I ran by the Alvin house earlier this afternoon to do a little “cleaning” in the garage before the closing next Monday. There were some odds and ends left on the workbench that needed to be thrown away or taken home. It didn’t take very long to sort through everything, and as I worked, I found history repeating itself in a way.
I can’t count how many times I saw my daddy stop working on whatever project he had going in the garage — building an instrumentation panel, cutting lumber for a project, or working on one of the vehicles — to walk out in the front yard and stare up at the sky. He’d scan the blue, shielding his eyes from the sun with one hand, listening to the hum of an airplane making its way thousands of feet above us. It would only take him a second or two to spot it, and then he would impress me by identifying whatever kind of plane it was by the shape of the wings and the sound of the engine.
Today I stood in the front yard and stared up at the sky, scanning the cloudless blue, for the source of the familiar sound. I’m pretty sure it was a single engine prop, and I am certain it had two wings, but other than that, I’m sorry to say I didn’t inherit my daddy’s magic gift for plane identification. I do know the sun glistened off the fuselage as it turned and headed out toward FM 1462, and it was a beautiful thing to see. My Grandma Power, Daddy’s mama, once told me that Daddy would build airplane models when he was a little boy, before he could even read the instructions. She said he would look at the pictures and figure out which pieces went where.
He graduated from a small high school in East Texas, where the number of seniors allowed each a quotation in the high school yearbook. Daddy’s quote was, “Pluck out his flying feathers, and teach his feet a measure.” I always thought that was so funny!
A few years later, his passion for flying would be the thing that saved him, though. His daddy, stepmama, and little brother asked him if he wanted to go visit some family out of town. He had some work to do on an airplane at a little country airport and said, “Not this time.” On the way home from that visit, there was a terrible car accident and my daddy’s daddy didn’t make it. There’s no way to know for sure, but if my daddy had gone with them, he probably would have been driving. The loss of his daddy made him so safety conscious when it came to vehicles — he ordered seatbelts and installed them in his car because back then, they were not standard equipment. He would not even begin to drive until we were buckled up safe and sound, and he passed that on to me. He teased me that the car seat AJ and I bought for Jami looked like it was designed by NASA. He may have teased us, but I know he was pleased.
He lives in New Orleans now, but I’m pretty sure when a plane flies over his house he stops whatever he’s doing and walks out to the backyard where he can see the sky. He shields his eyes with the palm of his hand and looks up at the blue for the Cessna he knows is there.