Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 3, 2012


They only die when we let them

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.


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