You know how sometimes you give a gift to someone else and it turns around and winds up giving you back far more than you put into it? I’m having one of those experiences right now.
My grandfather is one of the coolest people I know. He’s an engineer, pilot and tinkerer who has done a whole lot in his life, patenting radar and telecom inventions and rebuilding everything from antique clocks to old cars, motorcycles and even airplanes.
A few years back, for his ninetieth birthday, we threw him a party with eleven guests, and he made a cake-shaped template for the kitchen staff, so they could cut the cake into eleven equal slices rather than having one left over. They laughed, did as they were asked, and returned the template as a souvenir that we still have. For his ninety-fourth birthday, though, I wanted to do something different.
Back in the early 1970s, Grampie was at an airport, not in the market for a plane, when he came across a run-down old two-seat tail dragger: a 1947 Luscombe Silvaire 8E. He asked around, found out that she was for sale, made a deal, and brought her back to life, doing almost all of the work himself. For the next two decades, they were inseparable. He and Grammie went to fly-ins; he taught himself to do loop-de-loops, hammerhead stalls, and barrel rolls; and he and his friends flew in formations and danced with the clouds.
Eventually, though, things got harder. In his early seventies, he stopped flying over populated areas, figuring if something happened to him, he didn’t want to hurt anybody else. Then, when he was seventy-eight, he made the decision: he couldn’t do his own work anymore, which meant it was time to sell the plane. He found her a good home, of course, with a mechanic friend of his who had always wanted a Luscombe. He handed over the plane and paperwork, and all the spare parts he had accumulated over two-plus decades. And he said goodbye to flying.
Not long after, he and Grammie (with their little dog, Lady) moved into a senior facility close to my mom, where they made friends and a new life. The years elapsed, life moved on … Eventually, Grammie passed on gently, as did Lady, and it hit Grampie hard. A few years down the road, though, he’s doing amazingly well, squiring his girlfriend around on her scooter and making intricate models in the workshop of their assisted living facility, where he’s the go-to guy for small appliance repairs and inventing workarounds for senior-living problems.
He’s never forgotten what it meant to fly, though. His email address (yep, old Grampie emails!) is the tail number of that old Luscombe, and while he doesn’t do too much remember when-ing, he’s usually good for a flying story or two when I visit. So when it came to his ninety-fourth birthday, I thought, Aha! I’ll see if I can find his old plane! He’d love to know what she’s been up to, maybe get a current picture. So I turned to faithful Google, typed in the search …
And you’ll never guess what I found.
(To be continued!)