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  • Flying lessons at 80

  • I had left some things in my car that I needed to retrieve. The day was cold and blustery, but I thought that if I hurried, I wouldn't need my coat.
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  • I had left some things in my car that I needed to retrieve. The day was cold and blustery, but I thought that if I hurried, I wouldn't need my coat.
    Rushing out to my car, I reached for my keys and, to my anguish, realized I had left them in my coat pocket in the shop. I ran back across the street to retrieve them. And that, my friends, is where my flying lesson began.
    I had not remembered that my bulky, warm, fuzzy-on-the-inside boots would make me clumsy when I tried to run. And while trying to do a fleet-footed "Bambi" move, my toe caught the edge of the curb, which threw me into the first phase of my flying lesson.
    It started with a flying-squirrel formation: arms spread out, body projected into the perfect glide. Then, everything went bad.
    I turned into a large, overweight bullfrog in midair and came down — PLOP! — on all fours. My hands hit first, throwing my glasses off, leaving them hanging on one ear, as my butt came up in the air. Skidding forward, I left a bit of knee hide to mark my landing. I stayed in that position trying to figure out what had happened.
    Next came the problem of how I was going to get up off the sidewalk and stand in a more dignified position. The world was watching me. I could try a "poor, pitiful Pearl" act and lie whimpering until someone tall, dark and handsome came to my aid, scooped me up in his arms and set me, oh so gently, on my feet.
    But I ain't no spring chicken. At 80, the face is sagging and the gray hair is thinning and there's a creak in every joint. I figured I had better do this myself and hope there weren't too many spectators.
    I tried getting myself to a sitting position, but I was having no luck. So I pulled myself with my elbows across the sidewalk, heading for a retaining wall, when a voice came from out of nowhere.
    "Need some help?"
    Turning my head toward the sky, I expected to see an angel. Instead, I saw a rough-looking character in well-worn work clothes waiting for my answer. Oh, well. I guess angels come in all shapes and sizes.
    I wanted to say something to save face and make light of my ordeal. I thought to myself, I could tell him:
    "No, I'm doing an ant survey to determine where they go in the winter."
    Or, "I'm fine. I just have a need to commune with nature."
    Instead, I humbly said, "Yes, please."
    My angel reached down, grabbed me under both arms, gave a mighty heave, and I was on my feet. I thanked him, and he was gone.
    It felt good being in an upright position. I tried to rearrange my hair so I could see to get back to the shop. Taking small steps, I minced carefully along until I finally arrived.
    My manager took one look at me and asked in alarm, "What happened to you?"
    "Well," I replied, "I just took my first flying lesson."
    Dolores Schwalb has lived in Medford since 1927.
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