The Plight of the Purple Plane

randomlychad  —  August 23, 2012 — 19 Comments


It’s Christmas, 1977. For this recently transplanted Pennsylvania family, the Arizona weather is mild–balmy, even. It’s sheer joy to be outside in short sleeves and shorts. Dust swirls up in the breeze from the hard-packed, sun-scorched earth, in little eddies all around the boy, and his dad.

Civilization, the march of progress, has stopped at their subdivision, leaving only open desert in a swath a mile long, and half a mile wide, just across the street. The landscape is as foreign as Mars.

But the boy doesn’t care. He’s there with his dad. His dad is thirty-three, recently transferred, the youngest plant manager in his company’s history. But none of that matters today.

Dad is there, in his own boyish glee, to teach his eight year-old son–the boy–how to fly. Not windmills, nor spinning, but a real plane. An honest-to-goodness fuel-powered, remote-controlled plane.

It’s one of the boy’s presents. The smile on his face tells the story: of all his presents, this is his favorite.

Its purple plastic glistens with possibility as it sits on the hard-packed ground there in the bright sun. The boy, who had just recently flown on a jet plane for the first time in his young life, imagines the hard ground is tarmac, and he the pilot.

But before he can take control, the old captain–his dad–must show him the ropes.

The boy can’t wait for his turn. The old captain gases up the plane, gets its engine going. That glorious sound is akin to a lawnmower heard from a distance. Its propeller slices the air, and it is aloft–launched, and flying free.

The old captain is at the helm, the joy of flight writ large upon his face, forgetting the pilot trainee who stands watching.

“Daddy, when will it be my turn?”

“Just a minute.”


“Just. A. Minute. Chad.”


The plane swoops, and swirls in the too-bright sky. The boy–Chad–has to shade his eyes to follow its arc.

Then, a sudden noise. It’s down. His beautiful plane is down, crashed onto the desert ground. Chad rushes with his dad to see.

Is it alright? Will the old captain impart his knowledge of flight? It’s not to be: his beautiful plane is smashed into pieces.

The boy looks at his dad for… something. Reassurance, a promise of another plane, a look of love, a tousle of his red hair. Anything.

“Tough shit, kid,” his dad says.

Life, like the plane, has come crashing down again.

Little did he know, but like a plane at altitude losing cabin pressure, the boy’s family was already on life support. It had less than six years left to live.

Has anything like that happened to you?


Please note: I don’t hate my dad. He is a very wounded man. I’m merely trying to chronicle my authentic experiences in this series of posts, as these were some pivotal moments that shaped my soul. Also, I had something else planned for today, but was assured by those close to me that it wasn’t quite ready for prime time.




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Christ-follower, husband, dad, blogger, reader, writer, movie buff, introvert, desert-dweller, omnivore, gym rat. May, or may not, have a burgeoning collection of Darth Vader t-shirts. Can usually be found drinking protein shakes, playing with daughter, working out with his son, or hanging out with his wife. Makes a living playing with computers. Subscribe to RandomlyChad by Email

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  • It’s like our dads were buddies. I feel that pain every day, but I know it’s shaped me to become who I am, and I have no doubt that it’s shaped you to become the great person you are.

    Thanks again for your radical honesty, Chad. This is turning out to be a great (albeit painful) series.

    • Adrian,

      I’m so sorry for your pain, but know that God has used, and is using, it in your life for your good and His glory.

      Thanks so much!

  • ShandaSargent

    There is healing in the writing… Healing in the writing… Healing in the writing.

    I prayed for your weekend, and I am praying for you now. I know the cost of the words and where you have to “go” to write them. I also know the healing. It’s a process.

    Jesus…sweet, tender, and beautiful is in each of your words, tears, and drops of blood.

    Blessings to you on this journey, friend.

    • Thank-you, Shanda. Your prayers are much appreciated. There is pain, but it has been swallowed up in victory.

      These posts are representative of the internal journey Jesus took me through at bootcamp. He showed me He was never far away, was there all along.

      That everything I never got from my dad, I’ve always had in Him.

  • I’m blessed to say that I never had to deal with this sort of pain. My father tried to show his love for me as best he could. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much to learn from, and most of my childhood memories don’t include him. I admire your courage, Chad, to write about such tender moments.

    • Thanks, Jason! I’m finding that, like forgiveness, healing is both an event, and a process. This post is part of that process.

      I’m sorry that most of your childhood memories don’t include your dad. Most of my happiest memories are similarly lacking.

  • chad, another knock-out post! powerful, poignant, personal. but without any bitterness or resentment. you just share the story and let it speak for itself.

    i can relate to my dad playing with christmas presents. thinking back on it, he was almost as excited about our new toys as we were.

    it’s always tough for me to hear people share their tales of strained parental relationships. i was blessed to have a good set of loving parents. were they perfect? of course, not. but there was never a day my siblings and i didn’t know we were loved. sorry, i don’t share to brag or boast, just to give my perspective.

    again, great post!

    • Thanks, Tim!

      It is what it is, and all of it is under the blood now.

      I think dads should exhibit a childlike glee from time to time. If I’ve learned anything from the Parable of the Prodigal Son, it’s this: the Father goes to the son. In parenting terms, this means means he meets his kids where they’re at.

      I’m so glad you knew you were loved growing up. That is a great foundation to have.

      Thanks also for going along with that video exercise--I found great healing in viewing it that way.

  • Chad that just crushed my spirits and I just read it. I can’t imagine living it. This is rough stuff Chad. I don’t know if I ever had a moment like that. I’m sorry about this Chad. Thankfully you are learning and growing from all of this in leaps and bounds.

    • Jim, I’m sorry about that--my intent in sharing was not to crush anyone’s spirits, but authentically represent my journey. Honestly, these posts represent the stages Jesus took me through during bootcamp last weekend. I promise there is redemption coming. Go back and reread Monday’s post--because everything you’ve read this week culminates in it.

      • No worries Chad. I’m just saying it crushed my spirits to put myself in your shoes. The excitement level when you are a kid is through the roof! I’ll reread Monday’s post as you suggest. I know there is redemption coming. Like I told you, your tone has changed. When I chat with you it feels like I’m talking to a guy who is renewed.

        • Ah, gotcha!

          Because I am.


          Because Jesus is my Dad.

  • What a nice, notalgic story.

    • Nostalgia wasn’t exactly what I was going for, Larry. Just an honest representation of a tough moment.

      Stories like that need to tell themselves without rancor, or sentiment. It’s better if they just are.

      But what do I know? Other than passion, instinct, and God to guide me, I have no formal training as a writer.

      Read it again, Larry. Nostalgia would be me wistfully looking back at seeing Star Wars for the first time, longing to again see it through those eyes. You think I want to go back and live that moment with my dad again? That’s not nostalgia--that’s masochism.

      • Sorry Chad. I should have hit the sarcasm font. That story is so sad that I had to try to deflect how I really felt.

        • Aw, gotcha. I wondered, but you can’t tell sometimes from just words on the page.

          • Exactly. While I had two parents who loved me, there were a lot of experiences that made life rough.

  • Ricky Anderson

    Wow. No words, Chad. I’m sorry.

    • No worries, bro--God’s really got this. For the first time since ever. I’m 43, and finally free!