Grandma's ToysShe lived with us sometimes, but mostly she didn't. Somehow, she figured out that I loved things that could fly, so every year on my birthday she would send me a dollar and one of those balsa-wood gliders us kids used to play with outdoors in those days. I liked adjusting the wings to make them do different things. They always ended up broken, they were only balsa-wood after all. Twenty five cents could only last so long I suppose.
By the time I was ten, I had graduated to kites. Grandma sent a paper kite every year along with the dollar. Paper kites didn't last long when I had to use Ma's yarn for kite string - not strong enough, and they would get away from me in the winds of the Catskills. Later, I got a book from the school library about box kites and built a few from just stuff on the farm. Grandma was impressed when she saw them fly. By then, I could afford the right string when I got to town.
I didn't lose my love for things that could fly - teen years came and went with other interests. I married young and had responsibilities that didn't include making a living at flying. Eventually, I found out I could make a living in the Air Force playing with amazing things that could fly. My wife agreed it was a good thing to do when I first joined.
That started a journey that taught me many things. It took me a while to accept that the purpose of things that fly was to hurt people and break things. For twenty years I hoped I'd get away with not having to be part of it, I just wanted to make a living after all... maybe enjoy the work. I loved the whole culture around aviation. I was good at it.
There were "casualties" along the way who were my friends and co-workers. Standing at a Memorial Day ceremony, sweating in my old uniform, nervous as hell I'll be expected to say something noble and honorable, I remember how young they were, and wonder what prompted them toward things that fly. I wonder why I'm still here... am sad that they are not.
I wonder about their Grandmas... and if she sent them things that could fly.