Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Later, Man.

Years ago, on a particularly rough approach, turbulence tossed the plane. Inside the cockpit, I fought back. Working the ram’s horns through their range of motion, staying somewhere near the flight director was my goal. Any worse and we were going around. That’s when it happened – the one thing that makes me remember the moment.
“Ride it, man, Ride it!  Don’t fall off!” Those were the words of an unforgettable man.
Recently new to the job, Will Pevahouse was sitting right seat. Although a highly skilled pilot, his greatest strength was the ability to make everything feel ok. That’s what he was doing that day. Under no circumstances would he allow me to get tense enough to prohibit me flying the approach. I chuckled, it smoothed out, and we landed without excitement.
Of course, it went the other way also. If someone in “the system” did something stupid or caused a problem, Will would not stand for it. He wouldn’t yell, or call names. The sound of his stern booming voice was like that of a Grizzly. If you heard it, you were done playing games. A few choice words, and a “We cool?” is all it took to solve anything.
I’ll never forget learning that Will had quit the company where we worked together. When everyone we knew was sacrificing everything to climb the 121 ladder, he walked away to spend time with his family. I admired him greatly for that. Yet, there was a downside. Our different directions meant we didn’t run into each other as much. On the other hand, that’s when you learn who your friends are.
No matter how much time passed, when we talked it was as if we had hung up the phone yesterday. Often we’d laugh for the better part of an hour. Bumping up against to-do lists, we’d express the typical “Later man,” and hang up.  More than half the time, one of us would call back within the next five minutes to tell another story we forgot. Laughing again, we’d get off the phone knowing it would keep going if we didn’t.
Tonight, only an hour ago, sitting far away in a hotel room, I learned Will had died of a heart attack.
During the past year and a half, with each of us beginning to glimpse the backside of our lives, we talked more often. Only three days ago, before I left on this trip, I went to call him, received another call, became distracted, and left without dialing. It had been longer than usual and I wanted to see how life was treating him. As so many others feel, tonight, I regret that distraction.
When the news reached me, I had no idea what to do; I looked at my schedule to see if I could get there for the funeral; I considered flowers for the family; then I thought about our conversations. Scanning back through our texts made me remember the calls. The calls made me remember the laughs. And, the laughs made me realize I had to tell you about Will.

He was a good-hearted man who loved his family above all. If you asked me to write down the twenty best guys I’ve ever known, he would be in it. In fact, he’d be in the top ten. Some people are amazing in one area, a walking disaster in others. Will, on the other hand, he was good across the board.

Oddly, if someone had walked up to either of us, during the daily grind of our lives, and asked who our friends were, we may not have named the other. Proximity does that to friendships. However, if the same person had tasked each of us with going through our contacts and naming the people we could call in the absolute worst of times, we would have made it on each other’s list. I'm proud of that. If Will Pevahouse considered you a reliable friend, it was an honor.
Ultimately though, for me, knowing he is no longer there to answer the phone makes the world a little less enjoyable.


Ken Bittner said...

You always bring it home Rich.

Mom & Pop said...

Thanks Rich for this touching tribute to Willl. Jeff & Wanda Pevahouse, Will's Mom & Pop