Friday, July 22, 2016

Stale Tobacco Smoke Again

It is 5:20 and I am up and out of the shower. I am feeling good. My nose is clear. I checked my desk for the UPS mailing label I forgot to put away last night.

The form was overlaid with the last email from the financial advisor:  “PS. I still need your signatures to open the annuity account.” Events of last week started to make sense.

I knew I needed to send the signatures but in my mind that was linked to sending the check. That was something I would not do until I could understand how annuities worked in relation to compound interest. And figuring that out was extremely difficult because I even had to use the iPhone calculator to set decimal points in the correct location.

My math coprocessor was on the blink again as well as my entire digestive system. That is how I lived for 50 years. Singular makes possible safe trips to the bathroom.

I can look at numbers with no meaning. I can graph numbers and there is meaning.

My wife did not like for me to fly a single engine light plane. I have used that as the reason I quit flying. My reaction to aircraft engine exhaust was the real reason. It is as bad as stale tobacco smoke.

The worst case was learning to do wheel landings. I pinned the wheels to the runway from an uncomfortable distance. This is before I learned to watch for the shadow of a wheel to know I was close to the ground. I have no memory of taxiing to the hanger, getting out of the plane, or entering the office. To this day I remember the shock of stepping out of the office into the hanger space with no idea of how I got there. I had wanted to solo on my birthday.

On other landings there was no sound or feeling of the wheels skidding on the runway as they touched down. Dr. Carlton Lee, our allergist at St. Joseph, MO, many years later, called this momentary amnesia. At the moment the aircraft stalled, engine fumes come into the cabin.

In later years this was a problem at airports when jets replaces props. I could become completely disoriented not only in space but also time in the terminals.

Every so often flight instructors are checked by giving a recent graduate a check flight. I was picked. Cotton Woods forewarned me that a cross-controlled stall had been added to the check flight. I had never done one. He told me how. “Just remember that as the nose comes up into the stall, there is no way to predict how the plane will fall.”

The engine labored. The stall. The landscape was slowly spinning about a point to my upper right. I had no sense of being right side up or upside down. I stopped the spin and gently leveled out. I had no sense of falling. I also had plenty of room for the maneuver.

On return to the airport, I was puzzled that my altitude was way too high. I had set the altimeter to above sea level in error! I was asked to give the correct altitude. I could not do that. I could not subtract. We were a 1,000 feet too high over the Memorial Cemetery. I was too high and instructed to do a cross-wind wheel landing. My only hope was to do that down wind from the hanger on the next approach.

It worked. The up wind wheel was pinned solidly on the ground before the wind knocked us about after passing the hangar. He congratulated me on the landing and my flying style: Trim the aircraft to fly itself and use the controls to alter that setting. We adapt within our limitations without knowing we have them.

Last week I was at an hour meeting with smokers in a small room (with no burning cigarettes). Then we had a family gathering at the Heidelberg restaurant. My digestive track was in an uproar again, and a characteristic lower abdominal pain again appeared but not in stop-in-your-tracks intensity. After 26 years in clean air houses, the past has returned to haunt me again.

Numbers no longer made sense last week. I could set up Excel with a rough estimate of what I wanted to do with a graph. I could change numbers and watch the effect on the graph.

Now that the decision has been made and acted upon so we have an annuity to pay my wife’s memory care bill for the next 10 years, it will be interesting to see if my remaining nagging back pain will again disappear. Is it relief from caregiver’s stress, the new chair yoga, or the full exercise routine that is working here? 6:51 and time for breakfast.

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