Transitions and trade-offs

Go with me on this. It’s a good story.

Annie was a 15-year-old mutt who came to us through the local pound. She was past her date for euthanization when we found her. Somehow her paperwork had been lost, buying her an extra day or two. Thank goodness. When my wife and I walked into the shelter, our two young daughters in tow, there was no doubt which dog lit their hearts on fire. It was Annie. Anastasia, actually. But we called her Annie. My youngest in a fit of rhyming glory dubbed her Annie B’annie. I liked that.

Annie dodged her date with euthanasia, but she wasn’t out of the woods. Not by a long shot. As the folks at the pound re-tested her, re-created her file, and prepared the adoption paperwork, they hit a snag. Annie tested positive for heartworms.

The woman who had to break the news didn’t have to say a word. Her expression told the story. She was nearly in tears. Annie was sick. Bad sick. She explained that we had no obligation. Under the circumstances they did not expect us to take a dog that would cost us a fair amount in vet bills right off the bat.

It was an easy decision. Our girls were already down in the dirt playing with their new dog. They were giggling and cheering and wrestling together in a way that left no doubt. The dog would be going home with us — no matter what.

This past week the family gathered to take Annie to the vet one last time. She was hobbled by age, muscle damage, and arthritis. When she had difficulty walking from the bedroom where she slept, to the kitchen where her food dish lay in wait, we knew it was time.

She’s gone now, at least in the physical sense. We will never forget her, however. Shortly, an urn will appear on our piano, atop the existing urns that hold the remains of her fellow family members. Winston the Wonder Dog and Reilly the Fuzziest Cat in the World, await. There were all, in their time, magnificent.

I mention this because the transition from the state we are in to the state we will come to be in isn’t always easy. Certainly it wasn’t a simple task to become a pilot, or an aircraft mechanic. That took time, effort, and dedication. There was joy along the way, but there was frustration, too. That’s life.

The good and the bad come in one big package. You have to live your life, seize your opportunities, suffer your losses, and soldier on. The only other option is to lay down and die. There’s always time for that. Later.

If there is anything to procrastinate about, it’s death. So live. Live well. Live richly, with friends, and family. Make noise. Make amends. Stay humble.

We all get our time in the barrel. Be kind and helpful and wise while you’re here.

At 55 my eyes aren’t what they were at 35. My belly is bigger, my hair is gone, at least a couple joints ache, and after climbing 15 flights of stairs in Hartford this past Spring I realize my best shot at Everest is way behind me.

But I can still fly. I can still turn a wrench, stitch fabric, and drive a rivet. And so I will do those things, but I won’t lie to myself. The day will come when I can do those things no more. I have to prepare for that day by building memories, by helping others get into aviation in a meaningful way, by putting some effort into creating the world I want to grow old in.

When my day comes — and it will come —I don’t believe you will see me sitting on the porch, pining for the day when I could climb into the cockpit and squeak one onto the runway after a glorious turn around the patch. Nope. I’ll have been there and done that. I won’t want to go back to my younger years any more than I want to go back to the third grade and struggle to understand long division in Miss Perkin’s class at Thomas S. O’Connell School.

Still, I intend to be there on the porch. I’ll be there to cheer the next generation, not bemoan the loss of my own. I’ll marvel at the technological advances I see in the cockpit, wonder how these new-fangled powerplants work, and maybe even offer a bit of advice now and then — if I’m asked.

Until then, I’m going to enjoy my life, remember Annie, and hope you have as good a life as I’ve had.

It’s all about attitude in the end. Do we flail around shaking our fist at the oncoming darkness, or do we stand in awe of the sunset and bask in the memories of the day that led to it?

What we do is up to us. How we do it is up to us. So let’s do it. Let’s live.


  1. Lloyd says

    I also enjoy your comments from time to time .
    Its a great thing to aspire to and something that needs to be
    repeated .Great work Jamie from an aussie.

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