

I think we should all stop aging physically at 40 and drop dead at 90.  Perfect solution.

 

Depressed Mishmash

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  • $1.5B Powerball (I just want the Universe to give me a chance to DO GOOD in the world. More GOOD than my measly attempts to smile at people and pay things forward.)
  • Leg Hot Flashes are a thing and I have them.
  • So are regular hot flashes (and I am having them too).
  • My 13 year old is flunking math, even with a tutor for $300 a month. I am a math dwarf and cannot help him. I am worried about his lack of forethought, disorganization, his not having something he loves to do other than computer games, his weight, his future.
  • I need to REALLY learn WordPress.
  • My consulting client is acting weird.
  • I NEVER seem to save money.
  • I miss my mom. Daily.
  • My back is STILL not allowing me to have a life.
  • I have not slept through the night in at least a month. It’s either my back or a hot flash that wakes me.
  • Syrian children are starving.
  • The human race seems doomed.
  • Global warming.
  • Super bugs
  • Erin Mccarley songs are my “go to” when I am pissy or sad.

    Especially this one.  Which I am singing to my unfinished novel.

    “Gotta Figure This Out”

    I separated my heart from my head
    To feel out what’s inside
    I don’t like what I see, so I say good night

    Don’t wake me ’cause I’m dreaming in color
    Black and white is not my friend
    Candy coated figures hold me in my bed

    I’ve never been so deep inside a shadow
    I’ve never been so insecure of what I know

    I’ve gotta figure it out, I need a story to tell
    Where’s the feeling I long for?
    I’ve gotta figure it out before I lose you, love

    Big city streets are calling me loud
    The busy keeps me high
    Well, this quiet town is wearing me down tonight

    I know that I should stay here for a while
    Listen to the sound of my shaky heart
    Looking for gold in the ground

    I’ve never been so deep inside a shadow
    I’ve never been so insecure of what I know

    I’ve gotta figure it out, I need a story to tell
    Where’s the feeling I long for?
    I’ve gotta figure it out before I lose you
    Before I lose you, love

    It’s not okay to make you wait
    To make you wonder why I
    Can’t hold you close or give you hope
    That this will be all right, I wanna make it right

    I’ve gotta figure this out, I need a story to tell
    Where’s the feeling I long for?
    I’ve gotta figure it out

    I’ve gotta figure this out, I need a story to tell
    Where’s the feeling I long for?
    I’ve gotta figure it out before I lose you
    Before I lose you, before I lose you, love

  • I will probably never ride a horse again. (Which is code for “I will never see a shrink again and I REALLY NEED ONE.”)
  • I feel too much. Always. I cannot watch the news.
  • My second novel is on blocks. (Can’t think of a thing to say.)
  • I need to PLAY more, do more GOOD for others, get out of my weed infested head.  And my body says. NO YOU CAN’T. I am too young for that crap

    Depressing mish mash indeed.

2016 Redux

  

Looking around Facebook today, I was struck by all the usual “new year, new start” memes floating around.  

And I had a bit of a shitty day today.  Feeling weirdly weepy and pissy. Not a good start to my year. The world is a mess and I’m having trouble seeing the light. 
My youngest, who is 13 going on 10,  is giving me crap about doing things for himself.  That wifi password is about to change. Daily. 

 I’m in flux with a client that verbally agreed to hire me in July, but didn’t after I had surgery and didn’t work for a month… Said client paid me anyway.  Very nice. But I am back at 100% and they haven’t offered again. And I’m consulting at a reduced rate.  I don’t like the limbo. And between medical bills and kid tutors I am looking at one broke year unless something changes. 

I am restless.  I’m lucky I know. I’m infinitely grateful. I have love. A house. Food. My health is mostly back. My kids are good kids. No drug addicts, no sociopaths. 

But I seem to be a born worrier and fusser.  

My back won’t let me have a life again. It gives out after too much sitting or activity.  I’m back at PT.  It’s was fine before I had to take two and a half months off after surgery. Now I’m back at square one. 

Back to the New Year….clean Slate.  Feeling obligated to commit to some sort of self improvement list or path every year amplifies my self loathing. I fail every freakin year. So this year I decided on a different approach: one day at a time.  And each day has no plan to it. Just a baby step. 

I’ll wake up and be nice to my self one day. I’ll catch the crappy self talk. 

Next day: before I fall asleep do a gratitude meditation

Next day: wake up and do yoga.

Next day: eat better.

Next day: take a walk.

Next day: a massage.

Next day: contact the local library foundation and ask if they’d like a new web site for free

Next day: try a new recipe with my kids

Next day: write in my novel

Next day: clean a bathroom

Next day: donate stuff

Next day: pick a box in the a garage and go through it; toss; donate and repack in a plastic tub

Next day: write that serious letter to voldemort. 
Perhaps small daily victories will help me gather momentum.