31 July 2009


One of the funnier stories I've heard in my life was told to me by a man in the early stages of Alzheimer's. It has been a number of years since "Flaps" told this story, and time has worn smooth some of the more precise edges, but I'll do my best to push this story across to y'all as well as it was told to me.

Foo Fighters - Learning To Fly


During World War II, Flaps was training to be a fighter pilot. He had cleared every hurdle, and was scheduled to report for duty on the USS Wasp within a few weeks. They were still training in Rhode Island while they were preparing to ship out, and they ran drills almost daily. One fine morning, Flaps was taxiing down the runway when his plane did an abrupt face-plant. Undeterred, he ran back to their staging area to try and get in another plane and rejoin his flight group. He turned a bit too soon as he was pulling the Hellcat out the line, and managed to drag the back of his plane through the spinning prop of the plane next to him, ruining both aircraft.
Not one to crumble in the face of adversity, Flaps finally managed to get airborne in his third plane of the day. That plane promptly malfunctioned over the bay, and he had to put it into the drink.

After he was fished out of the bay, military protocol required him to report to the clinic and rest for a minimum of two hours. Two hours and five minutes after he reported to the clinic, he was standing in the office of his commanding officer, inquiring about his next mission.

Without glancing up from the papers at his desk, his CO barked the following:

"Churton (Flaps), I see you're scheduled to go up again at 4:30. I'd love to let you go up this afternoon, but according to this report, we are running low on planes."


Maybe Flaps was just trying to get all of his bad luck out his system early. It must have worked, as Flaps went on to fly Hellcats off the Wasp in the Pacific theater, and his luck held out through that war and for a long string of years and decades to follow.

Paul "Flaps" Churton, my ex-wife's paternal grandfather, passed away this morning at the tender young age of 87. He was a magnificent man with a twinkle in his eye and a warm laugh, and he will be deeply missed.

They don't make them like that anymore.

I have this mental "trick" that I break out when I lose someone I care about. I image that person forever engaged in an activity that made them happy. Each scenario for each lost loved one is as different as the individual, and sadly my list is longer than I'd like, and will never get shorter.

So today I've been picturing Flaps, aviator's helmet pulled down over his massive namesake ears, grin on his face, and twinkle in his eye. And he's just blasting through the gap in the two blues: the sky above and the Pacific below. Sunlight glinting off the fuselage, and his Hellcat's engine a mere extension of his own ambitions. Throttle wide open, mind calm, soul at peace, and eyes on the horizon.

And for me, that's where he lives now.

Fly away home Paul.


Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Shoot...I am sorry for your loss. Sounds like I would have liked Flaps. Nice post Krëg.

Bj in Dallas said...

very cool........

ZDub said...

Damn, I'm so very sorry.

You did right by Flaps, for sure.

ZDub said...

And I really like the whole picturing people doing what they love in the after.

Apparently, you will be playing guitar and I will be making drinks.

Hopefully, we can hang out together. :)