Oak Trees

Often I have said, “I am busier than a one-legged sailor in an ass-kicking contest.” It is not an excuse; it is merely one reason I have not been writing as often as I should.

There has been a lot going on, from starting a new business to producing books for other authors, and chasing down mechanical issues in planes, boats, and cars. Scheduling meetings, participating in webinars and zoom meetings, and learning more about marketing. It has been … busy.

But I would have it no other way.

I remember a day back in 1984 (yeah, what a year, just ask Orwell!) when I was standing on a soccer field in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We had just arrived at the field, and having just left the bachelor’s officers’ quarters, the newscast was fresh on my mind. It was an article about Social Security going bust. As I was talking with one of the other pilots, I made the comment that I guess I was just going to work until I died.

I am retired, but not. I am still working as much as I ever did in the past, but I have more control over my schedule – and that is the best! I have books to edit, articles to write, my own books to complete, students to teach how to fly, and more. And I could not be happier.

Often I have read about those who “retired” and did just that – they started sitting on their butts and did nothing. In the process of doing nothing, they typically drank too much, ate too much, did not exercise, and in a very short time, they died.

I am not into the dying thing. Don’t get me wrong, I am … curious. I am just not in a hurry to satisfy that curiosity.

Every year, and now with more regularity, I have friends who have made the great trip. It is sad, but in my heart, I know they are no longer suffering from everything this world can throw at them. I also realize they now know all the secrets to the universe. And like I said, I am curious, but I can wait.

Aviator and aviation writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry captured the essence of friendship, flying, and lost friends the best in his book Wind, Sand and Stars. He explains how once a friend is lost, old friends cannot be created out of hand. Comrades who have lived together, worked hard with and for one another, and treasured incredible memories are very special. You can make new friends, but the friendship of an old friend cannot be instantly replicated. Saint-Exupéry said, “If you plant an oak, you will hope in vain to sit soon under its shade.” He went on to say, “For such is life. We grow rich as we plant through the early years, but then come the years when time undoes our work and cuts down our trees. One by one our comrades deprive us of their shade, and within our mourning we always feel now the secret grief of growing old.”

Thinking about it, I have come to realize I do not really fear death – I fear the process. If it is quick, that is one thing. But if it is a long, drawn-out misery, that is another. And like Saint-Exupéry, I have come to realize the real fear is living life without some of the oak trees of my life.


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