Category Archives: recovery

Making Connections

We were invited to a GPB dinner on Tuesday evening to share our ideas on one of our favorite shows, On Second Thought.  The show is taking a new turn, as the previous host stepped down for a new and wonderful adventure.  One of the reporters said she was from a small town in North Carolina, and I said I was from a small town outside of Greensboro.  She said she was, too, and it turned out she is from Trinity, about 15 miles from my home.  Trinity has a small airport, Darr Field, which is where I had my first flying lesson that really ignited my passion for aviation.  It was a wonderful conversation and we talked about some of the things we love about North Carolina.  We left with sense of just how connected we all are and how small the world really is.

And then today I received an email today from a man whose grandfather owned our (my!) airplane before my dad bought it.  He talked about flying with his grandfather to a baseball game between Kansas City and the New York Yankees, and how he got to see Mickey Mantle play.  I told him how Daddy flew my brother to Baltimore to see the World Series, around 1970, and how they flew to Indianapolis to the Indy 500.  He told me that his grandfather purchased a Cessna 210 after he sold the Cessna 172, N7214A, which he had owned in a flying club with three other pilots.  I told him how I stripped all the paint off the plane so that Daddy had no choice but to paint it yellow and white, just like I wanted.  He told me he was a commercial pilot and flew crop dusters.  I told him that was what I always wanted to do.

I’m always amazed by connections and how small the world truly is.   But right now, I just want to call my dad.  I want to tell him about the email and I want to tease him about taking Robert to the World Series and the Indy 500 instead of me.  I want to hear him laugh about losing his airplane the day I had the flying lesson at Darr Field.

I just want to remember.

 

 

#MeToo No More

From the beginning of my aviation career, I dealt with unwanted advances.  I’m reluctant to talk too much about it in my blog, because I just don’t want to ruin anyone’s life.  Maybe people have changed.  Maybe I’m just a wimp.  I am definitely going to talk about it in my book, but not here in my blog.

A few days ago, we got a death notice from the Delta Air Lines retired pilots network, and the person who died was truly one of the most obnoxious people I’ve ever met.  As I read his obituary, I wondered whether this was the same person whom I banished from my flight school and did everything possible to avoid at Netjets.

Let’s call him Steve.  The first time Steve came into the flight school in 1997, he was wearing a flight suit.  His smile was more like a leer than a friendly greeting and he had dog breath.  “You must know who I am,” he said.  No, I really didn’t, and based on this greeting I didn’t want to know who he was.  “Maybe I can take you out to dinner tonight.”  No, not in this lifetime he wouldn’t.  It wasn’t just his bad breath that was revolting.  It was the lewd and lascivious way he looked at me and how he couldn’t keep his eyes on my face.  I declined and said a silent prayer of thanks when my phone rang.  I ran into my office.

He always found reasons to come into the school.  We had a deli inside the flight school, the only food concession on the field.  We were also required by our lease to have a retail shop for charts and pilots supplies.  Most days I was able to escape, either by going flying or taking a phone call in my office.  Eventually, however, our paths crossed and I couldn’t escape.  Everyone else was out flying and I was manning the front desk.  In came George.

I’ll leave out the details but I ended up speaking with a member of the Airport Authority. I told him what had happened.  This is where I was at an extreme disadvantage.  This individual had greater status than I had and was highly respected.  He was connected with literally everyone.  It would be my word against his, and I could potentially lose a large block of business and  even my access to the mechanics.  But I wouldn’t compromise.

Soon he disappeared.  I began to relax.  Maybe he had found a new target for his crude behavior. I didn’t give him another thought.  He was gone and I was safe.

Or so I thought.  Three years later I was an airline pilot and was on the ramp at Teterboro.  By now I was accustomed to the bad behavior of a lot of pilots, and there he was in New Jersey.  In one of Nelson DeMille’s books, he said the only difference in pilots and pigs is that pigs don’t turn into pilots after two beers.  In George’s case, it didn’t even take one.  Right there on the ramp, he greeted me like we were old friends.  I was polite until he grabbed my tie and said, “You need a good man to show you how to tie this thing.”  I slapped his hand away and walked back into the FBO.  I did not report him.  All I wanted to do was fly.  I could handle this.

We would periodically cross paths on the road but he was based in Savannah and I was based in Atlanta, so it was infrequent.  “Another empty kitchen” was his favorite line.  Eventually enough flight attendants complained about him and he was let go from the airline.  I didn’t give him another thought until I read his obituary.

Maybe he turned his life around.  Maybe his children are responsible adults.  Maybe he is remembered as a loving husband and a loving father and grandfather.  He was apparently active in his church and in multiple community organizations.  Whatever.  I wish his family the best, but I will breathe a sigh of relief and  gratitude that I can go with Bob to Delta Retired Pilots activities and know I won’t run into this creep, ever again.

#MeToo No More.

Women in the Cockpit

I am a pilot.  I learned to fly to fly before I learned to drive.  I started to work when I was 13 years old and saved every penny I made to pay for my flying.  It was my dad’s airplane, but I had to pay for part of it.  That’s who he was – a “you don’t get something for nothing” kind of person.  By the time I was 16, I was holding down three jobs and was still an A student.  I wanted to fly in the military, but they didn’t allow women at that time.  So I stuck it out and worked hard.  I detoured my career, was successful enough to retire at 43, then pursue my passion.

I never asked for special treatment.  I never complained, when I was flying night freight, that some of the freight hangars didn’t have women’s restrooms.  I used the men’s room and never thought twice about it.  When we had to unload truck transmissions in Detroit, I used the pallet jack and moved the transmissions along with the guys.  I’ve climbed on the wing of a DC-4 to measure the fuel level in the main tanks, and I’ve pumped oil out to the engines during flight.  I’ve flown powerful people into Aspen, Colorado, where every approach requires precision and finesse.  I’ve flown into East Hampton, New York, and into Ocean Reef, Florida.  These are challenging runways, short and narrow, not runways that are two miles long.

Today, in the “Pilot Communications Network” was an email forwarded from Leonard Brunasso, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot who is now a check airman for Omni Air.  The email was titled “The Age of the 707/DC-8” and it begins, “Those were the good ole days.  Pilots back then were men…”  You can just guess how far it went downhill from there, as he went on to insult every category of people except for white male pilots. From what I can gather, taxpayers paid for Leonard’s flight training, as he was an Air Force pilot.  He refers to pilots “in the good ole days” as real men and refers to flight attendants as stewardesses who appreciated a little sexual harassment, and were “proud to be combatants in the sexual revolution.”  He went on to say these women didn’t have any “plastic or composites” in their pectoral regions.

Rarely am I offended, but having been subjected to blatant sexual harassment and abuse in the cockpit, I have a few things to say to Leonard.  I am beyond angry.  I am furious.  I am sad.  I am, unfortunately, flooded with memories of clowns just like this guy who didn’t think I belonged.  The ones who objectified women.

I’ve taught over 1000 people to fly and I have an impeccable record.  I’ve shared my love of aviation with literally thousands of people.  During nursing school, I would instruct in the wee hours of the morning and then go to the hospital in Charlotte for clinicals, then I’d go to the airport and fly afterwards.  And I kept my grades up while I was doing it.  I am as proud of my RN as I am my ATP and CFI.

I learned instrument flying with nothing more than needle, ball, and airspeed.  I’ve made the decision to go or not, when flying fuel to some of the most remote villages in Alaska in a DC-4.  I’ve manually calculated how much fuel to take on, and looked at prog charts to see whether it was even safe to go.  I didn’t have dispatch to calculate weight and balance for me, tell me how the weather was, and determine whether I’d be released to fly or not.  I made those decisions, on my own.

I worked my way into the cockpit with my skills and abilities to fly.  I’ve been pinched, grabbed in inappropriate places, and even been physically assaulted by other pilots.  I’ve been asked whether I ever felt guilty taking a job away from some poor man trying to feed his family and when I’ve adjusted the temperature in the cockpit, I’ve been asked if I was having hot flashes.  I knew when someone was having fun and when the line was being crossed.

When I first became a flight instructor, there were only about 4000 women in the US with commercial pilot certificates.  I was one of the youngest, since I was only 18.  Today, 40 years later with my Airline Transport Pilot certificate, I am one of only about 8000.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.  I’ve got more than 45 years in the cockpit plus I’ve earned a PhD, started 3 or 4 successful businesses, and have tried to be the best person I can be.  I’m happily married to a retired Delta pilot who recognizes and appreciates my brains and my talent.

I want to say all kinds of ugly things to Leonard, but it would do no good.  I just hope that someday, this brand of pilots is replaced by kinder, more respectful human beings, by people who don’t care whether you are male or female, provided you can competently perform your duties in the cockpit or in the cabin.

Honestly, I just wish people would accept other people for who they are.  Be kind.  And stop spreading messages that promote hate.  Can’t we all just get along and treat everyone as human beings?

Trying to be Normal in a Completely Abnormal Situation

It has been almost seven months since three of our grandchildren came to live with us.  It has been one adjustment after another.  Bob and I are older and really enjoy our time together.  We love traveling and spontaneous dinners with our friends.  We love sitting outside and watching the sunset over the lake.  We enjoy sleeping in.

All of that changed with the death of our precious granddaughter, Carly.  If you have corded blinds in your home and you have children or pets, please do yourself a favor and replace them.  Between law enforcement investigations and the utter stupidity of the Department of Family and Children Services, our lives have been nothing short of difficult.  Seven months.  I appreciate the need to investigate but this has gone on long enough.

Throughout this period, my husband and I have tried to keep things as normal as possible for the children.  But nothing about this is normal.  Tonight, though, I finally realized that we just have to find the humor when we can.  Here’s my list of things where we found humor today.  They all may sound trivial, but they are keeping us sane.

  1. Sarah Katherine, who prefers the nickname “Snowy”, decided to help Bebob (what the grand babies call my husband) tape off the molding so he could paint the stairway going from my office to the main floor of our home.  If you aren’t a painting perfectionist and haven’t ever tried to tape the molding going up the stairs, you’ve missed a treat.  You have to laugh.
  2. Tonight was a series of invisible “boo-boos” on four of SK’s fingers.  Only one bandaid would do, and she moved it from finger to finger.  When the one bandaid finally gave up the ghost, the insult of a second bandaid was just too much to bear.  Not even a Disney bandaid was an acceptable replacement for the plain bandaid that had gone from finger to finger.
  3. A bed would not do for SK tonight, as with most nights.  She likes to sleep “on the ground.”  This translates to the floor in our bedroom, which eliminates any CSI watching or any other TV program that is not suitable for a two year old.  She has a perfectly fine bed, but in our room she has a spot where she wants to sleep and it covers about an area large enough for another queen size bed.  The assortment of animals and babies that are lined up across the floor further add to the obstacle course of our bedroom.
  4. Watching SpaceJam with the boys was also an adventure.  What?  You don’t know who Michael Jordan is?  Seriously?  Charles Barkley?  Larry Bird?  Our “good ol’ days” included Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Joe Namath, Mean Joe Green.  We had Neil Armstrong and John Glenn.  We had Apollo 13.  We had the Beatles making their debut in NYC.  We saw the first lunar landing.  These poor babies!  What are they missing?

While they are missing their parents and they are missing their home, we make sure they get lots of love and the constant reassurance that there is an end out there, somewhere.  Their parents are here every day, and my 82 year old mother makes the trip down as often as she can so that Bob and I can have some time away.  My sister has also offered to come down.  Many of our friends have helped, my boys call regularly and Jackie calls periodically, and you can’t imagine how much that means to us.  You cannot imagine how much we appreciate those who have made efforts to help!

No, our life is not normal, but we’re hanging in there doing the best we can.  We laugh daily, as much and as often as possible.  We are thankful for our friends and for the family members who have been supportive.   We are thankful for everyone who is helping.

The lessons learned from this are to hang in there.  Appreciate what you have.  Appreciate your family.  Whatever their flaws, they’re the best you’ve got. Make the best of whatever your situation.   Use humor when you can.  As Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Grief, Again

We were on our way home from the airport.  I’ve been in Washington, D.C., working on a pretty incredible project that will decrease the digital divide in Nepal, increase literacy, and improve education.  It has been a very exciting trip and I was fired up.  If I had to rate this entire week, I would give it a 10+.  My flight arrived on time and I was excited to see my husband and three of my grandchildren.  We would drive home with Sirius 78 on the radio, Kids Place Live.  There was a lot of laughing and a lot of fun, until a surprising trigger came on the radio.

About a month before Carly died, we took her to Disney World.  I ran a 5K on Friday, a 10K on Saturday, and a 1/2 marathon on Sunday.  It was Disney’s Glass Slipper Challenge.  The icing on the cake was being able to take Carly with us.  We rode lots of rides and she was captivated by “It’s a Small World.”  That particular ride is one of my favorites, as I rode it when it was premiered at the New York World’s Fair.  I think that was 1964, and I had never seen anything like it.  I have always loved that particular ride.  On February 21, the line for “It’s a Small World” was short and Carly was as excited as I was.  She was captivated by the animation and the voices and the many wonderful characters.  As the dolls sang and moved up and down, Carly was transfixed.  The photo was taken on the ride.  Such precious and wonderful memories!

I’ve done well, I think, with the pain of losing our precious granddaughter.  But today, when “It’s a Small World” came on the radio, I lost it.  Carly’s brothers and sister were in the car but the tears came, anyway.  I couldn’t stop.  The memories of the fun blended with the extreme sadness and the result was an extreme pain.

When I got myself together, I apologized to our grandsons.  I’m not sure they’ve seen me cry since the funeral.  James, who is 10, very wisely said, “It’s okay.  I understand.”  The sad thing is that yes, he does understand.

You never know when the pain of a loss is going to hit you, and you never know when it will grab you so hard it will take your breath away.  Today was my day.  Sometimes you just have to ride it out.

A letter to Glenn

Dear Glenn,

15 years ago tonight, I was trying to get a good night’s sleep but your mommy was fighting me, every step of the way. I had been away from home for six weeks in pilot training at Netjets, and I had just gotten home the day before. Your mommy was convinced that I needed to come and visit, the very next day. That would be March 22, 2000. I kept telling her I’d be there in a few days, but I needed to rest. Late that night, she called me and said she was in labour. I told her, I’m almost embarrassed to say I told her to go to sleep and call me in the morning. To my surprise, you made your appearance that very next day. From the moment you took your first breath, the people who loved you surrounded you with so much love and affection. You were a beautiful and beloved baby boy.  The light of our lives.

As you grew, you were even more beautiful each day. Your curls and those big brown eyes were perfect, and you were as sweet a child as there ever was. You were our Boogie Bear and we all adored you. You had a great mom and your personality was a light to all who knew you. We took you everywhere, places I still can’t imagine little boys enjoy going, but you loved meeting people.

From the time you were about three, your mommy and I owned a hospice and you went with her, sometimes, to see patients. Everyone commented on your excellent manners. At the same time, you were telling us things that should have been a forewarning. You told us your angels told you to pack up your toys and your clothes and give them to the poor children; you would not need them. We didn’t understand and we thought this was just cute.

It wasn’t too long before your little brother came along. Once when he fussed, you packed up your clothes to come and live with your Memaw and Bebob. That was so funny, and we happily picked you up so you could have a little break. You made your mommy promise that she would never let your brother look like he came from the Children’s Home. I hate to tell you this, but this is a promise she has not kept!

Then the worst happened. We will never know why you crossed the street that day, because that was something you did not do. Our world changed in an instant. Life would never be the same, as we lost our Boogie Bear. My prayer is that you didn’t suffer.

You would be 15 years old today. We should be celebrating with cake and balloons. Your mommy should be teaching you to drive and I would be teaching you to fly. You always loved that I was a pilot teacher. One of our funniest memories was when we all went up to Jackie Torrence’s memorial service, and you told everyone that your Bebob was just a pilot but that your Memaw was a pilot teacher. As if that wasn’t funny enough, at the memorial service, you stood up and loudly exclaimed, “You mean we flew all the way to North Carolina just to see a gold box?” We still laugh about that. You were five. A very precious five.

We have wonderful memories and you are frozen in time as a perfect little boy. I have no doubt that, at 15, you would still be a perfect boy but you would be a teenager. You wouldn’t want us to call you Boogie Bear, and you would probably have times when you would be grumpy and temperamental. It is highly possible you would be a challenge, but in our mind you will always be our perfect, precious little 5 read old.  We have every confidence in the world that you would have grown up to be a fine young man, but we did not get to watch you grow. I’ll bet you would still love raw oysters, though, and that you would remember how to stop a stampeding elephant.

So many things are going through my mind. Would you have been good at sports? Where would you want to go to college?   Would you play the piano? Who would you take to your first prom? How would you like driving the Porsche, your favorite car to ride in to school. Would your mommy let me teach you to fly? You had so many friends and so much promise, and you left a profound mark on so many people. From a spiritual perspective, even at 5 you knew the meaning and the words of the Sacrament. More than once you reminded our ministers that they weren’t saying it correctly. They did not realize what Holy Communion meant to you and how important it was to you. It was truly a Holy Sacrame

You have four brothers and sisters who remind me of you, each and every day. Your sweet spirit lives on. We had James’ photo professionally made at three years old, and when they showed us the photos, I burst into tears. It was just like looking at you. Carly saw the photo of you on your tombstone and thought it was Jacob. Sarah Catherine has so many of your characteristics.

I think we all struggle, at least to some degree, with the loss we suffered the day you were killed. It was a senseless accident and I personally have problems forgiving the man who so recklessly drove down Happy Valley Circle that day, talking on his cell phone. I know what my Christian beliefs tell me to do, but it is not easy. There are times I wish he could feel our pain, and that I hope he is haunted by his actions. I remind myself that you would, even at 5, tell me that was not right to feel that way. You were wise beyond your years.

As we reflect today on our gratitude, it is important for us to celebrate what was and the profound impact you had on so many people. We miss you. You gave us so much joy and laughter. You will forever be our perfect little boy. Your legacy lives on, though, in the service your mommy provides to other people who have lost their children.

Happy birthday, sweet Glenn. Today we will focus on our good memories. We will celebrate and we will give to the children at the Children’s Home, whom you were always so concerned about, even as a little boy. We will keep your legacy alive.

We love you, Glenn Milton Price. March 22, 2000 – November 2, 2005. You were gone too soon.

Love always,

Memaw and Bebob