Two particular letters arrived in the past day from fellow builders and flyers Steve Makish and Pete Chmura. They were both sparked by the story ” Two Letters on Christmas eve. ” Each of the letters references the loss of their Fathers. The stories are tangential to flying, but they are important to me. Aviators have strong feelings about flying, but also have them for many other aspects of their lives, such as family. In the world of Corvair builders, I have long made sure that we have space for men to share their strongest feelings on both.
People like to complain about “political correctness” , where social stigma is used to deter people from saying non-mainstream things. Some of the off-beat things are worth sharing, most would simply be edited by taste or being considerate. However, long observation of the human condition has shown me the #1 form of “PC” behavior that people of all political perspectives engage in: refraining from acknowledging the struggles and wounds of others. People hide behind “being polite” when they are just really afraid of conversing and saying the wrong thing. To my perspective, if someone wants or needs to speak, then it is time to listen. When it come to saying something, almost anything said, even poorly worded, is far better than having a fellow human standing alone in a crowd of people.
A number of years ago a friend lost an adult child in an accident. Over time, he had innumerable arguments with friends and co-workers. All of these people quietly complained to each other. To a small group of these people I said “The man has a crippling emotional wound. The physical equivalent would be a six-foot spear stuck in his chest. Everyday, everyone politely walks past him and never mentions or notices the spear. It might just help if someone just said to him, ‘I don’t know what having a spear in my chest it like, but I think you’re doing a damn good job for having that kind of wound.’ Just say that you thought about his kid today instead of pretending they never existed.” When one of the friends said they couldn’t imagine doing that, I politely said I understood, but they were not really the man’s friend.
Above in the orange shirt, Steve Makish (email@example.com) stands beside his Corvair powered KR2 at Corvair College #8, held at our Edgewater hangar. His friend Bob Lester is in the background with his Corvair powered KR2.
Steve sent the following note today:
“William I have not written for a year. this has been a bad year and I never thought I would lose both my parents 13 months apart. Enjoy the time you have with your Mom and Dad and cherish the moments. Happy New Year. Your friend, Steve”
“My Father passed yesterday at age 87. He flew Stearmans at Alameda NAS at the end of the war. He never flew after that. Last summer he said he wished he had “bought that plane” after he was discharged. I’ll be 54 next month. Time to get some wings.”
Pete’s letter made me think about the book above. Max Henderson was my instruments instructor at Embry-Riddle. The book is his fathers coming of age diary from being part of a barnstorming team in 1935-36. Max found it after his father past. In 2000, Max was the Christmas guest speaker at my EAA chapter. He told a very moving story about how his dad had always downplayed his love of aviation when the kids in his family were growing up. After he passed, Max realized that his father had loved aviation as much as any man, but he had sacrificed his own ambitions to make sure that his kids got a better running start at higher education and their own times in aviation. When Max said this in front of 70 or 80 members of chapter 288, each of us thought of our own parents. There were few, if any dry eyes in the house.