Summertime seems to bring on plenty of activity to keep our family busy coming and going, and this year was no exception! There were social gatherings and events for the kids, not to mention baseball for Sid, softball for Em, guitar lessons for Em, and Sid & CF’s motocross racing was in full swing. On one particular race day, we knew the track we were heading to was not far off from where our friend, Fred, was flying his helicopter. We sent him a message, in hopes he might have a day off. He was scheduled to fly that day, however the fog was pretty thick that morning, and there was a possibility it might keep him grounded for a little while. He said he’d try to make it over to the races if he could.
A short while later, while watching Sid in practice, we spotted Fred’s helicopter circling over the track. We had hopes of seeing him drive out to hang out with us, but it was pretty cool, just the same, to have him fly over. It wasn’t an hour later, and there was Fred, driving around the pit area searching for us! The fog ended up grounding him for the entire day. We really enjoyed our time getting to know him better, especially since we were unsure of when we might get to see him again.
In the following months, Emily continued to dream of flying, and she immersed herself with training prospects for her future in piloting helicopters. CF saw this as an opportunity to give her some insight, and he scheduled a private tour at the nearby Army National Guard.
When we arrived, it appeared our “tour guide”, Major “somebody” was out in western Nebraska, assisting with the wildfires. Much to our appreciation, however, there was one Warrant Officer left in the building, and he graciously gave us the tour instead.
The building was quite nice, and the hangar was even more impressive. Two Chinooks and a few smaller helicopters were housed inside this hangar. We were allowed to climb in, climb on, and take pictures; apparently nothing is classified there. I don’t think we could have been given a better tour guide than this guy, as he was funny, very knowledgeable, and he spoke to Emily like she was an adult. He helped to give her some direction in her career path, to give her the best possible chance at flying helicopters in the military. There are, however, no guarantees in any division of the military that one will become a pilot. She has some options as far as training, and fortunately a few years left to work that all out.
We continued to stay in touch with our friend, Fred, and he kept us updated on when he’d be working in our area, or at least within the state lines of Nebraska. On one particular Saturday while our family gathered at Emily’s volleyball game, we received a message from Fred. He was sitting idle that day, just a couple of hours away from us.
CF had been given 4 tickets from a friend to attend the Husker football game that afternoon, and they just so happened to have an un-spoken-for ticket. We offered the ticket, and subsequently the day’s entertainment, to Fred, and he enthusiastically accepted the offer.
Watching a Husker football within Memorial Stadium is an experience all its own. The football fans are insanely enthusiastic, and even if you’re not a big football fan, there’s something for everyone at a game. I’m not really sure why seats are installed in the stadium, because you rarely sit down (as nobody in front of you ever does). You get to stretch out a bit while doing “the wave,” first in slooooooowwww motion, and then SUPERspeed. Whether you are a “high-fiver” kind of fan or not, you WILL be doing it with those around you; I’m pretty sure it’s not optional. And how cool is it that you might catch one of the Fairbury brand hot dogs fired up into the stands by the Der Viener Schlinger?
Fred enjoyed his day with the guys so much, that he came back for more the next day at Sid’s motocross race. Sid had a good day of racing, and Emily had a fantastic day bending the ear of her favorite helicopter pilot. He promised her he would give a call when he was passing back through in a couple of weeks, and see if time allowed to do some flying. He also gave her an assignment to study for their next flying session.
When we received the message that Fred was passing through, plans were made to meet up at the local airport. I had put a lot of thought into this particular day, and decided that I was going to work up the nerve to take a ride in that helicopter myself; if not for me, then I’d do it for Emily. I wanted so badly to show her my support, and in order to do that I needed to conquer my fear of flying.
Fred was enthusiastic and very encouraging when I told him the news. He did warn me, however, that Emily would be trying her hand at the controls again, and made sure I would be okay with that. I agreed that if he was okay with her taking over control, I would be okay with it also. Sid, not wanting to be left behind, agreed to join us on the flight, and he sat right next to me in the back seat.
The shoulder harnesses made me quite claustrophobic and I felt panic begin to set in as I thought about strapping myself in. Fred said they were optional, and that I could just wear the lap belt if that would help. It did. The next hurdle was taking off. Oh, how I had fretted over this maneuver in my mind. When we finally left the ground, I have to admit it was pretty smooth. I was tense, but doing fine, until I heard Emily verify to Fred that she took control. Just the thought of my young, teenage daughter flying us around in a helicopter was enough to nearly take my breath away. Anxiety crept up on me rather quickly, and by the time we were flying over Grandpa’s farm, I was quite close to asking Fred to land somewhere and let me out. I know I let out a few shrieks now and then, especially when the ride became a little bumpy. Thankfully nobody criticized me, and encouraging words were offered instead. Poor Sid probably lost all feeling in his left leg, as it was my “go to” handle where I ensued with a death grip, anytime I became anxious; I don’t believe I let go until he literally peeled my hand away :-).
Landing was my next big hurdle (listen to me, I sound like I’m the one doing the flying). Once I confirmed that Fred would be in control when landing, I felt better. I believe I was speechless for a good 10 minutes after we landed. I felt bad I only told Fred, “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” There were parts I actually did enjoy, and I was extremely proud of Emily. Fred is such an awesome instructor, and I could see Emily was very comfortable and confident sitting next to him, and taking over the controls.
Now that a few days have passed, and I’ve had time to really dissect the whole flying experience, I can say for certain that I’m glad I took that leap. I’m so very proud of my daughter! The confidence she has, the courage to take on such a challenge; it is something I fear I may have lacked most of my life. It has forced me to look deeper within myself, and try to understand why I have such tremendous fears. The fear of flying, the fear that my guys could be seriously injured while racing motocross; the fear that my little family that I love so very much will be, in some way, changed forever.
I’m trying to work on that fear thing. If for no other reason, I don’t want fear to be the trait I hand down to my children, or the word that comes to mind when they think of me. Thank you Emily for taking me on my first helicopter ride; you have no idea how proud I am of you! Thank you Sid, for sitting with me in the back seat of the helicopter, and letting me squeeze your leg until I’m sure it was numb! Thank you my dear husband, you have always had more confidence in me than I’ve had in myself, and you’ve supported and encouraged me through some of the most trying of times. And last, but most definitely not least, thank you Fred! You have touched our lives in a truly unique and remarkable way, and we are so blessed to call you our friend.