“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks”           -W. Churchill

“I wouldn’t say we were elite, no; when I look at things, though, I guess you could say I’ve had a pretty charmed life.” The old man had over 5000hrs. of flight time in the B-52 bomber, the long-range backbone of the United States Air Force and, as an 82yr. old, was carrying out another, more mellow mission: flying a small plane with my stepdad from Missouri to California. And here he was riding shotgun with me to a small town airport, just me and him in a Chrysler, me firing a thousand questions his way about life as a military pilot, he just chuckling at a 41 year old chattering like an anxious kid might if he’d kidnapped Santa for a road trip.

I needed the break, frankly. Life and its reality have had a way of weighing heavy on my soul as of late. It seems that as you experience a small victory in this world, there lies in equal measure a stone that someone wants to toss around your neck, or worse, one that you don willingly. A second career in real estate seems to be finally making some headway, and half-informed gossip in your other world derails the mind. Make headway in your head and heart and all of the sudden a ghost from the past comes in and requests a dance, and you’re obligated to oblige, knowing that it will be painful and you’ll be left alone on the floor. A soul out of touch is lost, indeed.

And yet there is just so very much to be grateful for, so many happenings in this world that are the example of grace and seemingly “lucky” coincidences. For the first time in years, there’s a chance to be a homeowner again, a chance to convert a cozy little bungalow into a home for the boys and I to grow a little older in. It could ONLY have happened if some real estate transactions took place when they did. What graceful coincidences swirl around us. A day or two after the fist pump of learning I could hang out OUR shingle on a house, a cat turns up dead in the basement, and a random balance is struck, yet again.

So here’s what I’ve gleaned from these later chapters: if you’re on your way up, there are those dogs who will insist on barking you down, and if you’re on your way down, there are those who will revel in your fall, who need to paint you with their own brushes of righteous scorn. And your people, your tribe, those who know you and love you still, will help you ignore the howling of the hounds. Those people see you as you cannot when you wear the millstone of other’s opinions or worse, your own disappointed sense of real self. When your head and your heart and your soul are out of alignment, your whole world skews and so does your vision. And that’s why a one hour car ride with a guy who’d been living out his career dreams for over sixty years intrigued me; what can I learn from a guy willing to criss-cross the country in a puddle jumper with the same enthusiasm he embraced behind the controls of one of the largest aircraft ever built? I asked him if it was anti-climactic to get behind the stick of such a tiny craft after a career that most kids can only dream about. His reply?

“All flying is good flying son, no matter what you’re flying.” 

This after telling me about two engine failure/emergency landings he’s had to make. And yet his eyes lit up to talk about his love affair in the air, doing what he was meant to do; he said he never listened to detractors nor those with a negative thing to say about him….he had no time for that sort of thing. He’s followed his passion throughout his life, and at age 82 he continues to embrace that passion, and why the hell not? I admired him for never wavering from where his heart lead him, and I dared not utter a word about that, for that kind of talk around a salty old bird might earn me a back-handed slap across the face, and I’d have earned it. But as I listened intently, weaving across lanes of Highway 60 headed west, I was sponging up all of this guy’s energy, my own soul picking up what an old soul had to teach.

I need to engage my world into its own rhythm again, and soon. For there is much to be thankful about, those boys of mine, friends who keep me close even as I push back, and those willing to go down the dark streets of a creative and crazy mind, if only to keep a laugh in your heart on its darkest days. Those meant to be here will find their ways back, and those who choose to bark for your demise will find others to howl at soon enough. And sometimes it takes an old man and twisty rural highways to remember just how much in this life still remains to be appreciated. Just how much of this life IS charmed.

Have a safe flight, my friend.

And even if the journey is dangerous and the route unknown, may your hearts steer you home.

Written by Uli

Full time firefighter. Part time madman.

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