I just discovered an important fact of life: dreams don't die. And if they do, it's our own fault. We kill them through inattention. I realized that when I met Larry Bachmann this week. I'd like to tell you where Larry lives, but he flashed through my life so quickly that I missed all but the most important facts about him: his name, his age and his dreams. I tried to track him down before I wrote this, but couldn't. So, Larry, if you see this, give me another call. It's time to go flying.
Larry has called me probably half a dozen times over the past year. Each time, the years in his voice made me think that he was calling to have someone to talk to. That his words about buying an airplane and needing my flight training were just that: words. Or so I thought. I enjoyed the short conversations, each of which ended with, "I'll be seeing you." But, I knew that would never be. I get dreamer calls like that more often than you'd imagine. And I welcome every one. Then, I got yesterday's call.
It was Larry again. I knew it as soon as he uttered the first syllable. Then, he said he was in town. And I was incredulous. He hadn't given me any warning at all, and had flown in specifically to see me. And to do some flying. I instantly put him in a different category. If he was a dreamer, he was someone who acted on his dreams. And now he was on my doorstep. What to do?
A fantastically patient young airline customer-service agent came on the phone, and it turns out that he had come in the night before and went down to the main airline airport, Sky Harbor, the fifth busiest airport in the U.S., thinking I was based there. I only got part of the story, but she told me that Larry was asking around the airport for me, and she called for him to find out where I was based. I'm at Scottsdale, diagonally across the city from Sky Harbor. She said she'd get him a taxi, and I told her to make sure she told Larry's driver to drop him off at the Main Terminal, not one of the FBOs at SDL.
I didn't give much thought to him until about the fifth touch-and-go that morning, and I saw a slim figure in a white shirt, sleeves rolled down and buttoned, fedora pulled down over his eyes, standing at the end of the row of hangars. I knew instantly who it was, but couldn't imagine how he got there. SDL is locked down tighter than an auditor's heart, but he had somehow found someone to take him out to my hangar complex. Then, he found his way to the runway side of the hangars, and spent most of an hour watching us ricochet off the runway. I later found that the taxi had dropped him off on the wrong side of the airport, but somehow he had gotten someone to take him to the other side of a major airport AND take him through the security gates to where I saw him. I had to admire him. He was hardcore tenacity personified.
As I climbed down off the wing and stuck out my hand, he grasped it with both hands, and I found myself looking into a pair of rock-steady eyes that absolutely defied age. He stood straight. His walk was a quick gait, with just a little spring to it. There was no hint of what I knew had to be at least 80 years stacked up behind those eyes. And he didn't find it unusual that he had made his way to Phoenix (from Arkansas, I later found out) by himself and, even more remarkably, had figured out how to get where he wanted to go on a high-security airport with no problem. I can absolutely guarantee that the majority of folks reading this couldn't have done the same thing. Like I said, tenacity personified.
We went to lunch and talked about airplanes, his early jobs traveling for various aerospace companies and how he thought he wanted to buy an airplane like mine—but he wanted to fly mine to make sure. I sat back and marveled. Although I didn't know his exact age, I knew it was long past the point that most people settle for what is, rather than dreaming what might be. But, he was definitely dealing with the future and what he wanted to do with it. However, when I asked why he didn't call and let me know he was coming, he said, "At this age, I don't schedule things, I just do them to make sure they actually get done."
Finally his age came out: He's an incredible 95 years old! That's right…95! And he flew halfway across the country and dealt with the vagaries of finding his way around the big city to accomplish what he had come for. More important, he's still dreaming. He still has goals.
I have to say that I was a more than just a little flattered that Larry had gone to so much trouble to make me a part of his dreams. Unfortunately, I was scheduled to take my airplane to another airport for maintenance, but my hangarmate, Ron, took him up in his S-2C Pitts (a real hot rod). Ron said Larry absolutely loved it. Plus, they did more than their share of cavorting (loops, rolls, snaps, etc.). Larry apparently came down with an excited smile on his face and the dream of doing more of the same was stronger than ever.
As the miles pile up and the gray takes hold of us, it's easy to forget what it was that made us young in the first place. It wasn't the small number of years behind us or our slim, strong bodies. We were young because of the way we looked at our future. It was unlimited. We knew anything was possible, and we had time to do it. But then, one day, you look around and realize that there's more sand in the bottom of the hourglass than the top, and our future looks neither as bright nor as inviting as it once did. At that point, we start living the life we have and don't think past that to what or who we'd like to be, or what we'd like to accomplish. We stop dreaming. However, as Larry clearly shows, that isn't necessary. As long as our minds can conjure those dreams into existence, there's no reason to stop dreaming. And no reason not to act on those dreams.
Now I'm having trouble prioritizing all those dreams that Larry's unexpected visit reawakened. Suddenly, it's fun being me again. I have an unending list of things to look forward to, and Larry's next call is one of them.