Thursday, August 10, 2006


It was gold and hand-made. It was one-of a kind. Small, cherished, and crafted carefully to have details that would be important to the recipient, but attractive enough to wear for most occasions. It was a unique metallic miniature Beechcraft Bonanza airplane in a three-dimensional relief on a gold background. November-3-5-Uniform-Papa. Heavily instrumented with storm scope, multiple transponders that permitted calculation of speed, arrival time, and the full instrument flight rating or IFR. He'd mastered the skies and loved to fly. It was his passion. He received one of the highest scores ever on the written portion of his pilot's license exam. Every inch of that plane would be checked and rechecked before each outing. Obsessive cleanups occurred after each landing. His baby. In a testament to his passion, the entire wall of his office was covered by green flight charts of the entire airspace surrounding our house. Every airport, runway, IFR transponder for hundreds of miles graphically portrayed on the wall. Never did I see him so happy as the days he flew. And never did I see him so anxious as when bad weather threatened his trips. Life each day was determined by the weather report. November-3-5-Uniform-Papa emblazoned on the craft's tail. Can't land to pee! Use a urinal! Ah, to fly!

So to see that necklace lying in a plastic bag, next to a pair of glasses and a watch, I couldn't help but flash back to a scene I had encountered while working as the Head of the Emergency Department in the United States Navy many years before: twisted wires that used to be a pair of glasses, articles from a wallet, a torn picture of a family I didn't know, Navy dog tags. One of my best friends was asked to deliver these articles to a grieving wife and mother of two young girls. They all knew it could happen. None expected to die. All risks taken were worth it. Only the best flew F-18's in the Navy. So now to look at the carnage represented by these articles I knew the end came quickly. And yet these objects were cherished by the wife, because they were his. They were him, carefully placed in a small container and wrapped in a white cloth. Keepsakes for eternity.

I took the plastic bag that contained my father's necklace, glasses, and watch from the nurses today. They had to be removed before surgery. I never realized how important that necklace was to my father, but they said he surrendered it with great reluctance. It was his contact with years before - of an era of unlimited potential and unlimited freedom. It represented his most cherished hobby - a hobby that had to be surrendered after his health conditions became a concern. And now I held it in my hands. The thought that a day will come when these items would be all I have to remember him by was eerie. I prayed it wouldn't be today.

So when the call came that all went well and he was in the post-anesthesia recovery area I hurried back to see him - call it physician "executive priviledge." And there he was, sleepy, with that grey post-anesthetic look, but arousable.

With that I hurried to replace his necklace, watch, and glasses. "You can't fit it over my head, you know, my ears are too big." I fumbled with the clasp. He smiled. "There, they're on!" They looked really good on him, even with the flowered hospital gown draped over his chest.

And I was happy to have to wait a bit longer before holding these in my hands again.


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