"PRESS ON" A country therapist's journey

Why "Press On"? Is it motivational, devotional, or just encouragement? The first time I heard that said I was about 8 and I was riding in the back seat of 'the burb' while it pulled a pop-up camper in a long family caravan of campers along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Some of my cousins were riding in our suburban while my father spoke with their father via walkie talkies. My uncle's rig was quite large while our grandparents was a little smaller. They kept watch on each other and communicated any change of plans that were needed. The Bay Bridge is a fascinating and beautiful bridge. It just seems to go on for miles just above the water's surface. There are very few places to pull off to the side of the bridge in case of trouble so as we were crossing we were quite concerned as the wind started to pick up and rain started to pour. We were watching my uncle struggling to keep his fifth wheel straight in the whipping wind even with his strong diesel dually. I happened to peer out my back side window and noticed a large funnel cloud forming in the sky, it was starting to curve around, striking like a snake, not quite touching the water. I knew my dad was concentrating on his driving but I thought this might be an important observation to share with him. I gently tapped him on his shoulder. "Not now, Cissy" my dad responded. "Uh, dad, you might want to look over to the right." I saw every head in 'the burb' swipe right and my dad quickly reached for the walkie. "Dave, what do you want to do about the funnel cloud forming to the right?" It was a rhetorical question. There is no pulling off of the Bay Bridge or turning right angles. There was absolutely nothing to do about it. My uncle replied "Press On". As the drivers sweated out the driving and kept the campers in line, the rest of the family prayed. I kept my eye on the funnel cloud and as it whipped around, just as I thought it was going to touch down, it sucked back up into the cloud like a vacuum. The rain and wind persisted but so did we until we came to the end of that long bridge. I've used that saying a lot in my life. Sometimes you can't see the direction you're going for all the rain, sometimes you're pushed down and back by the wind of life's problems, sometimes you can't see for the darkness of the storm but just listen for that voice that says "Press On". You can't turn back. Better things are ahead. I think we even saw a rainbow that day, not until at least North Carolina when I opened my eyes again.

I had a great childhood. You don't often hear people say that but I grew up with two loving parents. We lived in a rural community, a small railroad town. The railroad tracks were behind my house, my house would shake unnoticed while the trains would chug on by. I often would go to sleep to the rhythmic "clicikity klack"of the long freight trains at night. I would sometimes race my bike to the back yard during the day when I heard a train coming and wait to see the first glimpse of the round head light as it gently rounded the bend. As it got closer, I would start to wave to the engineers. It was probably a welcome reprieve from their long slow journey as they would smile and wave back. Sometimes, I would motion and they would blow their deep, loud horns. I would smile and wave and go on my way imagining where they would go to next. Pressing on.

People are surprised when I say I had a great childhood. It wasn't perfect. Whose childhood is? There's always the incidence of illness or accidents. Sometimes parents fight or aren't even there. If I was a lottery playing child, I would say that my brother and I had won the jackpot. My mom was the most patient mom. My dad worked very hard to give us a good life. We often didn't see him for most of the beginning of our lives because he was trying to make it better. He served his country in the Army during Vietnam, started working in the electronics field full time, continued in the National Guard, and took the train to Philly to college for 7 years to graduate with his Electrical Engineering degree. One of my earliest memories was of my mom getting us out of the bathtub and putting us in warm one piece pajamas with the feet in. She would send us on our way up to the attic. We lived in a tall half a double brick house with steep stair cases. I would waddle my way up in those oversized pj feet into the cool attic where my dad had his desk and textbooks to study. We would wish him good night and with a kiss on the head and a loving smack on the rear, he would send us back down to go to bed, we were reassured knowing he was awake upstairs watching over us. Pressing on.

I have to give the whole sentiment of encouragement behind "Press On" to a man I only met once when I was about ten. He was my Uncle David's good friend and flying buddy. He owned his own 4 passenger plane, my uncle leased a small Cessna. They would take trips together flying around the country, enjoying the sites and sometimes taking in air shows or other fun events. My uncle was not as experienced a pilot as his buddy or the other pilots they flew with. My uncle was not an IFR or "under the hood" licensed pilot. The others were. This is a process to teach pilots to fly just by your instruments. You literally fly watching your instruments with a hood to block your sight. This can be very handy and important if you get into a situation of severe weather or fog. Most non-IFR pilots can out-maneuver weather if they listen to forecasts and weather and fly below the clouds but there are those times that flying is either not feasible and landing is the best option, going below the clouds doesn't cut it or it's too late to turn around. My uncle got into one of these sticky situations in Kentucky on the way home from a trip. My dad took the position of co-pilot. He had some flying experience. He worked on the Chinook helicopter and occasionally Huey flight lines at Ft. Benning in the Army and took flying lessons on the side. Unfortunately for his lessons but happily for our family he had to give up his lessons for marriage. Flying lessons don't come cheap but they did help my dad assist my uncle with maps and radio information. In the back seat of the Cessna was my brother and my Aunt. They had been battling the bad weather, dodging the clouds as they went. They decided not to press their luck too much further and to change their flight plan to accommodate the weather. That's when the fog rolled in from all sides. There was no going around, no going down other than the airport. They radioed ahead to the control tower of the small airport that was nestled in the side of the mountain. There were three planes heading straight for them and one was flying blind. My aunt was chewing her nails nervously searching for the lights of the other planes. My dad was busy reading maps as my uncle kept the plane level. He radioed to his friend for some help when the return advice was what he knew was in his heart "Press On" David, Press On. They continued to go down and down what seemed like an endless amount while the storm battered the plane. Just as the storm would let up, the fog seemed thicker than ever. The radioed crackled from the control tower "you should be in line with the landing strip". Everyone in the plane craned their necks looking for any site of land or a light of any kind. Still no site. They continued down, asking control tower for repeat of coordinates. They weren't too happy to be bringing in a non-IFR rated pilot but fog was fog and they were the only lifeline to the little battered Cessna. They held the plane steady hoping the earth would soon come up beneath them. The radio tower radioed back more intensely now, "the runway should be right beneath you, you need to land" but still no site. Again the radio, "you soon need to land or pull up, can you see it?" At the end of the runway was the end of the mountain, so the control tower had a point but from my uncle's point, you can't land on something you don't see. "Press On"! "There, a runway light" my dad pointed, then another flashed and another. Just in time my uncle quickly slip landed the plane on what was left of the little runway and quickly shut the engine throttles down with a sigh. Luckily he had learned the slip landing in Delaware where he lived where runways are tucked in small places, some aren't even paved. He radioed thanks to the control tower and drove to tie up the plane near the hanger where the other pilots were congregating. They would find a place to spend the night and in the morning rented a car to complete the trip. There are some incidents in life that can be uncomfortable, scary, or downright dangerous. These are the times you have to rely on your lessons or training, even your instincts. When these aren't enough or seem to fail you, radio out to your friends or those that might be able to greater guide you. Never forget your highest guidance of all, it's easier to see from higher above and always Press On.

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Created with images by Robert Lz - "Amish Country" • Bert Kaufmann - "Dalheim Bahnhof (Iron Rhine/IJzeren Rijn)" • Joao Carlos Medau - "Cessna 152 PR-EJN"

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