Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Flying High, Like His Dad

Our oldest son is currently in the process of training for a new career.

Actually, he's going back to his roots, going back to the career he first had when he graduated from Notre Dame and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army: he's training to become a pilot.

He flew Chinook helicopters in the Army, and now he is learning to fly a fixed-wing aircraft.
I don't think our firstborn ever imagined that he would choose this as his career path.  He never expressed a desire--at least that I can remember--to follow in his dad's footsteps, by transitioning from military flying to commercial flying.  When he went through flight training in the Army, he just thought that flying helicopters would be a fun and interesting way to spend the years he would be in service to our country, repaying the Army for the ROTC scholarship that had made it possible for him to earn a degree from one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the land--and I say that about ND without any bias whatsoever!  ;)

While "fun" might be an unusual adjective to employ when talking about a career that included difficult year-long deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan and having to watch the birth of his firstborn twin daughters via Skype, our boy did get a lot of satisfaction out of being good at what he did and using his abilities to aid his brothers out in the field.  But when his eight-year stint in the Army ended, he assumed that his days as a pilot had ended, too.

For several years after returning to civilian life, he worked as a project manager for a major corporation out in the Midwest.  About a year ago, he left that job when he moved his family to his wife's hometown, and he tried his hand at selling life insurance (which he soon realized is not the type of work that is suitable for every personality type!).  He was unsure of what his next move should be; then his dad reminded him that he was a good pilot and he seemed to enjoy that kind of work, so perhaps he should not discount that as a possibility when thinking about his future career.

Not too long after that conversation, he made the decision to get back into flying.  And he is once again the happy boy I remember, the guy who is comfortable in his own skin and quietly confident without being arrogant.

No matter how old he gets (he's 33 now--how did that happen?), I still have vivid memories of him as a little boy.  From day one, he was an "old soul," as firstborn children often are.  He was a sensitive little guy who always wanted to do the right thing; he never wanted to disappoint us and caused us few worries through the years.  Growing up, he gave 110% at school and in sports.  He was humble. He was kind.  He took his Faith very seriously.  He didn't get into trouble.  At the risk of embarrassing him, I have to say that he truly was a dream to raise.

When he was in 7th grade, he learned a hard life lesson.  He was on his Catholic grade school's junior high basketball team, and as usual he was giving it his all in practice.  There was an 8th grade boy who had had back surgery over the summer vacation and had recently been given the green light by his doctor to get back into playing sports.  He had been the star of the team the previous season, and he was anxious to cement his positon in the starting line-up.  He was playing a bit timidly (so obviously, he wasn't really ready to be back in the game yet--at least not mentally ready), and he began to spread rumors that our son was purposely trying to re-injure him in practice in order to take his starting spot on the team.  The boy's mother told the coach that our son was intentionally targeting hers, even going so far as accusing him of biting (?!) when the two of them went up for a rebound.  Everything that mother-son duo claimed our boy was doing was so out of character for him, if you knew him at all, and we didn't believe a word of it.  The coach had known both boys for years and didn't give the accusations any credence whatsoever either.  But there were still kids at school who believed the lies and gave our poor son dirty looks in the halls.  Ultimately, we told him that people can say things about you that aren't true and there's really no way you can stop that; but you can live your life in such a way that when people hear what they're saying, they won't believe it.  It was really tough on him; but he held his head high and didn't retaliate at all, and eventually, the rumors died away.

This boy of ours has four daughters of his own now.  His twin girls are six.  In the blink of an eye, they will be in junior high, too, and they might have to deal with jealous or insecure peers who want to slander and hurt them.  I have no doubt that with him as their dad, with his loving guidance and his example of faith and fortitude in action, those girls will live their lives in such a way that no one will be able to believe any ugly lies told about them. 

Meanwhile, he'll be flying high--just like the dad who raised him and taught him what it means to be a good dad.


  1. Wow! What a story about junior high basketball! That must have been heartbreaking for him and you.

  2. How wonderful for him to find something the brings his heart joy and get paid for it. That's the dream! Such a wonderful life perspective to start my day. Why does Junior High have to be like that always?!

  3. How wonderful he has found his 'niche' :-)

  4. Glad you're back! Love keeping up with you and your growing family.