Log by Miriam Burnside, Aurora, Iowa
Close to the Solstice, Summer
I decided I wanted to learn to fly when I turned 45 and found out my vision wasn’t what it used to be. I was afraid it would my eyes would get too bad to be accepted for flying lessons.
My field of vision was already too narrow. I was good at parenting. I had two sons and a daughter who I adored and who adored me, clear through those teen years that were supposed to be so terrible. Now they’re living rich lives, but not in mine. It’s time to cut cords and do something that will lift me out of the heaviness.I enrolled at Lansford Air Park. Just in time. The new session started today and I got in the Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday class.Julian will flip out. Oh well.
Did Julian ever flip out! Won’t pay for a fantasy that won’t get used. Says this time I am on my own. Tomorrow I take over my friend Roxie’s part-time job, noon to four at the local florist shop. Roxie’s retiring. Isn’t that lucky! It pays just enough for the lessons.
And my instructor? Oooh, la, la. I’m already flying. It’s no wonder they make Mason wear that sapphire blue polo shirt. Their female students can’t stand the thought of quitting, I’m sure. Even the middle-aged, over-the-hill ones. Whether they’re really capable of flying or not.
I discovered today that I’m young inside still. Perhaps I can learn to enjoy my own company again.
Julian flew to Vancouver today for a business meeting and I wanted to say, “Won’t it be nice when I can fly you where you need to go?” But I didn’t. I wonder if I will ever fly him anywhere again.
The gardenias that arrived at the shop today were the most heavenly things I’ve smelled since new-baby-after-bath. One customer wanted boutonnieres and corsages made of them for a 50th wedding anniversary party. The scent made me drunk, I swear it did.
My imagination kept slithering back to Mason, even when I dragged it back to dinner alone tonight and chastised it to behave. My feet actually danced to the piped-in music that I thought I’d forgotten the words to. It was a pure out-of-my-worn-out-body experience. I knew I’d like flying. I just want it to be safe.
Even when my heart seems to be high on flying, I can ground my mind and I’m so surprised at how much technical stuff it can grab onto and process and remember. I read the text last night over my Lean Cuisine pizza and Zinfandel, and could have raised my hand on every question if I’d been brave enough.I didn’t even feel diminished when my boss told me the boutonnieres were all wrong and had to be redone. Will it ever be illegal to huff gardenia? I hope not. It makes for a lovely afternoon. I told him to dock my pay and let me take the ruined flowers home. I think I’ll press them.And figure out how to make up the lost wages so I can continue flying lessons.
FridayTwo things. Julian is staying an extra five days in Vancouver. To fish. I wonder how much that will cost?Before I knew that, I told the kids they could come for the weekend. Allie, James and Roger, all at once. How awesome, and unlikely, is that? I hope they can keep themselves occupied on Saturday. I didn’t tell them I wouldn’t be home and I thought Julian would be there.Saturday
Allie went with me to class. Mason didn’t mind her sitting in. Of course not. She’s trim, svelte, with thick long hair that curls to the envy of every woman I know.
Today I held my hand up for every answer.
A hospital in Vancouver called at four in the morning to say that Julian had a massive heart attack. The kids are all flying up with me.
Odd how this worked out. So glad I don’t have to fly myself up there. I’m coming Julian. On a wing and a prayer, I am coming. And I’m sorry for all those mean thoughts I had.
Julian, how dare you skip out! I don’t want to fly this life solo! Not yet. But I’m going to have to learn. I have this 24/7 class….
I didn’t know what I was doing at flight school today. I don’t even know how I arrived. Mason, easy on the eyes as ever, was acting young and stupid. I wanted to throw a book at him and tell him to grow up. I think I need a more experienced teacher.
Allie sent me to work after I broke down on the first phone call I had to make at home. She’s taking care of things while I play with baby’s breath and pretending it’s Julian’s.
The funeral is tomorrow. He’d planned it all out. I didn’t even know. I wondered if he’d planned mine as well. It pays to have a flight plan I guess, because I’m useless. My chest muscles are tight and rigid, making it hard for my heart to beat or my lungs to breathe. They do it anyway.
I didn’t go anywhere today.
Of course, flight lessons are cancelled for me tomorrow. I will never fly Julian anywhere. Ever. I will never fly.
Grounded is safe.
Thoroughly grounded. In every way. Funny, it does not feel safe.
“So what are you going to do now, Miriam?” What kind of stupid question is that? Am I supposed to know the answer?
Allie took me to lessons. Someone told Mason what happened. His eyes had that poor-you look that I see everywhere else. I didn’t want to see it here, but I supposed it is inevitable.
We flew today. I didn’t know we were going to, having missed the last class.
I couldn’t sleep. I was so afraid the phone would ring and it would be something wrong with one of the kids this time. I even knew it was a stupid fear, but there was nothing I could do.
So I took a blanket outside and spread it on the grass. Flat on my back I began counting clouds, since they hid the stars. There was a sweet heavy scent on the warm air. I couldn’t tell if the gardenias, baby’s breath and roses were real or imaginary. I drifted off wondering what it would be like to fly in a night sky. No more scary than this life, I’m sure.
The flower shop is dead today and all I could find to do was study for a class I’m not sure I can continue. Flight logs. How important they are past, present and future, and not only for the pilot that keeps it. Others learn from it as well. So they say.
Mason is a competent pilot. His actions and his thoughts are precise and directed.
I helped my boss with a centerpiece for a banquet table today. It was amazing to watch the jumble of stems become something coordinated and beautiful.
There is hope. I just have to continue what I’m doing. Can I let what I’m doing decide where I’m going?
The air at work was full of roses today. Yellow and white ones that looked like suns and clouds. Under their magic I found myself moving through my day and thinking about tomorrow. Mason in blue, can you still teach me to fly?
Allie called. She hung up sounding less concerned than when she started the conversation.
My flight plan. For now.
This day: Live it fully
This week: Plant a tree in remembrance
This month: Log as many flight hours as I can
Appreciate how Mason’s eyes match his shirt
Buy a Japanese maple, even though Julian always thought them impractical because the root system would ruin the septic lines. I’ll put a small one in a large planter.
Buy a large planter.
Know that Julian would love the end result because he loved me.
Keep a meticulous flight log.
Learn to fly.
This time I am indeed on my own.
When Roger called today I told him about my plans. He wondered how much it would cost. His father lives on….
Answers are coming to me. I am living. Moving forward, continuing on. It’s what I’ve always done.
James called right before I left for lessons. He wondered if it was a safe for me to be doing now. I told him I didn’t know.
Soaring is…indescribable. Take-off was smooth. Can’t believe I’m in the air this soon.
I don’t think I can give this up. I don’t think I should. After the time and money I’ve invested, Julian would flip out. Wouldn’t you Julian? Then there’s Mr. Blue-Eyes. And my daughter who thinks it’s wise to continue. Then there’s the simple act of flying. And keeping a log.
I believe my vision is improving.
~Written July 11, 2005