Monday, January 20, 2014

Grampie's Plane: The Final Chapter

Yes, dear readers, it’s finally here! The conclusion of my ‘What happened to Grampie’s old plane’ story. (If you’re new to the tale, maybe start with part one and part two. Unless, of course, you’re the sort of person who likes reading the last chapter of a book first, in which case you’re in the right place!)

And so, the week of Grampie’s ninety-fourth birthday rolled around and Arizona and I went up for a visit. My first present was to (as the younger generation is required to do, regardless of age) set up the flatscreen TV my mother had finally talked him into, along with the sound bar that Grampie’s lady-friend had gotten to go with it. In a moment of brilliance, I bought a universal remote that Arizona and I managed to connect to not only the TV, sound bar and cable, but also to his ancient VCR, thereby condensing four remotes into one.

Grampie, being an engineer and gadget guy, was in heaven and Arizona and I looked like geniuses. But that wasn’t all, because I then handed over a legal-size envelope with WHERE IS SHE NOW? A MYSTERY IN PROGRESS printed on the front.

You should have seen his face when he read my introductory letter, then paged through the newsletter articles I had found. And then, at the end, my letter to the Luscombe’s new owner, and a last page that said TO BE CONTINUED

(No, that’s not a cliffhanger for you, dear reader. It definitely was for him, though!)

The afternoon moved on through burgers and cake, and the conversation bounced around, as conversations do when you get family together, but he kept coming back to the airplane mystery, marveling that I had found as much as I had, and what might happen next.

What happened next was nothing short of lovely. Because a week later on Christmas Day, replete with good food and company after spending the day with Arizona’s family, I opened my email to find a note from a stranger named Leon. It began: Hi Jessica, I just opened your letter yesterday and it was a pleasant surprise and very thoughtful of you to do this for your grandad.  I will be glad to send you any information you like …

He went on to say that the old plane was back flying with him and his wife, and had even won an award at a recent fly-in, just like she had back in the day with my Grampie and Grammie! Overjoyed, I wrote him back, and we exchanged a flurry of emails, during which I learned that he had found the plane much as Grampie had—sitting at an airfield, looking sad. Same as Grampie, he hadn’t been in the market for a plane that day, but something about that old Luscombe had called to him. He asked around, found out that she was for sale, and made an offer, just like Grampie had back in 1973. And, like Grampie, he pulled off her wings and dragged her home to make the necessary repairs himself.

The vintage airplane community is a small one, and Leon knows an old friend of my grampie’s … Delighted to hear that he’s alive and kicking, she sent a secondhand hello via Leon, and that along with printed-out photographs of Leon’s Luscombe, wearing new paint and a bigger propeller, just about made my grampie’s month, possibly longer. My mom says he’s called her three times now to tell her about the pages I sent him to finish out the story, and that’s rare for him. He’s pulling together pictures to send to Leon now, and I have a feeling they’ll get in touch with each other soon to swap flying stories.

So there you have it, folks. That’s the story of a gift idea that wound up meaning as much to me as it did to the giftee. I have really loved meeting Butch (alas, posthumously) and Leon, and sharing this info-scavenger hunt with my mom and Grampie. And more, I love knowing--and knowing that Grampie knows--that the old girl is back flying with a pilot who couldn’t walk away from her. Again.


  1. Tearjerker! What an epic tale. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Rene! I've really enjoyed sharing it :)

  2. What a great ending. I had a big smile on my face.

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

  3. Sniffles and crying. What a great story. What a wonderful gift you gave him - and all those other "strangers" who are bonding over the love of a plane. Your story feels like a happy version of BLACK BEAUTY. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. Okay. As a pilot, this made me tear up. There's a quote from the miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon" that kind of sums up the way I feel about airplanes and spacecraft, etc.
    "The LEM is not a child. It's a machine. And a machine doesn't have a soul.We may yell at our toasters and gives names to our cars, but in the end even the LEM is just a collection of wires and circuits and nuts and bolts. I don't know. I think each LEM does have a soul. It's the soul of all the people who built her, designed her, first dreamed of her."
    I think that that Luscombe has a little bit of the soul of all the people who have loved her. So yeah, this story made me tear up a bit.

  5. Hi! LT here...
    Awesome! You came up with the best of gifts (Y) I have never owned a plane, but there are things I've owned in my life that felt as if they had a little life to them...
    Thanks for sharing this.
    ...and for the record, your gift to your grampie brought tears to my eyes, too.
    Well done.