Just called my father, expecting it to be my mother. Since I’m all lazy and easy-like-Sunday morning, I figured I’d sort out this Popple tail thing over the phone.
“(Snort sound) This is your Fathership.”
“Oh, Fathership. What’s up with you?”
“I’m at 2,000 feet.”
“In the plane?”
“Yup. Flying over Lake Erie right now. It’s frozen from shore to shore.”
“I think you get better reception over Lake Erie than you do on Jennings Road.”
“(Snort sound.) Yeah, I know.”
My father has a two-seater Cessna named Isabella that he and my Opa bought when I was about 11 years old. He got it shortly after he got his pilot’s license – the culmination of months of night school, instrument training, a bevy of other FAA-regulated requirements and a medical exam.
Opa doesn’t have his license.
When my dad flies, Opa sits next to him, living vicariously through the plane’s passenger seat controls.
Oma wasn’t too thrilled about Isabella. Neither was my mother. Night school was expensive and logging miles with a flight instructor cost even more.
The airplane however, when compared to what other men spend on less impressive toys, was cheap – relatively speaking. My dad had to entirely rebuild the engine. The labor cost nothing. He did it himself.
My mother calls Isabella, “The Other Woman.” In fact, she’s the one who named the plane Isabella. I think it made the hobby easier to digest – my father nurturing something human instead of machine. We women personalize everything. I think I Lanced about this already. Oh yeah. Briefly, here.
Anyway, my dad answered the phone. 2,000 feet in the air. Buzzing Lake Erie.
“Whatcha up to kiddo?”
“Joe’s got a cold and I’m lounging around, eating pizza. A photographer friend is taking engagement pictures of us and the pug tonight.”
“Yeah. I wasn’t going to do ’em, but he offered to take them for a case of beer. I think he wants glamour shots of the pug for his portfolio.”
“What do people do with engagement pictures?”
“I don’t know. Put them in a giant frame for people to sign at their wedding, I suppose.”
“Hmm. Well that’s pretty nice of him, to take them for free.”
(Yeah. Too bad Joe is sick and the pug has eczema in his facial folds.)
“Dad, you’re talking to me in the airplane, but I can barely hear the engine.”
“You know it’s great! I’ve got the cell phone stuck under my headset with both hands free and I can still hear the radio controls.”
(And to think, he lectures me whenever I drive and talk on the phone.)
“Yesterday I was machining a part for your cousin Cory’s truck and I figured I’d fly over his house to see if he was working on it today. Sure enough, saw him in the driveway, puttin’ the alternator in.”
“You were spying on him from the air?”
“Sure. I called him up too. Told him I was watching him from the sky. He looked up and started laughing.”
PS. I took the first two photos about three years ago while flying one summer with my dad over North Collins, N.Y. (my hometown.) If you squint, in that first one you can see our house.
PPS. The third photo is him and Isabella, sharing a private moment.
PPPS. The video below is Joe’s first date with Isabella.