THE SPIRIT OF FLIGHT
Bent with age, and worn with time,
Slow of pace, and soft of speech,
He shuffled toward the flight line,
Not knowing if it were within his reach.
Near a plane, several pilots stood,
Their youthful voices in laughter rose,
As they spoke of things they could and would,
Unaware of the dim figure coming close.
Softly, he stroked the wing,
a touch so gentle, almost unseen
As he approached the pilots, whispering
Something unheard to this machine.
If not unseen, he was ignored
The young flyers had other thoughts in mind.
But, he spoke to all, as he implored,
“Please tell me, young sirs, where a pilot I might find.”
Their faces beamed bright
And together they spoke,
“We’re all pilots,” as they rose to full height . . .
“Watcha need, Ol’ Timer,” smiling at their joke.
With his eyes cast down,
He tugged at his ear.
His face forced a frown,
as he held back a tear.
“When I was young, I, too once flew,
and I’d like to beg another flight.”
The young pilots listened and they all knew . . .
then one spoke, with true delight!
“O.K., Pops, I’ll take you up.
Any place special you want to go?”
“No, sir,” he said to this young pup,
“Just overhead, to and fro.”
The young man helped him strap in,
and then they were off, without delay.
As they climbed for blue, there came a grin
To the wrinkled face, with hair like hay.
No words were said until one mile high,
Then this ancient aviator pleaded:
“May I hold her, sir, may I fly?”
As if it were something desperately needed.
“Sure, Pops! She’s all yours,”
The young man said with measurable pride.
“I’ll make sure you don’t blow off the doors!
Or let any of this atmosphere come inside!”
With a feather touch, the old man embraced the plane,
And neither altitude nor airspeed wavered.
“Bear with me, young sir,” he began to explain,
As the moment was truly savored!
The wing dipped, and the nose rose
The aircraft flipped, and the ground appeared!
Smartly, the horizon froze,
As if nothing had happened . . . it was really weird.
The old man smiled, and closed his eyes.
Then the nose pointed at the Sun.
Up was Down, and Lows were Highs,
And the aircraft spun and spun . . . and spun!
The young pilot could not speak,
His body would not respond.
He felt himself growing weak,
As the airplane flew its limits . . . and beyond.
Then there was calm, and he became aware
That they were straight and level, headed home.
And he looked toward the old man who was not there,
He was flying solo, completely alone!
The right seat was bare,
its harness buckled neat.
Its cushions showed no wear,
but a tattered checklist lay on the seat.
Soon he taxied into his parking spot,
As his fellow pilots waited.
They saw where a passenger was not,
and his fate they each debated.
The young pilot quickly climbed down,
And began to relate his unbelievable tale.
The others began to scoff and frown,
Just as the aircraft radio, turned off, began to hail:
“Thank you, lads, for a wonderful flight!”
Came the words from the dead radio set.
“Live to fly, every day or night,
Until at last, again, we have met!”
“Within each pilot, lives the Spirit of Flight,
So, never fear black clouds or rain . . .
Forever reach for the highest height,
Then, let your ship caress the Earth again!”
Listen closely, my earth-bound friends,
If you catch me with a secret smile,
Please let me make all my amends,
For in my mind, I’m probably up . . . about a mile . . .
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.