Nice thread Roberta. Great stories all.
About two years ago my step dad (I’ll call him Joey) drove me to the Dryden, Ontario airport to see me off. There were a bunch of us there, visiting family. The big carriers don’t fly to Dryden, so I ended up on Bear Skin airlines. Joey was interested in getting there early; he was bored to tears because the uncles couldn’t golf that week and he was a little grumpy I know, in need of some diversion. A still imposing figure at 80 years old, we spent an hour or more wandering around and he peppered a dozen questions at the check in clerk, who answered them all good naturedly. “How long is the runway?” “When was the airport built?” And a comment: “Only some of the Bear Skin planes have a paw print.” Eventually I shared a smile with the guy and moved us along.
We moseyed around outside and watched some helicopters for a while. “Dryden has a 6,000 ft runway, Joeblow,” he instructed me. He recited some other facts. As we were chatting, I realised for the first time ever that he used to have his pilot’s licence. I was amazed that I never knew that! How was it possible
that I never knew that? He wished he were closer to the hangars…would love to get a better look at the helicopters, but no, when I asked, he’d never had a helicopter ride.
Eventually, after he gave me the kiss off at the gate, I crossed the asphalt and climbed the stairs to the plane. As it taxied the long runway, I could see Joey from my window, standing at the chain link, hands up clutching the fence, watching intently. He tipped his hat to me as the wheels left the tarmac almost directly across from where he stood, and I waved and waved and waved.
As luck would have it, the airline was marking an anniversary and had put out a magazine to commemorate their history. You know the kind maybe: one of those complimentary glossy jobs, tucked into the back of the seats? Anyway, I grabbed it for him and called when I finally got home to tell everybody I made it safely and to tell Joey about the magazine. He stole the phone from mum, and in an excited rush proceeded to tell me that after I had gone, the same fellow that had checked me in had approached him at the fence and asked him if he was having a good time. Turns out the fellow was the airport manager, and had witnessed our entire inspection, such as it was. He offered to give Joey a complete tour of the airport and proceeded to drive him in an airport vehicle inside the full course of the runway, to all the outbuildings and hangars, spending another hour giving him the full royal treatment. Joey summed up his mad rush of a story by shouting into the phone “and it was the best goddamned day of my life!”
So, he has since had a helicopter ride (“You’re trying to kill me aren’t you Joeblow?”), and while I don’t think it could ever match the tour he got that day, I was over the moon that I could surprise him with it.