The number of consecutive nights my Captain’s heartbeat has set the tempo for mine. The measure by which his breathing has led mine in symphonic rhythm. And the score his soft snores have composed to sing me to sleep in peaceful harmony. This marks the record number of continuous nights lying side by side since our paths remerged seven and a half years ago.
This momentous marathon began by successfully pref bidding for the second of an epic three-leg summer motorcycle trip of our dreams. The course concluded with an abrupt demand for family leave after suddenly learning my breast cancer from two years ago had declared a rematch – this time, adding the challenge of metastasis into a Stage IV rediagnosis withholding any known cure or guaranteed future.
During the past 28 years, my talented and experienced pilot has navigated tumultuous thunderstorms, recalculated altitudes and flight plans to keep his passengers safe and comfortable, wrangled bucking broncos toward the ground and landed those birds with skilled precision during threatening wind conditions.
Now his days have been filled by lovingly emptying disgusting fluid from my four surgical drains, tenderly sponge bathing my broken and scarred body, buttoning the loose-fitting shirt across my flattened chest, combing my hair for as long as it remains rooted on my head, chauffeuring me to numerous doctors, praying for me, holding me, weeping with me.
And then…he repeats this entire process.
On the 25th successive night, I intertwined my body around his, arousing the sensation of my breasts pressed against his back for the very last time in my life. Every moment of those final hours before surgery, I focused on etching that feeling into my memory for all time.
I’ve been in love with this man since I was an 11-year-old girl in the sixth grade, and he…a thirteen year old boy. Only I would not discover this fact for another 30 years.
Back in school, he was one of those guys who made all us girls weak in the knees. He emitted cool…a star athlete, a born leader, the hot drummer in my high school jazz band. That charming Maverick confidence that made all our hearts skip a beat. Or two.
What set him apart from all the other popular guys with similar traits…was his kindness. His compassion. His humility. Although I was an awkward underclassman bookworm with no social skills, he never treated me (or any other fellow students in that “club”) as such. He never thought of us as…less. He protected the weak. He stood up for the geeky timid kids everyone else picked on. He was a friend and a gentleman to every person he met. Not a typical trait of a popular jock.
Clearly, all the school girls shared this impression of him, so I thought nothing of it until we bumped into one another decades later. A chance meeting at a restaurant near my home, but an hour and a half drive from his. Clearly, all those qualities had etched deeper into his character over the years.
As we began reconnecting -consoling each other following devastating divorces (mine with which included a broken home of 3 young children) – we soon realized we had been soulmates all along.
One’s sentence finishes the other’s current thoughts. That kind of soulmate. Our texts message a request across a thousand miles at the precise moment the other had already ensued the task at hand. Despite separate geographic locations, we get up during the night simultaneously. I know this because my pilot sends me a short “sweet nothing” email before going back to bed. Just to say he loves me. And he misses me. EVERY night he’s away. Most times, I awake during the night mere moments from the time stamp on his email. I drift back to sleep feeling loved and content.
It saddens me that we had already lost out on 30 years of that kind of love. The head-over-heels, my-heart-still-flutters, my-eyes-get-lost-in-his type love. Minus half of “the rest of our life” passing us by while he’s on the road. Now…deduct an unknown hefty percentage of our remaining time together due to this awful illness.
The reason I’m sharing all these details with you, my pilot wife family, is to echo Angelia’s very mission behind this page. Firsthand. From the voice of experience. Reminding you all that our days with our beloved pilots are far too few already. Cherish every moment!
And resist any temptation to complain about this crazy life. Because we never know how much of it remains. I believe each of us were chosen, specially…to endure the hardships…and treasure the blessings brought to our families with this lifestyle. Here are the hints I’ve learned so far to keep our love alive and our family bonded.
When we fully merged our lives five years ago by entering into the sanctity of marriage, the “pilot wife life” lesson learned most quickly was…never waste a second sweating the small stuff. If we had disagreed or spatted over anything, whether trivial or monumental…I deeply regretted wasting one single second of our precious time together when we once again were forced to part ways for many days.
Next, I learned to make him a hero…not a mere stranger who showed up at our house a couple days a week. The reality is, our pilots hate missing events or being away from home when a crisis arises even more than we do. And after flying a few trips in his wings for weekend layovers, I learned their seemingly luxurious trips from one exciting city to another were seldom as glamorous as they seemed. In fact, they were exhausting! And grueling! And I was just sitting idly in the back…not commanding the ship.
Until you’ve experienced a 7-hr Mx delay for frozen waterlines on an early morning flight from DSM in February, waited 3 hours for takeoff at JFK while the runway was snow plowed, or witnessed your 18-hr SJD layover reassign to a 10-hr overnight prior to a SAN ferry flight, you cannot begin to perceive the frustrations our pilots encounter on a weekly basis. Many of which end with a dinner of Hudson News snacks or hotel pantry Budget Gourmets because they’ve arrived past closing time for restaurants in the airport or throughout the entire city, for that matter.
The first way our family exhibited a hero worthy welcome was by devising a simple game. We each would race to the driveway or to the arrivals door to see who could get the first hug at the conclusion of his trip. The smile on his face was priceless!
In his past, he had experienced a deep resentment toward his prolonged absence, rather than a celebration of his return. Building on this principle, we developed numerous practices to celebrate his membership in our family despite his physical proximity or distance from us.
We began attending opening night of popular movie releases at the same showing, although separate cities. Similarly, we worshiped with him Sunday mornings by saving him a seat beside us while he watched the live stream of our church service in his layover city. He listened to school concerts over speaker phone. We joined him across the country wherever he ended up during holidays or birthdays. (FYI…loads are actually surprisingly low on the actual holiday.) And he would lead us on a photo/video tour of layovers in interesting cities.
As for nurturing our marriage…at the conclusion of every trip, I make his homecoming a special event. Whether at the local airport across town or one of two international terminals two hours from us, I gussy up to meet him. A dress, heels, matching jewelry, perfume. The whole package. And my romantic pilot? After the kids are in bed, he lights fragrant Yankee Candles, plays soft music, and gives me Eskimo kisses. Then we shower together. Never underestimate the relaxing quality of slowly, lovingly lathering each other after a long span apart.
Then… I welcome him back to his own bedroom with sensuality. Become one flesh with him as God designed.
On occasions when the trip is overly demanding or ends ridiculously late, we implement the 5-minute rule…no matter how exhausted or weary, we devote a minimum of 5 minutes giving each other a back rub, leading to a sensual massage from head to toe. This reignites the intimacy between us, providing an immediate reconnection that denies time, distance, and fatigue the chance to wedge their way inside our marriage. This applies not only to the reunion night, but to every fast-paced attempt at condensing all chores and fun into a tiring stretch of days off, as well.
You’ve all heard various misconceived notions from well-meaners outside our group. The one face-to-face warning I’ve ever received regarding the faithfulness of my pilot was from a stranger on the hotel elevator in MSY. “Girrrrrll, you gotta WATCH him. You know those pilots…they got a girl in every city.” I thought, wth? This is not our pilots. At ALL! They long to come back to our love. They long to be missed. They long to wrap their arms around us and enjoy the comforts of home. They NEED our Trust. Our Support. Our Honor of them.
So ladies…make it ALL count. Dress sexy for your pilot. Turn him on! Make the ordinary extraordinary! We only have one pilot wife life. Let’s live it to the fullest!
Because personally, I must now accept the fact that I may never have the pleasure of granting my pilot’s greatest wish for our marriage… his wish for us to grow old and wrinkly together.
MY greatest comfort, though…is regretting NOTHING! Because I have made beautiful memories with him every single day…whether near or far from him…and I have loved him with my WHOLE heart!
May your expression of love for your pilot deepen beginning today…no matter where on this planet he may happen to be.
Nancy J. Morris (a fellow pilot wife)
About a week ago I received a message from one of our fellow aviation sisters. It was absolutely heartbreaking…and yet at the same time laced with so much hope and truth that I knew immediately I needed to share her story with you.
If you were given a final ultimatum by cancer…
If you knew that your days left here in this earth were very likely numbered…
If you could say something to your fellow aviation sisters knowing these things…
What would it be?
Nancy has bravely used her situation to pour out her heart and wisdom from a heartbreaking and unique perspective that I truly hope none of you ever have to face. They are inspiring words I hope you embrace and let seep deep into the corners of your heart.
And I hope tonight and tomorrow and the next day, no matter where he is, you love your pilot a little more fiercely in her honor. I know I am.
Nancy and her husband are courageously waging a battle against cancer. Please join me in praying for them and commenting with words of encouragement below. She will see them. Nancy, we love you, sister. Thank you for sharing your story with us. You are not alone. Let’s kick cancer’s ass, my beautiful aviation sister!