Several of you asked me about the back story to this picture that I posted Thursday.
I almost don’t know which direction to take because there are many tales captured within the faded and blurry 3×5 margins.
We could talk about my mom, impeccably dressed in her chic yellow sheath and taupe heels.
My mother dressed to the nines every day. Everything was always pressed, tucked, belted, and she didn’t sit down at breakfast without her makeup being on. I don’t remember seeing her in a give-away t-shirt and she NEVER wore shorts even though she has the cutest legs imaginable.
I am so adopted.
We could talk about the grass runway on which I’m standing that served as our airport.
When it wasn’t being used by airplanes, goats and the occasional cow grazed on it. Many a time we’d have to buzz the airstrip to shoo the animals away before coming in for a landing. There wasn’t a terminal building – just a small tin-roofed shack where you might find someone passing as air traffic control but more likely you’d find three or four people milling about trying to hitch a ride to wherever the next plane was going.
We could talk about my poor fashion choices, but that was covered rather thoroughly in the comments of the previous post.
Instead, I’d rather talk about the man standing next to me.
We were fortunate to have several Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) pilots work with us over the years, but Royce was my favorite. His home base was Coban where my family lived and I played with his children frequently, so our families were very close (that’s his wife, Linda, talking to my mom in the picture). He worked a lot with my dad, taking him into places that were incredibly remote and difficult to access. You cannot imagine the kinds of airstrips on which he had to land – many times nothing more than a hacked out clearing in a cornfield on the side of a mountain – but he always went where he was needed because he had a passion for people and a passion for ministry.
My experiences with him were on my frequent trips back and forth to boarding school (9 hours by car or half hour by plane – I’ll take the plane for $200, please, Alex). Nothing delighted me more than hearing the distinctive overhead buzz as he approached campus on a Friday afternoon. He was like a white knight riding in to rescue us from the evil clutches of our dorm-parents.
I may or may not have been an imaginative child.
He ALWAYS had the biggest smile as he stepped out of his plane to collect us and take us home. He ALWAYS greeted us with a bear hug and was so patient with our incessant chattering over the headphone mics. He ALWAYS was incredibly disciplined and safe with his cargo. He ALWAYS was dependable, in the big things and in the little things which ALWAYS included having a sick bag for my brother who yakked on.every.single.trip home.
I had the great privilege of reuniting with Royce a few years ago. He and his wife live within a few hours of here, and they came to visit and have dinner with us when my parents were in town. You cannot imagine the thrill of opening the door and be instantly enveloped in the strong arms of my hero pilot. Three decades instantly melted away and I was again that little girl in the garish orange overalls who couldn’t keep her lips from flapping over all the things that needed to be said. And he kept smiling and he kept laughing and he kept blessing me with his kind, gracious, open and generous spirit.
He’s still doing what he loves, though now the runways are paved and uncrowded with livestock and the cargo a little less motion sick.
And I still love him.
Have a nice day.