Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Flying Home

Did you take an aptitude test in high school? My junior year the Air Force administered the ASVAB to all eleventh-grade students, and I learned that the career for which I was best suited was airplane pilot. This tickled Daddy to no end, as he was an aerospace administration major in college. He has the best stories about his first flights.

For a while my daddy flew corpses across the country as a part-time job and as a way to earn flight miles for his license. (It is important to this story that you know one not-so-polite fact: as corpses change altitude, they tend to release gases. Got it?) When he was pledging his fraternity, some brothers booked a fake flight. One of the boys hid in a body bag and made the appropriate noises for an hour or so as the plane approached its destination. Long after the sun had set and as he began his descent, Daddy felt a tap on his right shoulder.

"Gotta light?"

It was the 70s. I'm thankful they were only smoking tobacco.

The Air Force didn't know and Daddy didn't imagine just how important air travel would be in my life. David and I regularly earn 500,000 Southwest Rapid Reward miles each year. Unfortunately most of that is work-related instead of pleasure-oriented.

Worse than work-related flights are bereavement flights. David and I had been Colorado residents for 3 days--and the 12-year-old-looking Xfinity guy was installing internet at our condo--when I got the call: my papa (Daddy's daddy) was dying. We had to fly home to Tennessee.

As it happened, Daddy was in Oregon that day for work of his own. He had already planned to return to Tennessee via Denver. Before learning about Papa, David and I had planned to just wave at Daddy as the plane crossed over our heads. Instead David got online and managed to book us the last two seats on the same flight as Daddy. For the first time since 9/11, I had one of those 90s-movie lovey-dovey airline-gate reunions that TSA has rendered practically impossible.

Never have I been so thankful to fly. I cried when David told me he'd gotten us tickets, when I saw Daddy waiting for us at the gate, when I boarded the plane and saw the last open seat was wedged between my father and my husband. And days later, I cried when Papa "flew home" to God and Granny.

Tonight, as I look out my window at that glorious sunset over a blanket of clouds, I am thankful for so many previously unnoticed primers God has used to prepare me for this life. He gave me an aptitude for and love of flying, a lifestyle that amasses frequent-flier miles and shrinks the size of my world, and a better "airport moment" than any Hollywood writer could describe. And one day, He'll watch as I take my last "flight home" to Him (and my papa).

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