Around the World experiences
The neopilots out there often inquire about how one gets to the position of earning a living doing what they love, which is flying. Though many paths exist to achieve the goal, this is my path and the influences along the way. Small encounters in life often give profound direction, which is why I never shy away from sharing the joys associated with flight. You never know which kid will grow and take the ball and run with it.
There are many influences on every professional career path. Many from the individual's youth via their family, school and house of faith. Some direction is derived from popular perceptions, the media such as movies fuel the imaginations of the young, for good or bad. Often the physical limitations involved in the pursuit of a career prevent a successful fulfillment of a dream just as often as a career is enhanced by certain skills or physical capabilities that many do not possess. In this section, I hope to convey the positive aspects that others have played in my selection of an exciting career that has been ultimately rewarding to me and my family.
My dreams of flight are rooted in family stories, the desire to see the world from a different perspective, and the adjunct decisions I have made in various stages of life. From my youth, I looked to the skies to see the airplanes traveling to and fro, wondering who was aboard and where were they going. It was augmented by the sounds of the train passing through town at night, signaling with the horn at each crossing. I lived in a very rural East Tennessee town (Oneida, population at about 4,000) in a family of 8. Family size and the poor roads did not encourage travel. We were encouraged to read as children, and read we did. I completed a good portion of the Encyclopedia by the age of 11 and the descriptions of far away places, places that the passengers on the trains and aircraft knew so well. I often thought of their destinations with envy.
We would go on one vacation per year, and we appreciated the trips more than my parents knew. Most often, those trips took us to my Mother's parents farm in Arkansas. It was a 1200 acre rice, soybean and winter wheat producing affair that interested me to the extent that the vehicles used to perform the tasks were massive and interesting. There I learned that my Grandpa Harris was the first licensed pilot in the state of Arkansas. He had been flying before a certificate was required.
I plied my trade as farm labor from the age of 8 or 9, trying to get some spending cash and hoping to drive the tractors. But most intriguing was the crop duster, the "aerial application" of herbicides, insecticides, and broadcast seeding of the rice. Now, don't get me wrong, the ultimate use of the airplanes did not fascinate me as much as watching the skill, the ballet like grace in the air, of the pilot. He happened to be my Great Uncle, Paul Doyle. At the time, he was one of the most seasoned pilots in the industry. He had a quick, handsome smile and a very cool demeanor. Now that was where I really wanted to work while on the farm! I would load the hopper with whatever the chemicals were for the day, help refuel the plane, etc. just for the chance to fly on the last flight of the day. Uncle Paul would set me in his lap in that Piper Pawnee, and taught me what the ailerons and elevator did. The view was amazing, the speed exciting and I was hooked. "I have to learn how to fly!" I told him. Paul just smiled, and said "You have to remember, after a while, it becomes a job."
It was there on the farm that I heard stories of another Great Uncle whom I had never met. Paul's brother Garth was a man who received a great deal of admiration from the family. He had been a C-47 and B-29 pilot in WWII, and was killed after the war while flying the B-29. After all the action of flying the "Hump" and missions to Japan from Burma, China and Tinian, he was killed in peacetime I am told, by a lightening strike on the aircraft. AvGas is much more volatile than the jet fuels used in most of today's air transport.
I bet he was a grand person. I sincerely wish I had the opportunity to meet him. He had a hand in making a difference in WWII. He had a hand in making a difference in my history. It was a lesson I took to heart.
Another family member who made a huge influence on my life was my Grandfather. Charles E. Tibbals was a man of few words, deliberate in his actions, and always single minded towards success. He encouraged me when I was 10 years old (and onward) to do my best at work. My Mom and Dad, as well, encouraged work in the children. At 10 I was mowing the grass and added a paper route at age 12 and continued those activities through my high school years. I also worked at my family business from the age of 14 during the Summer Breaks pulling lumber, driving a forklift or fetching the mail from the local post office. I have always worked, and always with a goal in mind whether that was a certain amount of money to purchase something or to learn how things worked..
I had considered becoming a minister. For those who know me, that might be a bit unsettling, but it is true. After several "non-typical" lessons given from the pulpit, it was put to me that I might not want to continue along that train of education. I simply saw faith as being a lot simpler than those who were in charge. Oh, well, all for the better of all concerned.
When I was in my teen years, a local man made quite an impact on the world. Senator Howard Baker, Jr., was Co-Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Watergate. He was on Television during the hearings, asking the hard questions: "What did the President know, and when did he know it." His precision in getting to the truth had me leaning to becoming an attorney. I went to him and got a job as a Senate Intern. Those were heady events and days for a young man of 17. Washington, D.C. was the power center for the free world in those Cold War days. I was inspired to serve my country, no matter what I did, but at that time, I thought I might become a lawyer and do the elected office track. After my time at Harding University, augmented with studies at Georgetown, I realized I was very short on funds to attend law school. Again, things work for the good as I looked into becoming a United States Marine Officer.
The Officer Selection Officer and his staff were set up in the student center at the University. Having always admired the impact the Marines had on world events, and my desire to serve the country, I immediately signed up to go to OCS between my Junior and Senior years. After a couple of weeks in Quantico, I was hooked. What a great organization. They augmented the work ethic my family had instilled in me and I still believe it was the perfect fit for me. I matured in the Marines. No 20 year old is quite ready to take on the responsibilities placed before them when they are commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. You grow up quickly realizing that your decisions can impact not only the lives of your charges, but also their families. It is ominous and sobering.
After Quantico, I went back to my Senior year of college and was encouraged, after doing quite well on the AQT/FAR exam, to apply for the flight program. "OK" I said and took the Flight Indoctrination Program in my last semester to get my Private Pilot License. It was a cram course for 20 hours of paid instruction which required a solo flight by the 13th hour. I did pretty well and was hooked on the engineering and aerodynamics of the discipline. I finished up my Private Pilot Certificate in Knoxville, TN while waiting to go to Quantico.
Next I went to Quantico for The Basic School, a course of instruction that all Marine Officers attend which is a mix of finishing school, instruction in History and Traditions, and general knowledge of all things Marine. There I learned that I had a lack of skill when it came to swimming. The Naval Flight School is heavy on water survival training and I realized that if I went to Pensacola at that time, I would likely never see the inside of a cockpit as I would probably flunk out of WST. I opted to go to the infantry out of TBS. This had many puzzled, but I knew that I had to dedicate some time to getting comfortable in the water, and besides, I might get my war in a little sooner by going to the Infantry. I took my Open Water Diver class in Okinawa, swam at every opportunity until I was comfortable in just about all situations. I still sank unless I was working the arms and legs, but I knew I had a fighting chance to pass the course in Pensacola.
I had also taken the opportunity to purchase my first airplane. For the hefty sum of $9,500 I bought a Piper Cherokee 140 (N9749W) with a 150 horse engine in it. It was not a pretty plane, not equipped with the newest King avionics, but it was mine and she would provide many hours of learning for a small sum. The payments on the plane were $248 a month and the insurance was $400 a year. Fuel was about $1.40 then and the flight time accumulated as my checkbook would allow. I learned so much from making mistakes by myself. I tend to be my own worst critic, so it was actually like flying with a stern task master. I accumulated a total of about 390 hours before I was done in the infantry.
After a 3 year tour at Lejeune, NC, getting back into a flight contract was a bit tricky. I had a CO at my Infantry Battalion level that despised aviators. "G** D****** pilot Captains getting paid more than me!! B*** S***!" He made a concerted effort to kill my application for flight school by putting my Administrative Action Form in his desk, knowing I had only a couple of months to get an approval. He went on leave, thankfully, and Lt. Col. J. P. Rigalot (a great man) found the AA form in the desk, put a wonderful endorsement on it and sent it up the chain. Two days later, I get a call from the CG's office telling me I had to go meet Major General Al Gray. He was a man much like my Grandfather, straight, to the point, and always concerned for those in his command. General Gray asked me why I wanted to become an Aviator. I told him that it was the only way I could continue to contribute to the Marines, and I had been flying and swimming for the last 3 years to gain the skills. The CG then endorsed the AA form and then noticed it had been quite a bit of time since I had submitted it. He asked why that was, and being straight forward as well, I told him the truth. With a "Don't let me down, Lt." he added "Expedite" to his endorsement, I got the orders to flight school and my CO did not make the next rank. My CO did hit me on Loyalty on my next FitRep, but it could not be denied. Gen. Gray became Commandant of the Marine Corps! All things work for good.
So, on the 4th of January, 1984, I arrived at NAS Pensacola. The Reagan buildup of the military was in full swing, and there was a bit of delay in starting actual flight training. The Learning Center was a slide show based education facility (we did not have power point, or PCs for that matter) that taught you everything you would encounter on your path towards those cherished wings of gold.
I took to the task with a vengeance. I loved everything about the courses, especially engineering and the aerodynamics. The navigation stages were already well entrenched in my mind. Every Saturday night, a friend from church, Steve Gaines, would get me into the T2 Buckeye simulator, and later the T4 Skyhawk simulator. My goal was to be number 1 in primary, get jets and then fly the F/A-18, which was the newest and hottest airplane in the inventory.
It was during this time the trials of Water Survival began. Struggling, I made it to the last phase, the mile swim with all gear on. There were about 40 flight students in the pool, all kicking and clawing their way to the finishing lap, all seemingly determined to drown me. Blinded by the excessive chlorine in the pool, I hit my head on one of the steel ramps which were in place to separate the pool into 3 distinct torture cells. The blood was not going to stop me as I only had 2 more laps to go. "Tweet" sounded the instructors whistle, "you, Bleeder, get out of the pool" he said. Remedial swim for me! I had been so sure of completion and then this.
I had noticed the instructor fancied himself a bit of a ladies man, so I used this to ensure success on my next attempt to swim the mile. An attractive young lady at church was looking to meet a naval aviator, and I decided that this might be a good opportunity to introduce her to the man of her dreams, and at the same time distract his attention. I was not so sure I could do this swim again. After introductions, she sat in the bleachers discussing life with her new friend. He yelled to me "Give me an Uuh Rah after every lap!" and he would put a check for the lap on his clipboard. Yes, I was one "Uuh Rah"ing fool that day. I set a personal best for my swim times by being a little generous to myself with the lap count!
After 2.5 months in the pool, waiting patiently and studying diligently, the move to Whiting Field finally happened. The T28 had just been fully retired and the T34C was the steed of the students. Some more basic courses were to be conquered and then we went to the flight line. That T-34C was a turboprop hotrod and I wanted to start NOW. My "on wing instructor", the fellow who would be my primary instructor, was Captain Gerald Hammes, call sign "Hulkster." He was a very strong individual, both physically and as a pilot. While on my first preflight, he saw experience in the way I performed the tasks. He asked "How many hours do you have, LT?" I asked what he was talking about and he replied "Don't try to blow smoke up my *ss, I can tell" I hesitantly told him 400 hours. He smiled and said "OK, you have the flight from start to shutdown." This was supposed to be a show and tell type introduction, and he let me do the whole flight, including the landings. I can still remember the gym locker smell of that cockpit that day. All of the military aircraft smelled that way from that day until I picked up a new aircraft from the factory.
Primary instruction went well, very well, from basic Familiarization flights to Instruments and Aerobatics. I loved every minute of it, especially the formation flying. I was in contention for number one in the class with a fine Lt. Harris, (no relation to my Mother's family). He and I had a good friendship and competition. We were basically tied at the end of Primary, and I hoped for the coveted selection that the No. 1 student traditionally received. Then the shocker: No jet positions for the next year. What!?! The Reagan era buildup had not included increasing the training capacity of the various pipelines, but especially the jet courses. I was sick, to say the least.
The next couple of weeks was an emotional drain. I felt I had not been rewarded for the excellence I had put forth. Then I realized, once again, that the world does not revolve around me, and I am merely a small cog in it. But it did upset me greatly when I was put into helicopters. I looked at that Bell 206 on the flight line and said to myself "The max speed on that thing was exceeded in WW1!" Oh, well, I attacked this with all I had, even if I no longer had the advantage of experience.
And then the good from all that turmoil came into my life. I met my wife while flying skydivers at Horak Field, AL. I flew for this club for free skydives during my weekends, and I saw this vision who later became my wife while flying there. If I had been assigned to jets as I desired, I would never have met her. All things work for good, indeed!
Helicopters were a real challenge. In forward flight, they were much like the airplanes I was used to flying, but that hover thing was kicking my butt! In the Fam courses, auto-rotations were conducted until you could do them in your sleep, low level navigation training, tactics, formation and finally Instruments. The quality of instruction was nothing short of phenomenal. . I graduated 2nd in the graduating class of 62. There was no way I was going to get screwed on the model and base location selection process. I wrote CH-53s in Hawaii on my dream sheet. Orders were issued and that is where my new professional direction.
The squadron in Hawaii, HMH-463, was the most professional group with whom I had been associated, and remains so to date. We flew the CH-53Ds, did many deployments to Okinawa and other islands and had an accident free history that were the envy of most military squadrons. I give credit to that to leadership and quality pilots. The individual pilots there were exceptionally talented, and the leadership of Lt. Col Dan Pender was an example for all men to follow in their lives. He was an old Vietnam Gunship pilot and thoroughly understood what it meant to command. There were orders from on high, sure, but he made the hard calls based on gut instinct and moral courage. Dan, I still admire you!
Life was good in Hawaii, good friends and a home near the beach. Both of our children were born there and I cannot say I have ever seen more beautiful places.
From there, Karen and I moved to Southern California and I became an instructor in the CH-53D and later the CH-53E. Introduced in 1982, the Echo model was a mature aircraft by 1989, having overcome a tendency to have the tail boom fall off at the disconnect bearing. The problem was fixed by the proper execution of lubrication application and correcting the maintenance manuals to reflect the same. The early CH-53E pilots were doomed to a short career. Having an aircraft new to the inventory that had problems they were often grounded. I had made note of this early on and decided to go with the D model until things cleared up. Too few flight hours means minimal chance to compete for ratings, designations and promotion. Never sign on to the newest airframe around.
I had been in HMT-302 for about a year when Iraq invaded Kuwait. I thought "Crap, I am in the wrong squadron to get my war." The Group was ordered to deploy to Saudi Arabia within 10 days of the initial event, but not the training squadron of which I was a member. At the O Club that weekend, Col Garret, the Group CO was there and I approached him stating "If you have need of an Officer for any task that you think I can accomplish, please request orders and I will be on the way!" He remembered that and I had orders very soon thereafter. My war was finally here. I know that sounds sick to some readers, but Marines are that way. You don't join the Corps for the benefits, you join to fight!
During my combat tour, I hate to admit, I had many enjoyable experiences and lived well for a Marine having a comfortable life in a combat zone. I was sent to Jubail at the airfield, where I was told I would be the Group S-4 (supply) Officer, a field of which I had minimal knowledge. The morning after I arrived, we had a qualified S-4 running the supply train, and I was placed in the Group S3 (Operations) in the planning staff. There I was reunited with an old friend, Steve Paquette. Paco, as Steve is known, was a fellow CH-53 pilot and is one of the most intelligent people I have met to this day. He could read a phone book and recite the names, numbers and addresses after scanning the document. Paco was also very humorous on a plane few others understood. Paco is now a published author. Superficial Cuts is his work.
With the only infantry around being the Army 82nd Airborne, we had a tenuous situation as we were the most forward point of defense if Iraq made good on the threat to move into Saudi territory. CentCom (Central Command) was quickly being established in the theater of operations, but was not fully functional. Paco had an advanced understanding of computer networking, a gift few had at that time. He developed the method, using a format put into a protocol called Kermit, for transferring the requests for support to higher headquarters, and sending them down to the appropriate squadrons for action. This was the basis for the ATO (Air Tasking Order) that came to dominate the battlefield throughout the war.
It was Paco's desire to stay on station that led the CO to send me on a little tour as an Air Advisor to the Presidential visit on Thanksgiving. The duty took me to the palace at Dahran where we teamed together with General Fratarangelo from Centcom and I worked with the Secret Service and HMX 1 in planning the events of the visit.. Life was most excellent for 4 weeks and the visit went off without a hitch. It was good to get to know some of those pilots, and the contacts were beneficial later in life.
I only flew 20 combat hours because the planning staff did not get much stick time. I must say that the entire time was exciting and rewarding.
After the Gulf War, I went back to HMT-302 and a new CO. Lt. Col Dave Libbey was there and he was (is) a profoundly good man. Flying with the newly designated Marine Naval Aviators was a joy. I did not use the typical format for instruction. My talent fell in adapting the course of instruction to the needs of the young pilots. I felt some were so far ahead of the syllabus that to perform some of the functions was a waste of time, and extra emphasis on the basics for those who were struggling was in order. Breaking down the complex to the simplest elements seems to be natural for me. It is the method I have used to remember details through my life experience. I recommend the technique to every pilot I have instructed, and it makes taking instruction much easier on me as well.
I had sold 9749W prior to going to Hawaii. The cost of shipping was just too great. In California, at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, was an Aero Club. I purchased a Piper Warrior II N8102S to place on the flight line at the club. The purpose was to have an aircraft close for personal use and to make enough money to pay for flying it. The venture was successful and I used much of the income generated to get my multi engine rating at Sheble Aviation, then in Blythe, CA. Joe Sheble ran the establishment and did a fine job in instruction. I also added another aircraft to the line to build complex time. The Rockwell 112A, N1170J, was a beautiful single engined aircraft with excellent instruments. I rented it for $74 an hour and leased a Cessna 310P for $75. The trading of flight time was an excellent investment. I sold the Warrior prior to leaving California, at a slight loss, and kept the Rockwell for my life after the Marine Corps.
Karen and I left the Marine Corps in 1993 and moved to Tennessee. We had selected the town of Tullahoma as our new home. It is a very active aviation oriented community with Arnold Air Force Base near the city. We had purchased a farm near town and built the farm from scratch, and our new home, and life progressed. Our children were involved in school and church, and I needed to find employment. At the time, I had a Commercial/Instrument Helicopter and MEL certificate with many instrument hours logged.
I searched out the employment site for American Eagle. Nashville was, at that time, a hub for American. American Airlines was the one airline with which I had ambitions. A friend had been hired there and he had nothing but good to say about it. While the interview process progressed, we got to the salary phase of the discussion and the offer was $17,500 per year. I believe that everyone has to pay their dues, so I said as much and added "and if it will get me aboard with American Airlines, then that is what I will do." The interviewer stated that American does not hire out of their own feeder airline. (I understand that has changed) With that information, I walked away from American Eagle. $17,500 is not even enough to feed the family, especially if there is no link to my ultimate goals. I took a job selling mobile homes and running the farm I purchased with the severance money from the Marines and the sale of N1170J. It was good for me to realize that the world is not always idyllic and sometimes we have to do what we don't like in order to do the right thing.
After 5 years of lean, aviation wise, I went on line like I had done so many times and saw that Air Evac Lifeteam was hiring at a base they had established near my home. I had been flying fixed wing for the local skydive center and was reasonably proficient at airwork, so I applied and was hired after the normal interview. Helicopters were going to be my future in aviation, even if that were not my goal initially. I went to "training" in West Plains, MO, and realized that civil helicopter aviation was not what I had imagined. The aircraft was minimal, but the pay was not so bad. Like the DO told me at the time: There are two kinds of companies in the helicopter world. Those that you have to run to the bank after you get a check, and those that you do not have to worry about it bouncing. AEL checks did not bounce.
During the first 3 months I progressed to the Base Lead Pilot position. This was mainly because the lead at the time did not want the position, and the company was growing so the other pilots were leaving to work more closely to their homes. I soon discovered that I could make my base the way I wanted it to be. The General Operations Manual outlined the minimal standards to be met, and I wanted to make my base one of excellence. We instituted checklists and procedures that I felt were needed, and things were better. We had a need for fuel monitoring, aircraft swap out procedures and many other little things that needed standardization. These things were done easily and efficiently.
At the time, we as Base Leads had an input in the hiring process. I made a couple of good contacts through my conversations with the pilots at Vanderbilt Lifeflight. One of the pilots there, Roy Smith, asked if I had hired anyone for the opening he had seen online. He went on to recommend Tom Luiperspbeck, a pilot at Averitt Air. Tom was an interesting, intense personality and I liked his background. I thought during my interview with him that he was more qualified than a typical line pilot. He promised me that he only wanted to fly the line, but I knew that he would be a Chief Pilot or DO in short order. One year later, he was my boss and the transformation of the training department began.
Another acquaintance was Dennis McInnis. He had a wonderful history as a Dustoff pilot in Vietnam and had gone on to help establish Erlanger Life Force, perhaps the finest helicopter EMS service in the country. He had called to talk about working at the Lewisburg base and I recommended him for hire. He was placed at a different base, but after a while had some medical certificate issues. Tom and the company DO took him in to further develop the Ground Training course of instruction. Excellent is too small a word to describe the changes instituted by those two people. I am proud to have been involved in their careers with the company. Networking is the key to success. You might be a hiring manager and actually hire the person who will be your boss. That is a good thing! Your life will be infinitely more easy when you can pick up the phone and get something changed, or a policy explained. A friendly voice on the other end of the phone is comforting.
With Tom and Dennis at the home office, I was taken on as an instructor pilot for the company. This was an opportunity to further influence the safety in a positive manner. I was encouraged to get my CFI, a painful process to say the least. It was good to do, and I learned a lot in the process, but still I have a poor opinion of the MOI portion of the instruction. The FAA seems to think that everyone is capable of flying aircraft. I disagree completely. There are some people who cannot grasp spatial relationships, navigation, or just have no coordination to a level necessary to fly competently.
I was later to become a Regional Pilot Manager, with Tom as my Chief Pilot. I enjoyed the Check Airman aspects of the job and hiring of young energetic pilots. Many of the young pilots were impressive in their talents, yet some were amazingly incompetent. The training department was very effective at eliminating those that should never have had a PPL, let alone a Commercial certificate. Perhaps it was a case of Parker Pen hours being exposed, but you never know. One thing will always be evident. If you have frauded your qualifications, it will show up when you have to perform to a higher level.
Then I decided to get my Airline Transport Pilot certificate. It was so good to get back into the instrument flight regime. There had been many times I had flown cross country in the instrument realm and thoroughly enjoyed it. Helicopter Solutions provided the airframe and the training.
After 9 years, and a heartbreaking accident within my Region, I decided that I could no longer bring any further safety improvements to the company. It was a painful decision as I had many good times with the company and the people there were overall a great group.
Employment with CHC Global followed as an IFR Offshore Captain in the Sikorsky S-76. It is good to get back into a Sikorsky and this is a company that spans the world and offers many opportunities to travel to locations I never thought I would see. The pay is on par with the airlines and the professionalism is second to none. I worked in Equatorial Guinea, Africa for nearly 3 years.
I passed my Captain's checkride in my first simulator session, and after more than one year in the field with no check airman available, I have passed my command checks. It has been a long road, no doubt, but the S76 is one sweet aircraft. I never thought I would fly a helicopter that flys itself better than I can.
Currently, I am an S76D rated ATP in Thailand and continuing my quest for excellence. The process of Nationalization in Thailand requires that a pilot be in the "instructor mode" at all times. The local pilots there, young and excited to be in aviation, are learning the skills that so many of us older pilots consider second nature. Never take for granted that your co-pilot knows how to perform a task. That assumption could be your last. I do, though, love being around the youthful exuberance that once drove my decisions in life.
The key to success is patience and persistence. Everyone has to do a job that may not be ideal in order to get to where they want to be. There are shortcuts, but they rarely pay off. Work hard, have a goal in sight and do not quit. This applies to whatever you are endeavoring to accomplish. My future has a few more turns in it, I am sure, but I will never stop doing the best job I can do, at what I am doing now.
How the Family Contributes
I do owe my family a big thanks for supporting my activities. I am proud of their understanding, appreciative of their love for me, and my heart looks forward to being an old retired bugger, hosting Christmas for grand children who long to hear of the adventures of their Excelsior!
When asked, “What are your favorite moments with your wife?” I have to respond with the following: The best times are those times most simple. I enjoy stealing a glance of Karen unawares. Such as when she is reading in the living room as we together watch a program. That is when I see the purity in her face, the dreams of her future and I feel the amazing realization that she agreed to be my wife. I enjoy the sight of her riding on the boat, sunning her face and catching the wind in her hair. She is for me, and I for her.
If pressed for more specifics, I recall the following:In our past, I remember the time she took me to the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro to catch a plane and leave for combat duty. Unlike all the rest of the wives, she was strong and did not shed a tear. She knew this was my destiny, and my desire, and through all the uncertainty, she was there to support, not undermine with doubt. I recall her willingness to aid those in need, without hesitation, without concern for her own status or dignity. The day I first witnessed this is the day I asked her to marry. Even in her acceptance, she showed concern for others. Ask her about that someday.
I recall with great fondness her statement when giving birth via C Section to our oldest, Jade. After 19 hours of labor and pain, she looked up at me and said “This is how we will do the next one!” No hesitation, no doubts. I love her heart. Tender and fragile, yet tough and resilient, Karen is always trying to define her relationship with God and people. She is a dreamer, seeing herself as needing to be more perfect. Is that selfish? No, it is our mission and she personifies a desire to be perfect. To me, she already is just that. I love thinking about the time when we were dating and she slid my pith helmet down on her head, slid her glasses out to the tip of her nose and acted like a little old man for the passing cars. I wonder what they thought was going on?
I remember when she told me she was depressed. Not just sad, but really affected emotionally. It happens to all of us at times, but she is particularly affected by the shortening days of fall and the cold of winter. It was one of the most troubling things to me because I realized I could not fix it for her. I could not be her knight in shining armor when it came to this enemy. She took on the foe alone, still fights with it at times, and she showed her strength and whipped it. When I think of my lovely bride, and the hopes of getting wrinkles with her, I smile. I will still chase her around the house! She brings me joy, hope, an expectation that I need to be better in life, and that I have a reason to press on spiritually, professionally and relationally with her. Ahhh, life is indeed good.