Friday, November 23, 2007

Fuel, Wind, and Tears

Happy Thanksgiving! While we all let our bodies recover from piles of turkey, ham, dressing, or pie, I thought I would share a story.

One advantage of having the shop close to the house is the random visits from our kids. Yesterday Isaiah came over and as usual was overjoyed to see the airplanes packed into the hangar. I was asked to get the King Air out and fueled so it would be ready for a flight in 45 minutes.

The pilot asked if I knew where the tug hooked onto the nose gear. Good question, but it stung a little. A month ago I had sheared off two studs on a Piper Navajo by hooking the tow bar up to them. They were actually for pulling the gear door up, not designed for tugging the airplane. And if I had thought a little harder I would have realised that. In fact, in my mind I replayed all the tragic tugging stories I had ever heard at Cessna.

I put Isaiah in our tug, a modified Dodge truck with a very short wheel base and duallies. His two year old excitement was piqued as the big white turbo prop followed our truck around just feet away from us.

The temperature was in the mid 20's (Fahrenheit) with winds at 20 knots gusting to 30. I smacked my face into the right prop after hooking up the grounding strap. Stupid four blade props ... mutter mutter mutter.

My face was on fire, my fingers numb, and the King Air has anti-siphon flaps that prevent me from pumping fuel in at a fast rate. As I start to feel sorry for myself, I look back at the tug. I turned it off to keep the unthinkable from happening, but Isaiah was standing up and looking out the back window away from the airplane. I could tell what he was thinking.

"Look at me! Look over here. I'll be done soon" My thoughts didn't reach him. I could tell he was getting worried.

Come ON! Isn't this tank full yet?

I guess at times I feel way out of my element. I don't think much about it, but it does feel weird not being an experienced worker. Behind my white vaneer desk and black plastic monitor as an engineer in Wichita, things seemed more ... manageable. Definitely warmer. Now I make stupid mistakes as a mechanic, I am rusty at best as a pilot, and at times it just wells up inside ... Discomfort to put it mildly.

Fortunately, yesterday I was too numb to think about any of this. But Isaiah was out of his element and he was thinking about it. As I finished up the last tank, the inevitable happened - tears started to flow. I smiled, waved, even laughed ... he just shook his head.

The fuel cap did not want to go on right, the hose took forever to reel back in, but then I made it back into the truck. Isaiah was sitting next to me, and he was smiling again, trying hard to suck in his tears.

I pulled the airplane around to the terminal to park. Then drove back to the hangar to shut the door. As soon as I got out of the cab, turmoil, tragedy, and great wailing began. It was time for lunch, and I asked him if he wanted me to hold him.

He nodded.

"Do you want to go home"

Another nod, and a clear sign. To want to leave this wonderland of airplanes, airplanes, airplanes was not typical.

Yesterday Isaiah and I felt lost. There is no way I can summarize what that means to me. But I can relate to several characters in the Bible. Leaving their jobs, homes, families, whatever defined comfortable ... to be placed up in the air. Physically and emotionally it is just awful. Spiritually it is intense, vibrant, and edgy.

I carried Isaiah across the street and into the warmth of the house and the promise of a sandwich. Our fingers were stinging, faces red, cheeks moist, noses running, but inside our soul there was fire!

1 comment:

John Lock said...

Great writing Jerry, the analogy between your son and his father and you and your heavenly father was very clear. Right up there with the better delorenzo articles.