My Most Prized Possession…isn’t mine.
My most-prized possession is silver, but I don’t actually have it.
You were born in 1915, a boy raised mostly by your mother and aunt, something of an oddity in the early 1900’s. You grew up in the Dakota Territory. The Great War, later known as World War 1, began the year before you were born. As a four year old, you watch soldiers begin their return. Ten years later, the world collapses. Men throw themselves from buildings in despair.
The adults attempt to shield you, but the radios play on, and you hear everything. The Depression begins; most of your friends’ parents have no work, no money, no future. At fourteen, you determine to stay alive, to keep afloat, to win.
You are fascinated with anything that flies. In the thirty years since the Wright Brothers’ famous 1903 flight, everything has changed. Planes, gliders and airships access the clouds. The Hindenburg comes to New Jersey. You listen in fascination, then horror, as announcers describe the scene in detail. Beautiful airship, burned. Destroyed. Decimated. You are twenty-two.
You and your friend decide to build a plane. The two of you drag pieces of crashed planes to the barn. You accumulate new parts, fabric and wood. Hard work pays dividends, and before long, you are stretching fabric and painting dope. When the test run is successful, you are ecstatic. On many following weekends, the two of you fly, exhilarated by the freedom. Kids and adults wave as your shadow passes. On Sunday mornings, you buzz the church, laughing to think of the startled parishioners inside.
You began flying for fun, but find ways to earn money. The Depression, if it comes again, will not take you. World War II arrives, and you begin training pilots, but thankfully you never have to fight.
PanAm hires you as a pilot. You meet the man who will remain your best friend until his death forty years later. You are dashing in your uniform, and you steal my grandmother’s heart and marry her.
You fly the Avianca route to Columbia, always returning with dozens of yellow roses, her favorite. Through the 1950’s and 60’s, you fly. You are a spectacular pilot.
Then, it’s over. You retire. Ever the entrepreneur, you buy land with your best friend and start a cattle ranch in the Mid-West. You take me to the cattle auction and save my hand from being crushed against a fence by errant hindquarters. I stand in your pickup truck, holding the dash, as we bounce through the sun-dappled fields. We eat vanilla ice cream and watch the sun set. We are best buds. I think you hang the stars.
We move away. My Grandmother passes. I worry about you and miss you terribly. I grow up. You grow old, but always independent, you sell the ranch and buy a 5th wheel. You and your brown Dodge visit most of the lower 48 states and Mexico. You send chocolate from Mexico.
Your best friend dies, asking you to take care of his wife. The two of you marry, for convenience, I think, but then I watch you fall in love. She becomes Grandma, and I love her. I begin college, and you both volunteer at the school. I spend as much time with you as I can, ecstatic to have you nearby. I am not thrilled to find you on the roof, replacing shingles in the summer sun, but you are nonchalant. Silver hair means nothing.
You retire, again, to the Mid-West. My grandma is often confused, and a stable environment will be better. You move to an apartment in a retirement community, caring for her yourself.
You continue to amaze me. I visit as often as possible, which is not often enough. We eat shrimp for dinner and ice cream for dessert. We look at old photos and walk out to check your monster tomatoes. We are best buds. I still think you hang the stars.
You have a silver plaque from Avianca. Every time I visit, you tell me stories of flying. You point to the plaque and grin. I love the silver plaque, not because it is beautiful, although it is. I love what it does to your face. Your eyes have a sparkle borrowed from decades before. Years melt away as you regale me with tales of last-minute landings and engine malfunctions; these stories always end well. You are forever my hero.
You are in heaven now, retired for the third and final time at age 97. I don’t know where your plaque ended up, and to be honest, it doesn’t really matter. Every time I think of it, I remember your face, your joy, your exuberance. My most treasured item is actually not the the silver plaque, but what it represents. My heritage: your indomitable spirit, your determination, your drive, your joy, your love for God and your concern for every human in your life. I want to be like you, to make you proud.
P. S. I saw that a new star was discovered in March. Pretty sure God let you hang that one.
All pictures found on Google Images.
Posted on October 15, 2014, in Writing101 and tagged airplane, Avianca, blogging101, Depression, flight, fly, Grandpa, Hindenburg, PanAm, possession, silver, World War, writing challenge, writing101. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.