Nov 3, 2008

Come fly with me . . .

Gasket Andy.
My Grandfather.
A man ahead of his time.
Really should have been called Loose Gasket Andy.

Gasket Andy owned an airplane.

Gasket Andy loved flying his airplane.

Gasket Andy would tell my parents that we were going to take a trip to the store to pick something up and we'd be back in a little while. I would innocently hop in the passenger seat with one of my sister's and off we would go. I'd wave goodbye to my family with one hand while hanging onto the door handle using all of my strength to stay seated with the other as Gasket Andy sped out of the driveway like Mario Andretti in his final lap around the track.

We would pass one store after another. I would ask why we weren't stopping. Gasket Andy would laugh and say, "They don't have what I'm lookin' for," and then he would step on the gas as we sped ahead toward adventure. After going straight for a few miles he would suddenly veer off the road into an open space and we'd be at the airport. The airport had a little "Mom & Pop" store where they sold a little bit of everything. Technically we were "Going to the Store." We would go inside and get an Abba Zaba and a soda while Gasket Andy got the plane ready for take-off.

My sister and I would play "Rock - Paper - Scissors" to see who would sit in the front passenger seat next to Gasket Andy. I lost this particular time. That meant I was sitting up front. Gasket Andy smiled at me as we walked up to the plane. "Whose my co-pilot today?" he yelled over the roar of the engine. "Me," I said weakly.

My sister climbed into the back seat of the plane and buckled up. I climbed into the co-pilots seat, strapped myself in, said a quick prayer to the patron saint of airplanes, crossed myself a dozen times, checked the buckle on my seat belt again and again as Gasket Andy hopped into the pilot's seat and radioed the tower for clearance to take off. We taxied down the runway and gathered speed. Gasket Andy yelled, "Here we go," as we left the ground below and headed for the friendly skies. We had a routine. It was the same every time. Gasket Andy would circle the control tower and dip a wing at the traffic controller in fond farewell and then we would make a sharp right and head for the hills. Head for adventure. We never got too far before Gasket Andy would turn the controls over to the co-pilot. This time it was me. He would tell me to fly the plane as he slowly let go of the wheel on his side. I would grip the wheel with my tiny little ten-year-old hands and hold steady as I wished for God to make me 5 inches taller in the next few seconds so I could see out the front window to know where we were headed. Loose Gasket Andy would tell me to turn the wheel to the right. The plane would dip. Then he would tell me to turn it to the left. The plane would dip the other way. I could see where we were going. Headed for the ground. Fast. Gasket Andy would take over the controls and tell me what a fine job I'd done and then the stunts would begin. We would shoot up past the clouds and then down again. We'd loop in circles, turn one way, then another and then when I thought we'd done just about everything we could possible do with an airplane...Gasket Andy would cut the engine. Silence... soaring with the eagles ... flying without a net...and then after a long moment...the sound of the sputtering engine would start again and we'd level out just in time to head back to the airport before dark and around the control tower dipping a wing and then land back on the ground safely.

We'd always make a quick stop back at the "Mom & Pop" store before heading back home. Gasket Andy would run in as he left the car in park and my sister and I waiting for him. He'd come back out with a brown paper bag and toss it in the back seat and hand us kids a treat he'd picked up inside for the ride home. We'd eat our ice cream, Ding Dong or Twinkies and talk about what a fine day it had been. He'd race back down the straight highway and we'd make a sharp turn into the driveway and there would be our parents standing out front wondering where in the world we had been. Gasket Andy would reach in the back seat, grab the paper bag and say, "Tell em we got lost," as he jumped out of the car and handed our grandmother the bag.

We were lost alright...
...lost in adventure...


Candid Carrie said...

I love this story on so many, many levels.

1. You know who Mario Adretti is and how he ran that final lap of any race.

2. Co-pilot. I'll bet there was a St. Christopher medal around your ten year old neck (because this is before he got un-sainted).

3. Every Catholic knows that you can't do the sign of the cross an even amount of times, it must be odd or none of them count at all.

4. Untraditional traditions beginning with your grandfather and never concluding as you have continously paid them forward effortlessly to your own.

5. Bribery in the healthiest form. I am confident that Hostess knew exactly what was represented in those high preserved delicacies. The layer of sponge-like goodness which represents the real world used its foam-like power to hold and protect the even-sweeter substance it protected ... the secret.

Tell me this is going directly in to a book. Lie to me if you have to and I will eat a Hostess Cupcake in your honor. And it won't be nearly as good as I remember, but I'll be alright because the smell of the products hasn't changed in years.

Auntie Social said...

It was pure terror for me when he would pretend to run out of gas in "tank #1" and have to swich to "reserve tank #2"...
As he comically fumbled at the controls "looking for the switch" I always prayed that he had remembered to fill it.

buffalodick said...

That's why my kids don't have kids.. they're afraid that their grandfather would have them shooting guns, driving a car, and pulling practical jokes, around age nine... Your grandfather was cool before it was cool!

Swirl Girl said...

What a great story.