Flying had been a major part of my life when I was growing up back in Ohio. My dad was in the Air National Guard and he was an instructor on the weekends. My mom was also a pilot and a vivid memory from when I was 3 or 4 was watching her walk out to an airplane with a bulky parachute strapped to her back when she was taking aerobatic lessons. I used to spend many weekends with my dad at the airport when I was little. I would mostly sit in the pilots lounge while he taught and always try to score a ride from whoever happened to come in that day or I'd wander around the hangers to see who was working on their homebuilts. He quit teaching about the time I got out of grade school and we were really strapped for cash so we couldn't afford to get out flying all that often.
In my early teens, I begged my father for over a year to get us a remote control airplane. He was reluctant for a long time, but eventually I won him over. It wasn't long before he was hooked. It was a great father-son activity that really brought us together during my otherwise tumultuous teens. We even started flying full-scale again with the intention of getting me my license.
Unfortunately, life got in the way of my plans. My father was diagnosed with cancer in spring of 1990. This completely put an end to full-scale flying but we continued on with RC building and flying together throughout his remaining 9 months of life. After he died, I don't think I went flying even once by myself. It was always something we did together so it didn't feel right to go to the flying field by myself. I tried to keep the full-scale dream alive by enrolling in aviation maintenance school after high school. I made it a year before I realized it just wasn't for me and dropped out. I looked at pilot school too, but I just couldn't pull the trigger for some reason. After my uncle (dad's brother) also died of cancer less than a year later, I left home at the age of 19 with my destination being 'somewhere away from my troubles'.
Although I had thought about flying many times in the years since my life was turned upside down, it seemed like an unobtainable goal. It took my 6 year old daughter to light the match that would reignite the flame on Father's Day 2006 with a little AirHog like this:
I didn't realize how much I missed flying until she innocently re-introduced me to it. She had somehow found the tangled and tattered end of the thread that was my childhood and helped reconnect it to my life today.
Although my free time now has to be divided between biking and flying, I have no regets on exchanging hours spent in the saddle for hours spent at the sticks. It's finding the balance in life that's imporant to me now.