Blind flight

I may have told some of you that I flew down to Houston last week with a blind guy and his seeing eye dog next to me. We were in the first cabin seat, so there was lots of leg room for us and the dog, a Black Lab. While the dog licked my hand, I got to talking to the guy and we began to exchange information. I told him my name and that I was an engineer and he said he was Bob and he was a retired fighter pilot.

I’m glad he couldn’t see my face. I wasn’t sure what to say next, and in fact, I don’t remember what I said next. Except that I must have asked him if his blindness was a result of his occupation, and he said he was injured three times and the last time was what caused his blindness. I didn’t probe any further for details.

I thought of how necessary keen eyesight is to any pilot, and especially a fighter pilot, and how traumatic it is for anyone to lose their sight, let alone a fighter pilot. I decided not to ask him how it felt to go blind.

We talked about how much he loves dogs, and how my uncle Ray used to raise Springer Spaniels, and how long Labrador Retrievers live (only 10-12 years), and how many grandchildren we have, and the army (he actually missed Viet Nam), and our home towns, and why we were headed to Houston. Bob was heading home to Oklahoma City later that night.

His wife left him recently after 38 years of marriage. “She just told me one day she didn’t want to be married any more.” I told him I was married 38 years this year, but I’m not sure he heard me. I decided not to say, “Well at least you’ve got your dog, Rock.”

I helped him find out what gate he needed to get to for his connecting flight, but as soon as we got off, an airline employee came to his aid and led him along through the terminal. I thought she was overly attentive; that she should have let the dog do more. As we parted I said goodbye to Bob. “See ya,” I said, and immediately cringed.

Later on I got to thinking about Bob and our intermittent conversation. I started to put together some other things he said that caused me to realize that he was never a fighter pilot. His southern accent and my fading hearing had led me to believe that he said he was a fighter pilot. Now I realize that he really said he was a firefighter.

DadInspirations02/04/07 0 comments

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