When Pat and I lived in Marietta, Georgia, we were not too far from McCollum Airport. We were also not far from my parents. A year before Pat moved the kids and I to Nebraska, my father decided to fulfill a life-long dream at the age of 50. He wanted to learn how to fly. After leasing a plane for a while with two other men, they bought a small four-seater plane together. It was a Grumman American, and he loved it.
Vacations in Georgia included trips to McCollum Airport to fly above Cobb County spotting sights that we knew. For some reason, Daddy decided that I loved to "touch and go" with him—taking off, circling, landing, speeding down the runway, taking off, over and over again. It was necessary for him to have this experience, and even though it was scary to me, I trusted him. Daddy was a cautious pilot. He never took off without conducting an extensive checklist of the plane and the equipment. Sometimes I would get slightly impatient with the extremely careful thoroughness of his life, but never with the inspection of the plane before take-off or with his spotting of places he might land the plane if there was an emergency.
Through the years, he faced some experiences in the sky that were frightening. One that I remember was in May of 1984. Pat had moved to Anniston, and I was still in Vicksburg, Mississippi, attempting to sell our house. Daddy flew to Vicksburg and picked up Grady, Patricia, and I and flew us to Marietta where Pat joined us for Mother's Day. After a perfect visit, Daddy loaded the three of us back in the plane to return to Vicksburg. When we got close to Jackson, Mississippi, he put on his headset to listen to communication. The plane started making a rumbling noise. I got his attention, and he took off his headset to listen. He couldn't hear the sound. We were still about 50 miles from Vicksburg, and the sound was getting louder. I was surprised he couldn't hear that roaring—even with his beginning hearing deficit. In my mind, I pictured God’s hand under the plane carrying us to Vicksburg. We landed safely, but the next day when Daddy began his take-off to return home, the engine suddenly died as he started down the runway. After this trip, he realized that hearing was becoming an issue, and the days of his flying began to dwindle.
A year ago, just a couple of months following Daddy’s death, I experienced something. It was like having a dream while being awake. Before I share it, I would like you to know that when Daddy was in the air, flying became a spiritual experience for him. He became one with his plane—the sky—and God’s creation below him.
Daddy sat in the cockpit and smiled at me in the passenger seat. He was young again with that dark hair and beautiful shining blue eyes. I had the impression that we had just landed, and that we had been doing “touch and go.” I knew it was time for me to climb out of the plane, but I didn’t want to let him go. No more practicing to get it right. No more taking off and landing through life’s hard experiences. Suddenly he was alone in the plane. His hand raised to wave goodbye, and his smile took my breath away. He looked so free. That little plane raced down the runway and began to lift and lift through clouds toward heaven. And then I saw one thing that meant everything to me. Large fingers appeared holding that little plane safely—bringing Daddy home for his last flight.
© 2019 Lynn Lacher