Sunday, August 3, 2014

Up In The Air.

Summer is always an evocative time for me. The first weekend of August always makes me think of my parents. In Seattle, the first weekend in August is Seafair weekend, when many people get together on Lake Washington on their fancy boats, and various other “floating” objects to drink, enjoy the sun, and watch the antiquated and almost non-existent sport of hydroplane racing.

I think about my mother because she died on this weekend, twenty-four years ago this year. I still miss her. I think about my father because almost every Seafair weekend for the past thirty years or so, the Blue Angels synchronized flight team have come to perform. For most of the week leading up to the weekend, twice a day you can hear the shriek of jets as they streak low over the city, practicing their fancy stunts and familiarizing themselves with our air space.

Dad loved the sound of the jets. Until a few years ago, his aide, Del, would take him out on Seafair weekend to some hill overlooking Seattle so he could see the Angels flash over him - feeling in his body the thrum of the engine and the plane cutting through the air. Dad loved pretty much all planes, actually. For a few years in my early childhood, he had his pilot’s license and would take us flying, and for as long as I could remember, he was building planes in our garage.

The problem was that Dad was a workaholic – feeling so responsible to his family, his job, and his other duties, that he rarely gave himself the time to work on them. There was always Boeing to go to, or a car engine to repair, or a toilet to fix, or yard work to do. Every year, he got a week off at Christmas, and he would spend the whole week downstairs, filling the house with the smell of epoxy. But he never finished.

When the time came to clean out the garage – a mammoth task – we found no fewer than three different planes, in various stages of construction, and piles and boxes and stacks of plane parts, engines, gears, wings, propellers, and more. We arranged an estate sale for people to come and pick over his many tools, but I despaired of finding something to do with his planes. I didn’t want them to just go to the dump – all that work and dedication, wasted.

At the last minute, on the day of the sale, a small ad we had put on Craig’s List paid off. A local man called asking about the plane parts. His voice over the phone became almost tremulous with excitement as I listed what we had. He told me not to get rid of it – that he would be there as soon as possible - and he was, trailer and friends in tow.

In the end, they took everything, even small parts and instruments we’d already thrown out. They combed through the dumpsters, finding everything they could. As the man wrote me out a check, I almost couldn’t contain my happiness. Dad’s work – his passion – wouldn’t be wasted. He had never finished a plane, but now his various parts and pieces would be resurrected – used in the way they were supposed to be.

So today I hear the scream of the Angels, and watch as they race across the clear sky, and I remember my parents – for different reasons. I remember my mom for her laugh, and her love of me. And I remember Dad’s planes and how they were an expression of his inner self – a dream of flying, of slipping the surly bonds of earth. He loved to fly, and I hope that somewhere, somehow, his planes are flying too.

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