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Friday, January 1, 2016

Lost In Life?

There have been some hints along the way in this blog, but perhaps it is time to spell something out.  The purpose of this blog is to inspire those who may read it to learn to fight to overcome obstacles.  My story, so far, may seem like I was having a wonderful time and I was, but it is also about having a vague goal to be an achiever in my life and then developing a more specific goal of finding a way to make it happen.  It is about developing a focus on the goal and not allowing outside influences to deter you from working toward it. 

There were many issues for me along the way and many of them were self imposed.  For example, many airlines require a college degree of their applicants.  The reason is that there are so many applicants for the jobs, that the airlines use this as a way to thin the herd.  I gave myself the challenge of getting an airline job without having a degree.

During my years at Butler, I decided to make an effort to do something about that.  I was using the GI Bill to pay for my flying and since flight hours were so important and tough to come by, I was using all the money to pay for flight lessons.

I had a few extra dollars of my own and thought I might dip my toe in the water of college education, by applying for external studies courses at the University of Pittsburgh.  My counselor told me that there would be lots of writing required in college, so it might be a good idea to take a remedial writing course, to sort of warm up and get me prepared.

I agreed.  I had to attend a class in the beginning and then would just complete writing assignments and mail them to the "professor" for his grading and advice.  

This was in the 70s.  My last time spent in a classroom other than the military, was in high school in 1963.  I had attended 12 years of Catholic school, where things were run like a tight ship.  Then I had attended many classes in the Army.  'Nuff said.  I had been trained to teach in a military manner, with military bearing.  Remember all the discussion about demerits?

It goes without saying, that when I went to Pitt for class, I was obviously older than all the others in the class.  I sat down and started looking for the "professor".  People were kind of milling around, slowly migrating to their seats.  They all looked like the young college students of the 70s.

Finally, I see a dude standing in the center of the area at the front of the classroom.  He had long unruly hair and a scraggly beard and raggedy clothes.  I would not have been surprised to see gnats buzzing around his head.  He was facing the chalk board, away from the class.  As the students settled and became a little quieter, he turned and just stood there, as if he were daydreaming or something, kind of rubbing his hairy chin as his eyes were turned upward.

You have to remember that my instructor training had taught me that when you are first meeting the group of students you are going to be teaching, you must make an impression of competence.  By that standard, "professor" was failing as far as I was concerned.

I forced myself to pay attention and started mailing in my offerings, but it was just not possible for me to get over this first experience with what was happening to higher education in our country.  I have to hand it to anyone who can get through it.  I could not do it.

My younger brother, Kevin, is such a person.  Kevin was a great left handed baseball pitcher as a kid.  I worked with him a lot and he was like a sponge, absorbing all I could teach him. He had a fastball that looked like a BB to batters and a palmball that looked like the moon.  By mixing them together, he had batters swinging at air.  He could make the ball break either way, curveball, screwball.  Because of his age, we agreed not to throw these breaking pitches after he learned how to throw them.  It could be harmful to his young, developing arm.  When the kids on opposing teams learned he was pitching against them, they groaned.

Kevin excelled at every level as he worked his way up, then suddenly, it was gone.  He was pitching in a game and could not throw the ball over the plate.  He had perfect control before this.  His coach, for whom he had played for several years, knew something was wrong and took him out of the game.

It turned out he had injured his knee the previous off season playing pick up basketball and this changed his throwing motion, leading to an injury to his elbow.  He had lost his goal.

He was still a good kid and worked a couple part time jobs, but I could see that a light had gone out.  He seemed to be off the track a little to me.

I suggested learning to fly.  He was old enough to drive.  I told him to ask our parents if he could drive to Butler with their car.  If that was allowed, I would teach him how to fly and we employees got a nice discount on the airplanes.

Since he was so young, I believed there was no hurry, so we had him flying several different airplanes.  Once I was flying a friend's Aztec to Norfolk VA to take a class and we would stay with our cousin there.  I took Kevin along and let him fly the plane both ways.  When we were cruising, I showed him how to set up the autopilot, then told him to slide his seat back and put his feet on the panel.  I pointed out that there were guys in airline jets making a ton of money doing exactly what he was doing.  I saw the light come back on.

He took the bull by the horns with very little input from me after that.  When he graduated from high school, he attended a community college that had an aviation school.  He would be taking regular college courses and getting college credit for his flight lessons.

While he was at the school, he became aware that the school had an air traffic controller program.  He thought it would be a good way to earn additional credits, so he signed up.  His timing was good and he ended up getting a job as an ATC in Philadelphia.  That was a long time ago.

Eventually, he was able to transfer to Pittsburgh (PIT) and was there to help with our parents as they aged.

Today was the day he retired.



  1. Thanks for the nudge in the right direction, brother. It made all the difference. KC