I grabbed this page from the blog site I created years ago to chronicle a vacation trip, which then became a part time journal of what was going on in my life. The following story was posted back in August 2011.
It’s Been a long time coming and, I’m glad I made it. | Our Powered Parachute Adventure I have copied it here without making any changes to it. It still exists on the Powered Parachute Adventure Site. Once Ruth and I make it back home, I may start posting on that site again. I am sure there will be a lot of rebuilding to do.
It’s Been a long time coming and, I’m glad I made it.
Following my long trip which, not only was a great adventure but saved my life, I had a very bad experience with all of my grown children that almost reduced me to cinders. First let me explain about the life saving. About a year and a half ago I found myself in the hospital on dialysis. My diabetic neuropathy had been tearing at the linings of my nervous system for years and it had begun to affect my autonomic systems. I was in renal failure. In the previous years I had become was is known as a brittle diabetic. My sugars were not responding well to various drugs or different types of insulin. With sugars that normally were ranging in the high 600s I had begun to experience a plethora of horrible symptoms: Muscular pains, nerve pain, dehydration, migraines, ringing ears, kidney and liver problems, heart trouble, incredible difficulty sleeping, insanity (I’m quite sure I lost my grip on reality often) I got confused often and forgot really important things until they had consequences. One of the most disturbing symptoms that thankfully does not occur too often now is lost time.
I was aware that my body was slowly destroying itself and there was nothing that I could do about it. My life was stressful and it just kept getting worse. I was self employed and trying to support a family yet, with my health the way it was I couldn’t be reliable. Then things got even worse. My Dad’s only brother who, had been my rock since I was a young adult was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. I closed my business and moved in with him to help him while he went through treatment which, eventually killed him.
In summer of 2009 we buried Uncle Bill and I became the executor of his will. I discovered that Uncle Bill had done quite well for himself and had left what I considered to be a huge estate. I also discovered that greed really brings out the ugly in some people. During the funeral one of my brothers was busy breaking into my house. After the funeral at Uncle Bill’s house three of them accosted me demanding to know how much the was and how much they would get. The three of them had never bothered to give Uncle Bill the time of day and had refused to pitch in on a simple lift chair for him while he was undergoing treatment.
I would wake up in the middle of the night with my sugar dropping suddenly and cripplingly. I would wake in the morning and find that it was as high as ever. It turns out that even with out eating my liver would produce glucose from my muscle tissue.
Then there I was, on dialysis. I decided that this was not something I was about to do to stay alive. Living from poisoning to poisoning was not for me. “Mr. Lehnerd, ” said the doctor, “If you don’t let us complete the treatment you’ll die.” How long, I asked. Three to ten days came the response. “Well then get these tubes out of me I have things to do”, I said. That was the beginning of the rest of my life.
I went home. Got on eBay and bought a powered parachute. I then proceeded to Oklahoma City to pick it up and from there to Arkansas where my brother lived to learn how to fly it. The first flight is a whole story in itself. Perhaps I’ll tell it sometime soon.
But here it is: when you know you are going to die it changes your perspective. Maybe I misspeak. It changed my perspective. Nothing that had been stressing me mattered. Flying made that even better. When I first started, when I was in the air the only thing i was thinking about was the mechanics of not surfing the trees (they kept calling to me), and whether or not when I hit some bumpy air would my wing collapse and drop me on the ground. I would spend time staring at my wing and watching it fly, unconcerned with the wind or the world. Then as I became more proficient and less worried that anything in the air would knock me down I found myself lost in the sheer glory of flight.
When I am in the air (which I am every moment my health, available fuel, and least of all prevailing conditions (some say I’m a little crazy) allow, I don’t think about anything but flying. I live in the moment, tasting the air, enveloped in the invisible road that changes beneath my wing. I feel free and glorious. It is the most wonderful stress reliever that I am currently aware exists in my world.
With my stress gone my diabetes came under control. I don’t know how much of the damage it has done to my body is irreversible but I am alive and, living day to day. Last September I decided to go on my first vacation ever. I invited my grown children to come with me but they had their own lives to live and weren’t interested. I invited my niece and her boyfriend but they backed out at the last minute and I embarked on my PPC adventure alone.
It was a glorious trip and though I was saddened by the fact that I had no one to share it with I really found what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I knocked on a lot of doors and flew from a hundred and fifty eight private locations, forty or so public fields and a number of “I can’t find anyone to ask permission” fields. I fell in love with flying in the dessert and bought a little piece of New Mexico. I eventually returned home to Butler to liquidate my properties and make my move.
I got a cold reception from my children when I got home on Thanksgiving day. They wouldn’t explain why. They moved out of Uncle Bill’s house where I had been allowing them to stay rent and cost free for nearly two years. They left the house opened with the furnace turned up. They haven’t spoken to me since with no explanation why. I was devastated and my health once again failed severely. I had a number of attacks that left me incapacitated. The winter dragged on and I got nothing accomplished. Uncle Bill’s house which, is a very nice house in a nice neighborhood, sat unoccupied with all of his stuff still in it. I couldn’t live there and I couldn’t bring myself to clean it out. I discovered at some point my will which, I had not told my children existed was missing. I had left 50% of my estate to them and the remaining 50% to my wife which I had placed in trust to be managed by the three girls (why the trust is another story in itself). I think what happened was the girls discovered my will and became concerned that the new me was going to go through my assets before there was anything left for them. They decided to stress me out and push me off to an early grave before I had a chance to spend myself broke. I expressed my theory in emails to them which they never bothered to respond to.
whatever their unexplained reason for this cold and cruel treatment all I know is before I left I took them to Disney. Things seemed to be looking good for our family and then they banished me from their lives with out so much as a howdy do.
I nearly let it do me in however the support of my loyal wife and a close friend I got back in the air and began to recover. I bought a truck and put Uncle Bill’s house up for sale. I figured if it sold it would force me to get his stuff out and move forward. Well it sold fast. I listed it on craigslist and sold it in two weeks. It is now empty with the exception of the garge which I will get done as soon as I get back from AZ.
I met all the great Butler Fly guys and they took me into their fold and reminded me what great people all the flying enthusiasts I have met over the past year are. My life is not completely stress free however, I am once again able to put it all in perspective. Nothing matters when you are dead. If I let stress have an impact on me I am dead so it’s better to let it all go. And let it go I am. I am finally back on the road to living in my motorhome on my airfield in New Mexico with my powered parachute and my (woo hoo I am headed to AZ to buy a challenger) Challenger.
It’s been a long time coming and I never thought I’d make it but it’s here, the life I knew I could live where every day is a new flight and the most important thing is landing so I can go back up again! My good friend Bill is making the move with me as well as my wife who has really begun to embrace the idea of a simple life with few possessions and beautiful New Mexico sunsets and sunrises every day.
To all of you who invited me to come fly your fields; thank you for your hospitality to those I imposed upon by dropping in with my request my deepest gratitude. To the FAA who wants to crush the freedom of flight; I know you’re not happy till I’m unhappy so sorry guys I guess you’ll have to be miserable. All of you guys have saved my life and for how ever many days I have left I will be eternally grateful to you.
Most of all to the good Lord who saw fit to restore my sight after I decided to fly through the trees (another story for another time) thank you so much for the beauty of all I see from the ground and in the sky.