Full circle

In a couple of weeks, the Old Man and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. I can’t say that it seems just like yesterday that we were young newlyweds. We’ve enjoyed a full and satisfying 30 years, and we have tried to take advantage of each and every precious day.

We’ve been blessed to experience many special things in those years. We’ve grown a wonderful family. We’ve had some grand adventures, and we’ve done a little flying here and there, lately a little more here than there. When we first started our lives together, times were tough. Gas was expensive. Jobs were scarce. The economic outlook was dim. Seems like we’ve come full circle.

The Old Man was a young man then, but since he was some years older than me, he was already pulling rank. He had owned his 8A four years when we married (which means they celebrated 34 years of togetherness this year). We were a one-pilot, one-airplane family then. I don’t remember much local flying activity, but I could be mistaken since the airplane was based in a cow pasture. I do remember a large crowd at Oshkosh that first year, but again, I was a country girl, and the county fair was just about the biggest event I’d ever seen.

Now, 30 years later, we’re a two-pilot, two-airplane family, but I feel the time is coming when one airplane will do. It’s that circle coming around again. As I grow older, I find I like to keep life simple. One airplane. Two pilots. He can have his half. I can have mine. He can keep the short stick on his side. I want the tall stick on mine. He likes thinner cushions on his seat. I want thicker on mine. I think we can work this out.

Growing older. It’s what we all do, if we’re lucky. And this year I will hit the jackpot. If all goes well, by the time my readers read this, I will be 50. The big Five-O. I am not saddened, depressed or intimidated. I am quite happy to be turning 50. I’m pleased I made it this far and look forward to another 50. I don’t have the insecurities that some women my age may have about aging. My airplane has never been concerned about wrinkles or age spots.

It is an exciting time for me, but for the Old Man, perhaps not so much. It can be daunting to have your 30th wedding anniversary and your wife’s 50th birthday within two weeks of each other. How best to acknowledge such events in a manner that is pleasing to the recipient can be a challenge. When he turned 60, I took him to Glacier Park, Mont., perhaps his favorite place on earth. He would definitely have to top that.

He made it easy on himself. He simply told me that I knew how much celebrating our budget could bear, pick out the destination if I wanted a trip, make the reservations and let him know in advance when he should pack. Not exactly romantic, but he is practical and realistic.

What joy it is to give a woman an iPad, a comfy chair and carte blanche on a trip! I spent hours pouring over locales and options. We like trips to scenic places, and there are so many places that we’ve yet to see. Did I want luxury or rustic accommodations? Near restaurants or out in the vast wilderness? In the end, I found us two airline seats to Denver for early July just after the holiday (didn’t want to wait until my birthday), a rental car at a decent rate, and a cute, cozy cabin near Rocky Mountain National Park.

I wanted to go to Colorado. I wanted to see scenic wonders, and I wanted to hike, which is our other passion in addition to flying. I was so pleased with my efforts. The Old Man was pleased with his decision to leave the planning in my hands. He was also pretty happy with the destination. We were pleased all around, so why didn’t it happen?

I don’t know. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to make the reservations. Somehow, it didn’t seem right to commemorate these two events without family. Any other time, a trip with just the two of us wouldn’t give me pause, but this time, while the excitement was there, my heart was not in it.

What my heart did find was a beautiful five-bedroom luxury cabin in the middle of the north Georgia mountains with a view that was awe-inspiring and enough room for 12 family members to enjoy comfortably. I asked our kids, their spouses, and our two grandkids if they could set aside four days in July to spend with us. I also asked my brother and his wife, along with Henry’s sister. We would supply the lodging and the food. They would supply their transportation. They all said a resounding yes.

The rental alone would cost as much as the entire trip to Colorado, but I would be sharing the celebration of our happy events with the people I love the most in this world. That made me giddy. Plus, it was practical. It was close enough that none of us would break the bank getting there, especially since auto fuel costs at that time had surpassed $4 a gallon.

Enjoying the view. (Photo by Keith McFarland)

Gardening can be hard work, but it does have its advantages. In early to mid-July, ours would be peaking, and that promise of good food would be kept without leaving us in the poor house. Homemade pasta sauce, fresh fruit and vegetables, farm fresh eggs and golden angel biscuits — what could be better? Well, maybe the half a cow my big brother brought to the party.

What a time we had! The memory of those days will be with me until my memory is no more. The world was put away and the focus was nature, good food and family. My decision to change the locale of my birthday trip was miraculous. The week we were to be at Rocky Mountain National Park, the cabin I planned to book for us there burnt to the ground in this year’s devastating wildfires in Colorado.

While the Old Man and I were able to use his Luscombe for a nice flight to scout the location of the north Georgia cabin earlier in the season, his back pain worsened shortly thereafter. It would be another two months before he could climb in the cockpit of his airplane again. He had a herniated disk. He couldn’t stand to sit, and his neurologist told him just before the trip no long drives, no commercial flights and no flights in his airplane.

I am so thankful I listened to that small still voice in my heart.

The Old Man and I have climbed all over those old mountains, and we were able to share our love of them with our grandkids. I also got to share another very precious memory. I have had a secret (and not so secret) wish that may seem strange for a 50-year-old woman. I wanted to see a bear. Not just any bear, but a common north Georgia black bear.

You see, I haven’t seen one, at least, not in the wild. Oh, I’ve seen a silver-backed grizzly munching on huckleberries in an alpine meadow in Montana, but that’s a Montana bear. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in my neck of the woods who hasn’t seen a plain old black bear in their yard or on the trail. Gee, we’ve hiked a good portion of the trails in this area, but have I seen a bear? No. Perhaps they have all moved to Atlanta where city folks commonly see them.

I have even flown my Luscombe over the mountains in early spring before the leaves return hoping to see just one bear. Have I seen one? No. But a friend of ours saw a mama and two cubs while flying with Henry in his 8A. No fair.

Photo by Keith McFarland

But on the last morning at the cabin, our son, Keith, quietly knocked on our bedroom door at the break of dawn. When I opened the door, he whispered, “There’s a bear.” My heart nearly burst. Just for me, I’m perfectly sure of it, there was a bear, young and lean, trying to rummage through the garbage. He didn’t seem to mind that 12 semi-dressed people were whispering and snapping photos of him in the early morning light.

It was the grandest of gifts and the perfect way to start on my next half century.

Deb McFarland is the proud owner of Lester, a 1948 Luscombe 8E, and part of the “Front Porch Gang” at Pickens County Airport in Georgia. Deb can be reached at ShortFinal@generalaviationnews.com.


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