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Keep Your Head

Image by TeeFarm from Pixabay

Image by TeeFarm from Pixabay

As these things go, we just experienced an earthquake as I write this blog. The purpose of me writing is hopefully to provide encouragement. Let me give you a little story, and yes it is true.
Mrs. Swaim and I had agreed, back in the mid 90’s, to attend a family reunion in Marmaduke, Arkansas and more specifically, Possum Hollar… in summer. I wish I could tell you we were visiting Linda’s family, but alas my mother was an Arkie. And not just any run-of-the-mill Arkie. Deep Arkansas. One needs a translator to navigate familial interactions. Yes the twang is that thick. But we agreed to go.
My words to Linda as we landed in Memphis, “When we get to Marmaduke, you better get a good look ‘cause we ain’t never going back.”
She gladly agreed.
We went to all the festivities, ate all the fried food, battled humidity, chiggers, ticks, and boarded the plane for home. We were routed through Minneapolis and so we essentially followed the course of the Mississippi River north toward the headwaters.
Well, if you have lived in the South or Midwest, you know what a storm is. They have big, loud, wet and often scary storms on a regular basis.
If you fly very often, you know that afternoon flights in summer can be bumpy due to the changing thermals and overall dynamic air movement which accompanies heat and moisture.
This day was no different.
Beautiful summer afternoon’s flight along the mighty Mississippi.
The pilot came on the speaker.
“Hey folks welcome, we have hit our cruising altitude, and if you look out the window to the right, there is a little storm coming in on us. We are going to go off route a little and see if we can’t miss it. So fasten your seat-belts.”
He was saying all this like someone saying over his shoulder, “Hey honey, I’m going to the store for milk”, as he grabs his keys and wallet. Oh so casual.
Well I was already sitting on the right side of the plane and the pilot was obviously gifted in understatement. Now I’m no Al Roker, but this storm was freakin’ huge and ominous looking to any non-initiated weatherman and we were headed directly into it. I put on my seat belt, made a quick confession, and squeezed Linda’s hand, until her knuckles turned white. I might have even crossed my self on the odd chance that God is Catholic (HT to Garrison Keillor). I hate when I can see the flight attendants strapping themselves down like they are next in line for a lethal injection.
The pilot wasted no time in avoiding the oncoming storm. The plane tipped to the left heading west at what appeared to be an impossible 90 degree bend. And being on the upside of the plane this was the thrill of a lifetime. I’m telling you it was an airplane equivalent of a Dukes of Hazard jump. Apparently Newtonian physics don’t apply to Southwest Airlines! Once he leveled it off again, the plane started to buck like a front row seat at the Caldwell Night Rodeo. People were gasping and emoting all over the plane. I was hanging on, speechless. And this went on for a little while (more understatement).
This is where it gets good.
Seated on the aisle, about two or three rows ahead of us, was another pilot, in his uniform, hat tipped over his eyes, sound asleep. You could see his head bobbing slightly, in time with the movements of the plane. People were losing it all around him. This guy is sound asleep.  SOUND ASLEEP! I couldn’t believe it. But in that moment I was able to relax.
We managed to get ahead of the storm, the ride eventually smoothed out and mercifully, the flight crew unbuckled and served beverages. I’m guessing they ran out of ginger ale. And barf bags.
When we landed in Minneapolis, we needed to disembark and change planes. I made sure I spoke to the sleeping pilot. He acted slightly perplexed. I wondered if all pilots are Scandinavian! Or maybe Lutheran.
“Excuse me sir, I noticed you sleeping when the plane was bucking. Was that really no big deal?”
“Really not a big deal. These planes are built to take a lot”,  he said. (more understatement)
His failure to act irrationally in the face of uncertainty was a great lesson for me. His calm had become my calm. I had borrowed his faith.
I have never forgotten what I learned that day over the Midwest. Maybe what we don’t do is more important than what we do. Mr. Sleeping Pilot was focused on things within his control, like sleep, and rested in what he had learned from experience.
We can do the same.
Keep your heads folks.

15 Join the Conversation

  1. Luana Harlan says
    Apr 02, 2020 at 3:46 PM

    Now I know where Abbey gets her writing skills!! Appreciated your story, and good for a few chuckles which we all need during this time. God bless!

    • says
      Apr 02, 2020 at 11:07 AM

      You are very kind but I believe she has taken it all to a new level! Thanks so much for keeping up with us and engaging with your comments. We really appreciate the interest and interactions, especially when we know so many are cooped up! Thanks again and chuckle away Luana!

  2. Carla Janiece Gardiner says
    Apr 02, 2020 at 4:03 PM

    Thank you are more than a health care provider, more than an activator control are a wonderful human being whose life experiences always make me smile, teach me a lesson and I'm so glad I know you and your family...#arkies

    • says
      Apr 02, 2020 at 11:10 AM

      Wow Carla, I believe that is most kind thing anyone has ever said to me. It takes all of us down here to make it all work, including you and all the patients who are loyal to their health and to us. Keep up the good work, keep reading and keep engaging us. You have no idea what it means to have interest and interactions.

  3. AK says
    Apr 02, 2020 at 4:06 PM

    Good read! Thank you!

    • says
      Apr 02, 2020 at 11:13 AM

      Thanks! We really appreciate you!

  4. Lori says
    Apr 02, 2020 at 4:38 PM

    What a great 'blog' today ! Thank you for the life lesson mixed with humor. ( I actually enjoy all the blogs - keep writing !😁)

    • says
      Apr 02, 2020 at 11:12 AM

      Glad to know you are reading them and thank you very much for commenting. It means the world to hear from our people! Keep enjoying and I'll do my best to make them worth reading. Your comments and interactions help a ton, thanks again!

  5. JudyLynn says
    Apr 02, 2020 at 5:48 PM

    Love It!

    • says
      Apr 02, 2020 at 11:10 AM

      Thank you and we love you, JudyLynn.

  6. Linda Swaim says
    Apr 02, 2020 at 6:23 PM

    He's not kidding about that flight. It was harrowing! Like being on one of those old wooden roller-coasters at the beaches. Truly scary but the lesson has been learned by both of us. I am so much more relaxed on any bumpy plane and I try to translate it to the rest of my life. Nice work Ken Swaim!

  7. MaryKate DeBoer says
    Apr 02, 2020 at 6:32 PM

    Our pastor just did a sermon on Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4) and my favorite part is the description of Jesus sleeping at the front of the boat while this outrageous storm, a “squall” is happening! One of the disciples wakes up Jesus and basically screams at him that they're all going to drown, and Jesus is like calm down everybody, do you even know who I am? ;) Let's trust in what (and WHO) we know right now, like you said!

    • says
      Apr 02, 2020 at 5:15 PM

      Sweet! Sounds like you have a great pastor there! We can all do this regardless of our individual circumstances within the storm. Hang in there MaryKate. And thanks for keeping up with us. We really appreciate your reading our blogs and your comments.

  8. Debbie Sloane says
    Apr 02, 2020 at 7:36 PM

    That was a good read! Thank you for the reminder to stay calm.

    • says
      Apr 02, 2020 at 5:13 PM

      Deb, So glad you are reading our stuff. Thanks a ton for staying connected with us, we really appreciate it. Just keep on keeping calm!

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