Thursday, August 09, 2007

"Your brother is on the phone..."

I'm 46 years old, and I don't think I've ever heard that before. It took a few seconds for it to sink in when the wife looked at the caller ID and told me that it was my brother calling. Neither my brother or I are particularly fond of the phone anyway, and for at least the first 18 years of my life, weren't all that fond of each other either. Childhood differences were outgrown years ago, and we talk a bit on my periodic visits to the farm, but have never really done much more than that. He's always been interested in the airplanes I've owned, and I've lately been curious as to how the NASCAR Modified he's been building is working out, but it's seemed that we never really shared any interests to the degree that we'd pick up the phone and chat.

What changed? Or, as the thoughts ran through my head when his name appeared on the caller ID, "What's happened?" "How bad is this news going to be?"

What happened is that he was released from the hospital yesterday. I knew he had been in the hospital for emergency surgery a little more than a week ago, after having been found in his house curled into a fetal position from the pain in his gut. The assumption at the time was that he had a bout with diverticulitis and the damage to his intestines had required portions of them to be removed. The prognosis I heard was a couple of days in the hospital, but it turned out to be eight days. They no longer believe it was diverticulitis, though. He somehow tore a part of his colon open (he thinks it happened as he was climbing out of the race car) and spent a few days working up a very bad case of peritonitis. It was apparently so far advanced by the time he got to the hospital that it was a near thing, and his outlook on life has changed significantly as a result. Hence the phone call.

As he looks at what he now considers to be his second chance at life, he's thinking of all of the things he's always wanted to do and realizing that he had better get started on at least some of them. The race car was one of them, of course, and he should be healed up enough by next year's racing season to actually get it out on the track and do some racing. Beyond that, though, he's thinking that he might like to get involved in some form of aviation. As luck (or fate) would have it, I think a lot about this myself. It is, of course, why I am going to A&P classes over at the community college.

One of my ideas for the semi-retirement I hope to have in the next 5 or 6 years is to specialize in the re-covering of fabric wing airplanes. It seems to me that the relatively new LSA rules have revitalized the market for some of the old classics, such as Taylorcraft, Pipers, and Stinsons. Meanwhile, the guys that specialize in replacing the fabric on these venerable old birds are retiring, leaving a gap in the services offered by current A&Ps, most of whom concentrate on more modern equipment. This, to me, seems like an opportunity for a guy (or a couple of guys) that want to get out of the rat race, but aren't quite ready to stop working entirely. My question had always been, however, just where I could base such a business.

So, when my brother said that he'd like to build himself a grass runway on his farm and find some way of working on airplanes, the 100 watt bulb over my head lit up. That would be the perfect set-up for going into the business of re-covering airplanes! You know, I think it was just the idea he was looking for!

Strange how these things come about. Only time will tell if this germ of an idea can grow into anything meaningful, but if nothing else I think I will be spending a lot more time getting to know my new brother.

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