You Take Me Higher
It was a Saturday morning and Christmas was only a week away. Susan was going to be away for most of the week-end so Josh and I were once again left to our own devices. I was determined that we would do something more interesting than sit around and watch old movies on TV. We weren’t crazy enough to go near a mall or a movie theatre this close to Christmas so we had to come up with something original. I decided that it was time to introduce Josh to another of my life’s great passions.
There was little that Josh didn’t know about me by now, but I still had a few secrets. One of them was going to play a major role in what I hoped would be an experience that he would remember and cherish for the rest of his life.
My secret was that during the year and few months that Josh and I had been apart, I had realized one of my life-long ambitions and obtained a private pilot’s license. I was fully licensed to fly single engine 4-place propeller driven aircraft. Flying ran in my family. My father had been a private pilot and my grandfather was a WWII RCAF veteran who had fought in the battle of Britain. I decided that today would be the day that I introduced Josh to the joys of aviation.
"Have you managed to fill the bottomless put yet, Josh?" I asked with a grin as the boy sauntered down the stairs and into my apartment. He had just finished polishing off a stack of pancakes.
"No, but we can always hit the Mandarin for the lunch buffet," replied Josh, flashing that marvelous grin of his.
"You’d put them in the poor house, little buddy," I said as I reached over grabbing him in a headlock and mercilessly tickled his ribs through his shirt.
"HEY," he squawked, "quit it before I pee myself!" He giggled as he tried to squirm away from me. He kept struggling and tried his best to return the tickle-torment that I was administering to him.
"Dad," he said hesitantly and stopped struggling. "I have a little problem."
"What’s up, bud?" I asked him in a caring tone as I released him from the headlock and placed my hands tenderly on his narrow shoulders.
"I better show you," he said as he began to undo his belt and lower his pants and underwear. "I think I’ve been jerking off a little too much," he said slightly red faced.
"Let’s take a look," I said as I pulled over a chair and sat down in front of him. I reached out and gently took his flaccid penis in my hand and lifted it for a closer look. Sure enough, the skin just below the head was red and looked quite sore. Further down, just below his circumcision scar, the skin was quite badly chaffed. "That looks pretty rough, kiddo," I told him soothingly as I released his sore organ.
"It’s ok as long as I don’t touch it too much," Josh replied in a slightly disappointed tone.
"I’m really sorry; I was supposed to get you some baby oil or something similar. I promise I’ll get you some today. How often have you been at it?"
"2 or 3 times a day, I guess," he said with an almost hangdog grin on his face.
"You’ve been a busy boy," I joked. "No wonder I’m running out of boxes of Kleenex!"
"Tell me about it. Mom emptied my waste basket and she asked me if I had a cold or something because of all the used tissues in the garbage."
I tried to bite my lip. I did everything that I could to hold it in but I failed. I couldn’t help it and I burst out laughing. "I’m sorry Josh! I’m not laughing at you. I’m actually laughing at your mom. I’m sure she has no idea as to what you’ve been up to."
Josh gave me one of those "I want to look mad" faces but he couldn’t hold it and broke up laughing as well. I knew I was forgiven when he leaned over and gave me a quick hug.
"I’ve got something that will help this," I told him pointing to his injured boyhood. I went into my bathroom and retrieved a tube of Polysporin ointment. I figured that Polysporin would provide some pain relief and would help him to heal quicker.
"That stuff doesn’t sting, does it?" Josh asked with a worried look on his face.
"Not at all, bud. In fact, it works as a painkiller. It will also help to prevent an infection and it will speed the healing process," I told him and noticed the relieved look on his face. I decided to have a little fun at his expense. "You don’t want to get an infection down here, bud. If you do they might have to amputate," I said as I made ‘scissors’ with my fingers then placed them around the base of his penis and made a snipping motion.
"Yikes," he yelped "Put that stuff on, quick!"
I laughed as I opened the tube, placed some of the ointment on the tip of my finger and began to lightly smear it on the chaffed skin of his penis. It really looked pretty sore and I felt sorry for the little guy. I shouldn’t have been surprised when it happened, but as I applied the ointment, he quickly began to get erect. Within seconds, his penis had expanded to its full 4 inch length. He was mortified.
"Sorry Tommy, I didn’t mean for that to happen," he mumbled and looked shamefaced.
"Don’t worry about it, son. It’s just a normal, natural reaction. Any guy would get a hardon no matter who touched it or for what reason. It doesn’t mean anything. We’re both guys here; we’ve both had hardons before. I don’t care, I’m not embarrassed and you shouldn’t be either," I said reassuringly as I ignored his aroused state and finished carefully applying the ointment.
He looked relieved and flashed me the classic Josh grin.
"Ok bud, pull up your drawers, you’re all done. Take the tube and put some more on it each morning and each night before you go to bed." I reached over and ruffled his hair briefly as I handed him the tube of ointment. I figured a few days of applying that ointment should clear it up for him nicely.
"Thanks dad, that feels better already," he said in a relieved tone. "I love you."
"I love you too, son. I’d hate to say it, but I would lay off the masturbation for a week or so until everything heals up."
"Oh man!" he groaned. "I gotta stop doing that for a whole week?"
I wasn’t being cruel. I experienced much the same problem when I was his age and I’m sure that most other boys did too. The only way it would get better would be if he left it alone for a while.
"You can get all caught up in a week or so. Believe me, you won’t forget how it’s done," I said as I pulled him into another loose headlock and resumed tickling his ribs. Josh giggled and squawked and made a good show of trying to get away, but I knew he loved ever second of it. "You’d better have extra Kleenex handy when you resume your activities, it’ll probably be a gusher," I joked.
"I wish," he replied wistfully. "I don’t shoot all that much."
"That’s ok; nobody ever does at your age."
Josh looked relieved
"Tell you what, I have an idea for something that we can do today which beats the hell out of the Mandarin," I said as I released him and gave him a wink.
"What is it?" He asked with obvious great interest as he finished doing up his belt.
I was pretty certain that in his mind, anything better than the Mandarin had to be truly spectacular. "How about we take a drive up to the Brampton airport and check out the planes? They have a little restaurant there that serves decent food so we can grab a bite when we’re done."
"Cool. I’ve never been in an airplane before."
I grinned inwardly when I contemplated the treat that awaited him later this morning. "Tell you what, I know someone who works at the airport and I might be able to arrange it so that you can sit in one of the planes and check it out up close."
"Let’s go then!" Josh exclaimed as he jumped up and begun literally dragging me towards the stairs.
I chuckled at his youthful enthusiasm and I looked forward to his reaction to his first flight like a kid contemplating Christmas morning. "Hey Josh," I said, "Grab your camera – we’ll get some good shots of you in the cockpit." Little did he know that the cockpit would be 2,500 feet above the Caledon hills at the time the photos were being taken! "Josh! Grab your jacket as well," I hollered knowing it would be pretty chilly up in the plane. I grabbed my flight bag and stowed it in the Jeep as Josh went and dug out his camera.
The highway was about as clear as the 401 ever gets and we made it to the airport about 40 minutes after we left home. The Brampton Airport, also known as CNC03, is a small privately owned general aviation airport. It’s situated just north-west of Toronto on the very edge of the controlled airspace of Lester B. Pearson International airport. It has 2 runways and a large collection of club and privately owned aircraft. During the summer, it tended to get quite busy on Saturday mornings. In late December, however, the air was cold enough at altitude to chase away all but the most hardy, dedicated or foolish pilots.
The ground scenery was going to be beautiful at this time of year. The fields would be draped in a thick blanket of snow and all of the lakes and ponds would be frozen solid. The frozen water would reflect sunlight with a magnificent intensity. Josh was in for a real treat for his first ever flight. I was thrilled to death to be the pilot who would lead him through that incredible experience. I hoped it would be one of those life-changing experiences which would lead him to a life-long love of flying.
The parking lot was mostly empty and we snagged a spot just outside the door. Josh and I piled out of the car and headed for the door. I placed my arm over Josh’s shoulders as we walked and he looked up at me and smiled.
Inside the terminal building, there was a gift shop to the right, washrooms to the left and a waiting room and dispatch counter straight down the hallway.
"Ok bud," I said to Josh. "Why don’t you grab a seat while I see if I can get us a closer look at one of those planes out there?"
"Sure dad," he said smiling and giving me a brief hug.
I watched Josh walk over to a bench seat in front of a large picture window facing runway 17. 17 appeared to be the active runway today so he had a pretty good show to watch as I headed to the dispatch counter to sign out a plane.
"May I help you sir?" the perky clerk asked me as I approached the desk.
"You sure can," I said handing her my club membership card and my pilot’s license. "I’d like to take up a club aircraft up for a couple of hours. It’ll be myself and one passenger heading north over the hills for some sightseeing."
"Lets see what we have available," she replied checking her computer. "It looks like we have a 152, a 152 Aerobat and two 172s available. What’s your preference?"
"As fun as the Aerobat is, I had a large breakfast this morning, so let’s go with a 172," I said with a chuckle.
The clerk, whose name tag read "Jennifer" smiled, "Ok, you want it for 2 hours, right?"
"You got it! This is the first flight for my passenger," I said pointing to Josh as he sat intently watching the various aircraft landing and taking off.
"Isn’t he a little cutie," Jennifer said with a smile.
"He’s a great kid. He also doesn’t know that he’s actually flying today – he thinks we’re here just to watch."
"Is he your little brother?" she asked.
"Actually, I’m his dad," I said with pride.
Jennifer looked at me strangely for a second. "You look so young to have a son his age."
"Well, it’s a long story. He’s not my biological son, but he is my REAL son." I replied firmly.
"I’m sure you’re both very lucky," she replied. "Now, that’ll be $240.00" please. I’m giving you CHXTP, it’s the ‘white and blue’ and it’s fueled and set to go on the tarmac."
"You’re wonderful, Jennifer," I said as I handed her my credit card. "Shoot! I almost forgot, can I borrow a headset for Josh?"
"Certainly," she replied as she reached under the counter and produced the requested headset. "There you go. Here’s your headset, the keys to XTP, your credit card and your documents. Have a great flight."
"Thanks, we will!" I smiled as I turned from the counter and headed over to Josh.
"Hey dad, what are the headphones for?" Josh asked
"You want to look like a real pilot when I take your picture don’t you?" I asked as I reached down and ruffled his hair.
We headed out of the terminal building and onto the tarmac. The air was cool, crisp and clear. It was perfect flying weather. I also noted that air traffic appeared to be relatively light that morning so we weren’t going to have much difficulty getting airborne quickly. I scanned around and saw our plane on parked in the last row. "That’s our bird over there, Josh," I said pointing towards the parked Cessna 172. "See the tail number – CHXTP, that’s like a license plate on a car – it’s how they identify the plane."
Josh excitedly ran up to the plane and looked in the window. "Can I get in?"
"Of course, hop in the left side – that’s the pilot seat," I told him as I reached out and opened the door for him.
Josh scrambled up into the pilot’s seat and took hold of the yoke. "This is so cool," he chirped excitedly. "What do all these dials and things do?" he asked.
"I’ll tell you what, let me take a look at a few things outside and then I’ll hop in and try to answer your questions," I replied, not wanting to let on that I knew what ALL of those instruments do. I took his camera from him and snapped off a few photos of him sitting at the controls as he grinned broadly.
As Josh busied himself in the cockpit, I began the ground check of the aircraft. I started with the starboard wing and made my way around the plane. I made a conscious effort not to look like I was doing anything all that important. I finished a few minutes later by stepping up and checking the fuel cap. As I climbed down and walked over to the pilot’s door, I was wondering just how long I could keep up this charade before Josh caught on. I decided to have a little fun with him.
I opened the pilot’s door and said "Hey bud, how about you slide over to the co-pilot seat for a moment, I want to check a few things out."
"Ok dad," Josh said happily and scooted over. I climbed in and began the startup procedure. I removed my own headset from my flight bag and connected both of our headsets to the sockets in the dash. Josh snapped off a few photos of me behind the controls before resuming his explorations of the aircraft.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Josh giving me a bit of a funny look as I produced and inserted a key into the magneto switch. Obviously he knew something was up. His eyes grew as wide as saucers and his jaw dropped open as I hit the master switches and the avionics switch bringing the instruments and the radio to life.
I keyed the mic, "Traffic, X-ray, Tango, Papa parked at Charlie November Charlie zero three, radio check. Over."
"Roger, X-ray, Tango, Papa, I read you five-by. Over," came the response from the radio.
"What are you doing, dad?" Josh asked with a surprised, questioning look in his eyes as he realized that it was my voice that he was hearing in his headset.
"I figured we just fire this little bird up for a moment," I replied with a chuckle.
"Are you crazy? Won’t they get mad at us? How do you know how to do all that anyway?"
"Do you trust me, son?" I asked as I looked at him.
"Yeah, but this is crazy." He said a little nervously.
"Tell you what, grab that bag over there and look in the front pocket," I told him pointing towards my flight bag which was resting between the cramped seats.
Joshed picked up the flight bag and reached into the front pocket. He withdrew his hand holding 2 items. One was my golden pilot wings and the other was my Transport Canada pilot’s license.
"No way!" He hollered, "Too cool, my dad’s a pilot! The guys at school are going to be so jealous," he said excitedly as he reached over and gave me a firm hug and a peck on the cheek.
"Ok kiddo, it’s time to fasten your seatbelts and hang on," I said with a laugh. I cracked open the window and hollered "clear" and then turned the magneto switch to start.
The prop began to spin slowly and first and then it caught and the engine roared to life. "Can you hear me ok over the headset, son?" I asked Josh, he could only nod his head; he was far too excited to talk. I smiled warmly at him. "All set for your first ever flight?" I asked.
Josh looked at me for a moment and I swear I could feel the love shooting from his eyes. He wore an enormous grin that looked as if it threatened to split his head in half. "I love to you so much dad!" He said as he reached his hand out and squeezed my shoulder.
I smiled back at him and keyed the radio, "Traffic, X-ray Tango Papa taxiing to Charlie November Charlie 03, runway one seven for takeoff."
I took a moment to put on my aviator sun glasses then adjusted the fuel-air mixture and gently pushed the throttle forward enough to get us moving. "This part’s a lot like driving a car Josh," I said. "The main difference is that I‘m steering with my feet. The yoke is pretty much useless on the ground.
As I maneuvered the small aircraft around the taxiway, I explained some of the basics of flight to Josh. By the time we reached the runway skirt, he understood what all the control surfaces were, what they did and how they related to the yoke and rudder pedals.
Josh looked completely star-struck as he sat in the co-pilot’s seat and watched my every move as I skillfully taxied the small plane to the end of the runway. His face was a mask of pride and adoration.
"Traffic, X-ray Tango Papa holding short runway one seven, Charlie November Charlie zero three," I said as I pushed in the brake pedals and ran the engine up to full checking the tach for any irregularities.
"Ok bud, help me out here," I said to Josh. "Look out the window and make sure that there are no planes on the runway or in the sky coming in to land."
"Looks clear to me," Josh said.
I satisfied myself that it was clear and then I again eased the throttle forward again and pulled onto the skirt of the runway.
"Traffic, X-ray Tango Papa, on runway one seven Charlie November Charlie zero three, departing northwest"
I lined the aircraft up perfectly with the runway’s centre-line and prepared to do the takeoff when I had a brilliant idea. "Ok, Josh you’re going to do the takeoff," I said as I looked over at a very startled boy.
"But I don’t know how."
"Don’t worry, I’ll help you. First, put your hand on this knob," I told him as I reached out and took his hand, placing it on the throttle. I put my hand over his. "When give the word, push that knob all the way in. Keep your other hand on the yoke and when I tell you, pull back gently until you feel the plane rise into the air."
"Ok, I think I got it," Josh said uneasily.
"Relax pal, you’ll do fine," I said trying to reassure him. "Ok, let’s go, push it."
Josh pushed the throttle knob all the way forward and I released the brakes. The plane began to move forward with increasing speed. Josh’s massive grin had returned but his eyes held a look of intense concentration.
As the aircraft hurtled down the runway gaining speed, I felt the nose wheel rise slightly. "Pull back gently now, Josh."
Josh pulled back on the yoke and slowly the plane lifted into the cool, clear December air. For the first time in his young life, Josh was airborne.
"You did it, bud!" I smiled and was rewarded with Josh’s classic mile wide grin.
I adjusted the throttle and mixture while banking the aircraft to the north. We climbed to an altitude of some 2,500 feet and enjoyed the scenery below.
"Holy cow, those cars look like dinky toys and those people look like ants," Josh said excitedly as he snapped off a bunch of photos. He snapped a couple more of me flying the plane.
I smiled broadly and just sat back and enjoyed the scenery inside the small aircraft. The sight of a very happy boy who was having the time of his young life was better than anything I could imagine seeing on the ground. My heart swelled with pride in this tough little guy and with the love that I felt for him.
The view of the ground was a breathtaking as I had expected it to be. We soared over the Caledon hills, followed roads and scouted various lakes, parks and conservation areas from an altitude of 2,500 feet.
We cruised around for an hour or so when I decided it was time to let Josh fly. "Alright, son, you managed a perfect takeoff so now how would you like to take the controls for a few minutes?"
Josh beamed at me, "Yeah, let me try it."
"Ok, take the yoke in both hands. Don’t touch the pedals; I’ll handle those for you." I watched as his clear brow creased as he concentrated hard on what he was doing.
"This is so cool," he crowed.
I took his camera from him and got some good photos of him flying the plane. I knew this was going to be a day that he would remember for the rest of his life and I wanted it well documented in photographs.
"Ok, now I’ll have you make some small turns. When you move the yoke, do it with very small gentle movements. This isn’t like a video game," I told him.
Josh nodded his head.
"See that road down there, I want you to turn to the right and follow it. Gently turn the yoke to the right about until I tell you to stop and pull back very slightly at the same time." He was doing amazingly well. "Josh, I want you to try to hold the same altitude. Look at the distance between the front of the plane, called the cowling, and the horizon. To keep the plane level, you want to keep that distance the same."
He did exactly as I instructed and I didn’t even have to make any corrections. Other than the fact that I was operating the rudder pedals, Josh was in control of the plane. He was a natural, far better than I was when I first started taking lessons and I was good. Josh was so good it was scary. A lifetime of playing video games must have paid off for him.
I had Josh spend about 30 minutes flying ground tracks and practicing basic flying skills and I was becoming more impressed by the minute. I swore that he must have bird DNA mixed up in his genes, that’s how good he was.
"Ok kiddo, it’s time to take her back, I have control." As good as he was; he was a long way from being able to attempt a landing.
Josh looked disappointed but he immediately turned over control of the aircraft without argument. Sometimes his maturity amazed me. Again my heart swelled with pride.
I turned the plane towards the airport and began our descent. "Traffic, X-ray Tango Papa over-flying Charlie November Charlie zero three and entering downwind leg for landing runway one seven, full stop."
We got a good look at the airport from the air and Josh snapped off a few photos as we flew parallel to runway 17 at an altitude of about 500 feet. I lowered the flaps and banked to the right. "Traffic, X-ray Tango Papa, turning base leg Charlie November Charlie zero three, runway one seven"
We were flying perpendicular to the base of the runway as I throttled down the engines and fully extended the flaps. As we began to pull even with the edge of the runway, I entered another steep bank and lined us up for a perfect landing. "Traffic, X-ray Tango Papa, on final Charlie November Charlie zero three, runway one seven, full stop."
I skillfully brought the plane down for a perfect centerline landing and taxied it back to its original parking spot. After shutting everything down, we climbed out and chocked the wheels. I checked the cockpit to ensure that we hadn’t forgotten anything and then turned to head into the terminal. I managed about 2 steps before I was intercepted by Josh who threw his arms around me in a massive bear-hug.
"Thanks, dad. That was the most amazing thing I ever did. I love you so much. You are the coolest person I ever knew," Josh beamed at me.
I hugged him back and said, "I love you too son. I’m so proud of you. You’re a natural up there." I said with obvious pride in my voice. I squeezed him tighter and said, "Lets grab a bite and we can talk"
We released each other and he treated me to another of his patented head-splitting grins.
Just as we were about to head into the terminal, Josh spotted another pilot heading in the same direction.
"Excuse me, sir?" He said politely.
"What’s up?" The man replied.
"Could you please do us a big favour and take a couple of pictures of my dad and I in front of the airplane?"
"Certainly," he replied taking the camera from Josh and shaking both of our hands.
"That was a nice landing; I was right behind you in the Beaver."
"Thanks," I replied. "You own the Beaver, eh? That’s a hell of an aircraft."
"She may be old, but she’s built like a tank," he replied with a smile.
Josh and I posed arm in arm in front of our plane and the man took two or three shots of us.
"Thanks a lot, sir," Josh said.
"Don’t mention it," he replied with a chuckle as he went on his way.
We walked into the terminal, returned the headset and keys and checked the aircraft back in. "Josh, why don’t you go in and grab us a table and I’ll be right there," I said pointing towards the restaurant. "I have a couple of things to take care of."
"Sure dad. Hurry, though, I’m hungry."
"When aren’t you hungry, little man?" I said as I ruffled his hair.
He gave me a pretend angry face and then smiled and took off into the lounge.
I watched to make sure he was out of site and then headed into the gift shop. I had a couple of important purchases to make. The gift shop sold everything from souvenirs to equipment and supplies used by pilots.
A few minutes later, I emerged from the gift shop and joined Josh at a table near the front window.
"I take it you enjoyed that, eh?" I asked Josh.
"I loved it! When can we go again?" He asked me excitedly.
"Soon, son, it’s a little expensive so we can’t do it too often, but we’ll do it as often as we can," I smiled lovingly at him as I placed a gift shop bag on the table. "I have a few things for you," I told him.
Josh leaned forward and looked intently at the bag on the table with his eyes wide. "You didn’t have to buy me anything. Today was amazing. You do so much for me," he said
I smiled at him and then continued. "First, you’ll need these if we are going flying regularly," I pulled out a headset just like mine and handed it to him.
"Thanks!" Josh beamed as he put the headset on and adjusted it so that it fit him perfectly.
"Next, you’ll need a pair of these," I said as I pulled out a pair of aviator sun glasses just like my own and handed them to him.
He took them from me and out them on right away.
"You can’t be a pilot without one of these," I grinned as I handed him a navy blue ball cap with the word "Pilot" written on the front and with "scrambled eggs" on the visor.
He put it on his head and I snapped a photo. He really looked the part of a pilot.
"Finally, I have something very special to give you," I said seriously.
Josh detected the serious note in my voice and removed the headset, sun glasses and hat.
I took out my pair of gold pilot wings. "My grandfather earned these in WWII. He flew Spitfires for the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was an ace – he shot down a whole lot of German planes during the battle of Britain. He gave these wings to my dad when he became a pilot. My dad gave them to me after I flew a plane the first time."
I studied Josh’s face and looked into his thoughtful gray eyes before continuing. "Son, I want you to have these wings. It’ll be a couple of years before you can actually get a pilot’s license, but you proved yourself in the air today."
I looked at Josh, his sweet, earnest face was set in a solemn look and his eyes were moist. "If you want, I’ll see that you get lessons as soon as you’re old enough. No matter what, I want you to have these wings. They have been passed from father to son in my family for 3 generations now and I want to pass them on to you, my son."
That was all it took, Josh’s tears started as he jumped up, came around the table and wrapped his body around me, hugging me fiercely. I could feel his small body tremble as he sobbed into my chest. He looked up, his eyes once again probing my soul.
"I don’t know what to say," he choked out. "I really don’t know the right words to say to tell you what I feel. Nobody has ever given me anything like this. Nobody has every given me a day like this before. I love you so much, dad. Thank-you."
"I already know how you feel, kiddo," I said as I continued to hug him close. "I love you more than life itself."
I gently rubbed his back the way he liked it and we remained in that embrace for a few minutes until we both regained our composure. After we released each other and Josh returned to his own chair, he carefully pinned the wings to his shirt. He looked at me and the look on his face was utterly priceless.
We shared a nice meal together, laughing and talking about planes and flying and then we headed out to my Jeep and began the trek home. Josh was chattering non-stop the entire way. He kept raving about how much he was looking forward to calling his friends and telling them all about his piloting adventure with his new dad. I smiled the whole way, basking in his happiness and warmed by his love. The events of the day had cost me a fair bit of money, but I would have gladly spent twice as much to see Josh this happy.
I dropped Josh at the house and left him briefly while I headed over to the local mall to pickup his Christmas gift and to drop off his film for processing. Susan and I had discussed Christmas and we decided that we would exchange gifts between the three of us and that we would all spend Christmas morning together before I headed off to my mother’s place in the afternoon for Christmas dinner with my mother and brothers. We had decided on a $50 spending limit for gifts and I was breaking that limit by a fair bit for Josh. I was certain that she wouldn’t mind. I wanted to give him something special and I was sure that he would be delighted with that I had for him.
I had ordered the gift a couple of weeks earlier and, as the store had promised, it was ready for pickup today. I picked up Susan’s gift at the same time and then headed home. I had already purchased and wrapped gifts for my 2 brothers and my mother. This year was to be a record for me. I had completed my shopping a full week before Christmas!
As soon as I walked in the door, Josh threw himself at me and greeted me like I had been gone for 30 years rather than 30 minutes. "I missed you dad, where did you go?" He asked excitedly.
"I just had to pick up a couple of things," I said coyly. "What are we going to do for the rest of the day?"
"Lets see what’s on the tube and order some pizza for dinner. Mom left some money to pay for it."
"That was nice of her," I replied.
We went down to may apartment and flipped on the TV. Sure enough "A Christmas Story", one of the funniest Christmas movies ever made was on TV. I sat in my accustomed place on the couch and Josh snuggled up to me in his usual TV viewing position. I wrapped my arm around him and relished his warmth as he cuddled up to me and made himself comfortable.
We had a great time. As usual, the two of us were laughing like a couple of loons. I knew that as much as we both enjoyed the movie, the main attraction was simply the excuse to spend some time close together.
After the movie we ordered a large meat lovers pizza. The toppings must have been a dietician’s worst nightmare, but we certainly enjoyed it. As we ate, we tuned into the next movie, "National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation", another classic Christmas comedy.
We were both roaring with laughter through most of the movie but before long Josh noticed that I had grown a little quiet.
"What’s wrong?" he asked as he pressed his forehead to mine and stared right into my eyes.
"I have another headache coming on," I said softly.
Josh looked upset. "Why didn’t you tell me?" He demanded.
"I didn’t want to disrupt the movie for you, Josh."
"Tommy, you should have told me. The movie doesn’t matter if you’re in pain." He chided shaking his head.
"It’s not too bad, son."
"It doesn’t matter. Let’s go. On your feet and into your bedroom." He instructed like an angry drill instructor.
I got up and meekly allowed him to lead me to my room. My head was actually hurting worse than I had let on.
Josh helped me get ready for bed and then gently directed me to lay face down. He climbed on top of me and began to deeply massage my shoulders and neck.
"Just relax dad and I’ll take care of you," he whispered lovingly in my ear.
He worked my neck and shoulders for about 15 minutes. It must have been tiring for him, but he never faltered or complained. He kept at it like a trooper and it helped immensely.
"Roll over now, dad," he instructed.
I rolled over and he sat down on my chest and started rubbing my temples in slow, deep circles. The pain began to melt away in the face of his loving and gentle touch.
I was nearly asleep when I heard his whisper, "I love you, dad," and gently kissed my forehead.
The next thing that I remember was waking up on Sunday morning with Josh snuggled warmly up to my side with his arm thrown protectively across my chest. I enjoyed sleeping with Josh. Since the night that his father died, he would come down and join me once or twice a week. Sometimes I wouldn’t even know he was there until I woke up the next morning and found him cuddled up with me. It must have been instinctual, but every time I woke up with him beside, me I invariably had my arms wrapped around him.
Usually when he was feeling stressed or upset, he would seek out the comfort and security of sleeping with me. When I had a headache, he would also sleep in my bed in an effort to comfort me. I was pretty certain that he liked to sleep with me when I had a headache because he believed it allowed him to keep watch over me. Regardless of why we ended up sleeping together on any particular night, we both thoroughly enjoyed the closeness and intimacy of it. There was nothing the least bit sexual about it, it was just a close, loving thing between us.
I lay there and admired the sleeping boy for a few minutes until he began to stir.
"Morning, son," I mumbled, still partially asleep.
"Morning, dad," he replied. "Feeling better?"
"Much better," I smiled.
We both stretched and slowly came fully awake. I’m sure Josh’s bladder was as full as mine, but we weren’t done talking.
"Dad, I really wish you’d see a doctor about those headaches. I get so worried when you have them," he said in a serious, almost pleading tone.
"Ok, Josh. I promise that I’ll see a doctor about it in the New Year."
"I’m going to hold you to that, dad," He said seriously.
"I know, kiddo, it’s a promise," I replied as I hugged him tight.
"Hey dad," Josh said hesitantly. "I was thinking, that was really cool the way you tuned up Uncle Joe the other week when he attacked me. I’d like to learn how to do that. Will you teach me how to fight?"
I thought about it for a moment before answering. "Why do you want to learn how to fight, Josh?" I asked.
"It’s not like I want to beat people up or anything, I just want to be able to protect myself and stand up for others who can’t just like you do."
It was the answer that I was looking for. "Good answer, Josh. That’s what I hoped you’d say. I’ll teach you everything that I know but you have to promise to use your head before you use your fists," I said seriously. "What I’m going to teach you is for self-defense, never for attacking."
"I promise, dad." He replied sincerely.
"Alright, after Christmas, I’ll get us both memberships at the ‘Y’. We can use their facilities to get some exercise and they have mats and things that we can use for self-defense lessons."
Josh hugged me firmly and it was all the reply that I needed.
I looked forward to teaching Josh how to look after himself. It was like another rite of manhood that I was passing down to him. I would enjoy spending the time with him and I would feel better knowing that he would be more than able to protect himself against threats that he might encounter. I hoped he would never have to use those skills, but I also knew that the confidence that he would gain through having those skills would help to keep him safe. Predators seek out vulnerable victims and a confident boy who carries himself well would not be a likely target.
We both lay there enjoying each other’s warmth a few moments before the need to relieve our bladders finally over-rode our desire for physical closeness. We both darted for the bathroom and stood tall together before the porcelain God.
As I went and jumped in the shower, Josh ran excitedly upstairs to call his buddies and tell them all about his dad the pilot and to regale them with the details of his first flight. Now he was like the kid on Christmas morning. It was the first time in his life that he’d ever had occasion to tell his friends about how cool his dad was and he was loving every moment of it. I was certain that I’d probably have some backseat passengers on the next flight!