All content copyright 2014 Woodpecker Tales LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Overnight

As a reserve flight attendant, the world is a constant surprise. From one day to the next it's hard to figure out if you're coming or going, what day of the week it is or how long you're going to be gone. I've left on what I thought would be a five day journey only to b taken off after three. I've gone on a two day trip only to discover half way through it was being changed to four. But probably the biggest surprise I had was when I thought I was flying up to San Francisco and back to LA one day, and I was anticipating having the rest of the day off when I got back and even made dinner plans. I brought my required items with me and left my suitcase at home.

When I landed in San Francisco and switched on my phone, I discovered I had a voicemail from the good people of scheduling. I knew this couldn't be good.

I'm sure by now you guessed it. I was going to need that suitcase I so carelessly left in my apartment, unpacked and disheveled. Not only did I need it, but I wouldn't be home for four days.

I had about an hour and forty five minutes before I was to return to LA, so on my way to get food I began frantically calling people I knew that I could trust. My first call was to my roommate, who didn't answer. My second was to my old boss, who was busy at an event. My third call was to my best friend, Jason - who always answers and didn't. Next I sent a text to Jason's boss, who was a close friend of mine for a while. She responded by telling me Jason was busy and wouldn't have time to help me. I was striking out left an right. Finally I called the guy I had just started dating. That was just another added to the "didn't answer" list. What was going on?!

I sat to eat my lunch at the gate as my crew and I waited for our next plane to arrive. I started thumbing through my extensive phone list for someone - anyone - who could help me out. At about the "W" section, my phone rang. It was the guy I had been dating, Mike.

"Hey!" I answered, overjoyed. "Are you at work or at home? I need a huge favor and I'm having a personal emergency."

"I'm at home. Are you ok?"

"Yeah, but I left my suitcase at home and they've changed my schedule. I won't be home for four days! I'm flying back into LA and will be there in about two hours, but I won't have enough time to go get my suitcase! I need help!"

"Well," he responded with a dry air, "I was looking through your Facebook and I'm confused. You said you didn't date this one guy a year ago but I just saw a picture where it looks like you did, and honestly I'm not even talking to you right now."

Dumbfounded at the words that just came out of his mouth, I sat there in stunned silence a moment. Then my red headed nature kicked in and I had a few words of my own to say.

"Look, the past is the past. You don't own me, I don't own you, and I have never lied to you about anyone I was dating before I met you two weeks ago. We can talk about this all you want to when I get back, but right now I need some serious help, and if you're not willing to help me I need to know so I can go solve my crisis. I can only handle one issue at a time," I said. I desperately wanted to add "and you've got more issues than I can handle" to the end of that sentence, but didn't. I tried to keep calm. I had my priorities. Starting a fight over the phone wasn't one of them.

"Well, I really can't," he started. "I don't think I want to go - " I cut him off by hanging up the phone and continuing my contacts search.

My phone rang again. It was my former boss! Surely he would be able to help me!

"Hey! I there anyone around who could run an errand for me?" I started off by going straight to the point.

"I don't know. What's wrong? What do you need?"

I explained the situation so quickly that he had to ask me to slow down and repeat myself. I did.

"We are setting up for an event right now but I will see what I can do. What do you need them to do?"

"I need them to go find the hide-a-key under the brick on the back side of the fence, go into the house, find my bedroom, grab my suitcase and bring it to the airport. But I need some stuff out in it first."

"Ok," he said. "I'm writing it down. What do you need in it?"

"A pair of jeans, all of my makeup from the table top, two pairs of socks, the shirt that's hanging on the back of the chair, another shirt from the closet - I don't care which one, and three pairs of underwear from the top drawer of my dresser."

Looking back, I'm sure the list was even longer than that, but you get the gist of it all. There was a lot of stuff I didn't have in the bag that I would be needing.

"Ok," my boss responded later in a text message. "I found someone to go get your stuff. Where do you need it dropped off?"

"At the United terminal at 5:00pm sharp, early if possible."

My flight was on time and I was praying that my bag would be too, whomever was bringing it. My boss was always my friend, even before I ever worked for him. He really proved it that time. I owed him in a big way.

When I arrived at LAX, I ran from the Delta to the United terminal, hoping like crazy my bag and its carrier would be there. My phone buzzed with another text message from my old boss. "Chris is almost there," it said.

Chris. Why did it have to be Chris?

Chris was 6'5" and had some of the broadest shoulders I had ever seen. He was a big, burly guy and often used as a heavy lifter at special events. He was loud and bold and we all loved him dearly - but he was the last person in the world I wanted to have digging through my underwear drawer. I instantly blushed at the thought. He had already gone through it!!!

I saw him from a distance. He had a beanie cap on his bald head and his long, ZZ Top beard was died green. His black jean shorts had holes in them and his faded black shirt had the breast pocket torn half way off and dangling. His shoes were untied and beat up. Behind him he lugged my small, black roller bag. He was the best looking thing I'd seen all day long.

In a flash I forgot about this gentle giant having been digging through my underwear drawer and ran to greet him with a huge hug. People on the sidewalk were staring as I ran up to the disheveled man with pure excitement in my face. I threw my arms around his neck and cheered with delight. I thanked him profusely and I may have even kissed him on the cheek once or twice.

When I let go and looked at him to thank him, he blushed a dark red that faded to a plum purple quickly enough. We walked a minute or two as I asked him if he happened to notice the level of the cats food. He had even fed the cats for me. We both blushed again and I was on my way.

That night in my hotel room, I had this horrible dream of the bald behemoth with a pair of my black thong undies on his head.

Shoe Fly

My father was a military man. Growing up all my life around men and women in uniform, I developed a great appreciation for men in uniform of all kinds. Firemen, policemen, even pilots - though I refuse to ever date a pilot. It's just not a smart thing for a flight attendant to do.

One day I was on the EMB 120 (a thirty passenger plane with propellers instead of jet engines) and a pilot was hitching a ride with us to Fresno. He was sitting in the third row on the aisle, and from my jump seat I could see he was one of the most beautiful specimens of men I had ever seen. He had vivid green eyes and dark lashes, giving him a smoldering, dark expression in a bronzed and sculpted face made of a strong jaw and prominent cheek bones. He was slim but not skinny and he was about six feet tall. The best part was that he had no wedding ring. I was smitten!

I wanted to offer him something to drink, and upon my approach I thought about how fortunate it was I had worn my skirt that day. I had bee a model I years previous, and though I had lost most of the looks I had once pride myself on, I did still have nice legs. I had even seen him notice them.

I approached the second row and decided to sit on the outstretched armrest of that row so I could turn slightly to my left and chat with him a moment. As I grabbed the headrest to lower myself onto my perch, it didn't dawn on me to watch my aim. Someone had put the armrest UP!!

I missed the armrest that wasn't out and instead plopped straight into the seat with a jolt. The pilot looked up from his book, quite surprised at the sudden force strong enough to shake the plane. My momentum was strong enough that I fell straight backward on the seat, laying all the way across the two seats and hitting my head on the opposite arm rest. My feet went directly into the air and one shoe rocketed off of my foot straight into an overhead bin someone had just opened up to retrieve a laptop. The other went shooting down the aisle and skirted right under one of the passengers seats.

Embarrassed beyond belief, I leaned forward and peeked over the armrest at the pilot like a bashful child. No doubt I was bright red. I smiled my best smile. His concern for my well being was obvious, which only made matters even worse. He even asked if I was ok.

"Yeah, but it's a good thing I don't get embarrassed easily," I said, "because that would have been a really good excuse to be embarrassed."

Hip Check

From time to time I tend to have minor issues with my joints and bones. It's something we all must face as we get older, but I've had issues with my hip bones since I was about 15 years old. A chiropractor once told me that I should be in pain when I walk, and the fact that I'm not is a real medical mystery. I have what he called an "inverted pelvis" where all the bones in my hips twisted inward and forward before I was born, in the early development stages. All I know is that my hip makes a "click" sound with every step as it tries to slide back into place. Ouch. But it sounds more painful than it feels, I promise.

Years ago I had an issue with my hips pinching a nerve while I was pregnant. For no obvious reason, my sciatic nerve would suddenly get pinched and I would fall in a crumbled heap straight into the floor wherever I was. That was years ago now thankfully - about 13 years now. But, like I said, once in a while it likes to act up.

One day I was heading to the back of the airplane in order to check on a passenger who had hit their call button. On my to the back, you guessed it, my hip pinched that nerve. I fell in a heap on the airplane floor, sprawled out like someone had thrown me through a window at a Wild West saloon.

My shoes went flying in odd directions and passengers gasped in horror. They looked for something that could have tripped me, but there was nothing around. Three big guys stood and grabbed me, helping me to my feet. Unfortunately that nerve was still pinched and I had to grab on to one just to stay upright. Without noticing, my arm went straight around his neck and it brought us face to face rather quickly. The woman who had been sitting with him slapped him on the leg and he let go, which left me once more where he had found me - in a pile on the floor.

I stood up, brushed myself off, searched for something to blame it all on and came up empty. Finally I just said to all of them "I'm just going to limp off now with what little dignity I have left." I paused and looked over my shoulder. "And Ma'am, I'm so sorry about all that."

The woman who had slapped the man holding me grinned. "Don't be. It's not your fault. But if I hadn't stopped him, he would have kissed you! He's not my husband, he's my brother!"

Last in Dallas

I can't help it.

It comes to no surprise to many when I describe myself as a happy, upbeat person. It shows all over my face all the time. But I can't help it as I sit here in Dallas, thinking about the last time I was here - it's not such a happy memory. Most of my thoughts are pleasant, but this one lingers with a sad and mournful taste, like black licorice on a rainy day.

I had gotten the call to go to work and was having a great morning. I had plenty of time to prepare and pack, knowing I would have an easy three day trip that paid well. The first night would be one flight from Los Angeles to Dallas, with a nice long layover. I planned to use the workout room, go swimming, explore a little... This trip was going to be fun.

I got on the plane and met the crew. The other Flight Attendant was a really sweet lady I liked right away. She and I shared a few laughs, relaxed, chatted with customers and just had fun the entire way. The captain and first officer were both nice guys too! I just knew I would have fun the whole three days.

We landed in Dallas and chatted the entire way out to the shuttle bus. I had forgotten my phone was in my large bag until it was already tucked into the back of the shuttle and we were on our way so I didn't check my messages or even turn my phone on. I didn't get a chance to.

We got to the hotel, checked in, and headed for our rooms. I figured at that point what I didn't know was going on in the world could wait until I got to my room at that point.

I got to the room, took my scarf off of my neck and switched on the power to my phone. As it booted up I kicked off my shoes and started to run a hot bath. I picked up the phone to check emails and messages, and when I bumped the Facebook application on my iPhone screen, I stared in shock at the first thing I saw.

In a moment of panic, I screamed. I'm not a screamer, but I screamed. It was a high, shrill sound that surprised even me. I fell to my knees, clutching my phone with both hands, crying out "No, no, no, no!!!" It seemed to be the only thing I could say for several minutes. The phrase was repeated over and over, with me not even realizing it was coming out of my mouth.

The man who had been my best friend almost my entire life, the one person in the world who knew just about everything about me and loved me anyway, the man i loved and adored beyond any other in a way that surpasses definition, my lifelong companion and kindred spirit - was dead. After six long, hard, brutal years, the brain tumor won. Bryon and I would never be able to do those things we had talked about doing.

But the Internet is notorious for false information and fake celebrity deaths, I thought. He had to be fine. He had to be. I closed Facebook and opened my text messages. There was a recent one from him. He had simply said he missed me. I never responded - but I missed him too. I pleaded with him in my next few painful words.


"Please tell me Facebook is wrong. Please. You have to be ok. Yes, I'll marry you. Just be ok."


I picked myself up off the floor with fresh hope. Surely Facebook was wrong. I switched back to Facebook while I waited for Bryon to respond. I started reading what others had written regarding my Bryon. Slowly, slowly, it began to sink in. I wouldn't be getting a response from Bryon. There would be no more responses from him.

Somewhere around 4am, severely sleep deprived and swollen faced from crying nonstop all night, I called the good people of Scheduling. In broken sobs, I explained to the young man what was going on. I couldn't even get it out all the way when he already had me booked on a 6am flight home.

My heart was broken to pieces in Dallas, shattered beyond repair. A part of me died that day. A part of me is missing. I think about Bryon every single day and carry his photo everywhere I go - but his presence is missed just that much more every time I'm in Dallas. I just can't help it. I lost a precious and irreplaceable love when I was last in Dallas.

Chocolates


One of the many perks of being a flight attendant are the occasional chocolates bestowed upon me by the random traveling crew member or frequent flier. One day I was given such a gift of Sees candies, a nice little assortment of lovely chocolates to share with the crew. 

We had just finished lunch, and several shared laughs (this was the same crew as the Table Sitting story) when I was work into open the box of chocolates so we could all have one. Lyle and Erick both had a great sense of humor and we were truly getting along like we had known one another for ages. 

I struggled for several minutes to get the box open when finally I decided to use my key ring attached to my wallet. It wasn't exactly sharp, but it did have a pointed corner. It was a plastic airplane tail piece that looked like it had come off of a model plane. It was brandished with our company logo and I carried it everywhere out of pride. 

I picked up the tail piece and jammed it at the tape, which finally broke. As I was unwrapping the box I realized both Erick and Lyle had been watching my fight. 

"I guess that piece of tail was good for something," I said without a thought. 

Suddenly Lyle burst into a fit of laughter that left him with tears in his eyes and his hands wrapped around his stomach! 

"A piece of tail is usually good for something! I'm just glad you said it instead of me!"





Table Setting

One afternoon my new flight crew and I were eating a quick lunch in the Sacramento airport when I noticed a young man with a small group at a nearby table. He was sitting squarely on the table, and I remarked that apparently there weren't quite enough chairs in the food court area for this young man. I recited a poem my mother once told to me to the pilot and first officer, who got quite a kick out of it.

"Tables were made for cups and glasses,
Not for our children's cute little asses."

Captain Lyle Smith and First Officer Erick Zurita laughed so hard they both had to stop eating for several minutes. I laughed with them, but not as hard. I didn't think it was all that funny, but then again I had heard that poem quite a lot through life.

The young man later boarded our flight and we took him to his next destination before my crew and I returned to Sacramento again. Again the crew and I stopped to eat lunch, and even managed to sit at the same table with the umbrella, because as the Captain put it "it gives more of a picnic feel" to our lunch.

As we sat there eating, First Officer Zurita looked at me with a smirk. With a pleasant smile and accompanying Mexico City accent, he asked me "Did you happen to notice the guy who was sitting on the table earlier was on our flight?"

"Yeah," I responded, smiling at the memory of the two men laughing so hard at that crazy poem.

"Did you ask him nicely to not sit on his airplane tray table when he got on the plane?"

I thought Lyle and I would both pass out laughing so hard.

Love for Granted

There is something in particular in this world so precious and yet so much taken for granted... LOVE. 

We are brought into the world by parents who love us. We are raised up and taught to be the people we are by those who love us. We, in return, love them. And whether your parents are in your life or not, the way that you love is a reflection of them, both good and bad. 

My parents aren't in my life anymore, as many of you know. But they taught me something I will take with me always. LOVE is not to be taken lightly. It's not here today and gone tomorrow. It's not a passing fancy. It's not just a word, just a thought, just a thing. It's a deep emotional connection with someone in your life - and it's something I don't thinks parents ever really had for me. 

But it's a feeling I know all too well, though there are so few in this wide world I can say I love. 

I long for that day someone can say it to me and mean it.  

Everyone I know is loved. Loved by family, by friends, by husbands and wives and girlfriends and boyfriends. All I've ever wanted was to be loved. It's the one thing I've never found without a price I can't afford to pay. 






Love is Ironic


Love is a funny word. Not a "ha ha" kind of funny, but the "flip-flop stomach and sweaty palms" kind of funny. It's funny in the way that even after someone had departed this world for the next, a sudden thought of the, can make us laugh out loud while sitting alone in an airplane. It's funny in the way that even though separated by a great number of miles and distance and time, that love is still so real and so alive that you can feel it almost with your hands and with the every beat of your heart. 

Love is ironic. It's not ironic in a way that it makes no sense such as government intelligence, but in the way it can make us cry and smile at the same time. It's ironic in the way that we so often don't realize what we have until its been taken away from us. 

Love is all powerful. 
Love is beautiful. 
Love is painful. 
Love is amazing. 
Love is wonderful. 
Love is uncertain. 
And love is ironic. 
Love can both lift us up and bring us down. 

Love ..... is love. 




R.I.P. Bryon Otto Pastian 







Bryon

When I first got the news, I was in a hotel room in Dallas. My first and immediate reaction was denial, which quickly turned into bargaining. I've always heard about the steps of grief, but I had no idea that I would react the same way most all other human beings do in response to the loss of a loved one. I lost people I cared about before, but this was different.

"No no no no no no...." That seemed to be about all I could manage saying for several minutes. I sat down on the bed with my iPhone in my hand, wondering who would play such a mean practical joke on Facebook. Sure, Bryon had been sick for a while, but he was going to pull through it. He had to. He had always done so before!

I sat there for several minutes, uncertain of what to do.

Then came the bargaining. It was shameless and I'm embarrassed to admit it, but it was there and it was real. It was a part of the process so I'm willing to share.

"Please tell me Facebook is wrong. Please. You have to be ok. Yes, I'll marry you. Just be ok."

Bryon had told me a few months ago that he wanted to move to California and buy a house for the two of us. He said he thought the two of us should end up together. We knew one another so well. We always did. We had, after all, known one another since the 6th grade. We were best friends even then, though he was dating Megan MacKenley at the time and my boyfriend was Allen Speakman.

In 2006 Bryon (as a Marine) was in Yuma, AZ and decided to drive up to Los Angeles to see me.

We went to Benihana for dinner during his visit to Los Angeles. His buddy had never been to one so the onion slice volcano blew the youngster away. Bryon laughed. I loved his laugh. It was infectious.

When we were in the 6th grade our class field trip was to Medieval Times in Anaheim CA. We wanted to relive that memory.... and so we did. There's a photo somewhere of Bryon and I standing with the princess of the realm that night. I miss that photo right now more than any other possession I ever owned. It was in the uhaul when it was stolen a few years ago. What I wouldn't do to have that one photo back. I never knew an 8x10 would mean that much to me.

As a special treat, we decided to go visit our old home of George AFB together. So many of the buildings were gone that I had a clear view of where his house was still standing from where the rubble of mine lay. Emotional, he began the walk to his old front porch. He was gone for some time, but when he returned he had a broad smile - and a slip of paper.

"Look at this," he shouted, visibly excited. He showed me the paper. "It's a work order to get something fixed, and it has my dads signature on it! I found it in a drawer upstairs."

That's how I remember him best - smiling and excited, happy to the point of being overjoyed by something as simple as a piece of paper. A military work order.

I remember the day he told me he was testing for the MENSA group - a group of super-geniuses... I was so proud, but far from surprised.

About six years ago Brian was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. He was given only a couple of weeks to live - but he fought like a Marine!!! He wasn't going out without a fight. Six long years, a few remission a and a few relapses later, Bryon told me that he believed we should be together. He saw us as having a future. We knew one another so well. We always had. He wanted to buy us a house. He said he loved me. I admitted that I had always loved him too. That had never changed. I planned to go visit him... but I just never made it.

Bryon died yesterday, on 6-11-13 and I know the world will never be the same. MY world will never be the same. There will be a deep, gaping hole in my heart, a place that only he could fill, and did, every single day. He was such a brave man. He was my friend. He was my family. He was my HERO. He was my Marine.

I went through the other stages of grief including anger - angry at the situation and guilt at not having been able to see him before he died, and anger at others for telling me not to feel guilt. I wanted to scream into the pillow - and did. I wanted to go for a run at top speed until I couldn't breathe - and I didn't. My breath was already forced and labored. I was in danger of hyperventilating. I wanted to hug someone - anyone. But there was nobody there. I was alone in Dallas in a strange hotel room with nothing but the four walls to bounce off of.

He was an amazing person. I know I won't ever forget him. He inspired me. He helped me. When he needed OTHERS most, he went out of his way to personally be there for others instead. He taught me what true strength and courage were.

I'm going to miss him. I can't keep my eyes dry yet. I've been up for over 24 hours and the only thing I see when I close my eyes is his face burned into my eye lids. I see him in Victorville holding that paper. I see him smiling with the princess. I see his glasses and thin frame in school way back when.... and I see him smiling at me, telling me he loves me... He's himself again, the strong Marine I knew him as. He's no longer hurting or sick or weak. He's powerful and tall and independent. And he's watching over all of us, telling each of us in his own way that he loves us.

Just this morning a man at the hotel stopped me on my way out. He told me "He wants you to know he loves you." That was all he said. He indicated upward. I knew........

I love you Bryon. I love you beyond life, beyond death and beyond the confines of the human imagination.

May God grant you peace in your eternal rest, my Friend. I miss you.




Normal Life and Normal Love

This whole monologue below came up in a conversation with someone today. I just thought I would share.




I don't want a rock star. I don't want a movie star. I don't want a doctor or a lawyer. I don't want a hockey player. I don't want a football player. What I want is someone who will accept me for who I am, never try to change me, and learn to love me.   I dated men who played for the San Francisco 49ers. I dated [a movie star]. I dated comedians and magicians. What I want is a normal guy. A normal guy who does what he likes to do, goes where he likes to go, and cares about me enough to include me.

I'm just a normal person myself. I'm not a superhero with superpowers. I'm not a rock star, a movie star, or a world-famous fashion model.  I'm not skinny. I'm not fat. I'm not amazing, but I'm not ordinary. I'm not worthy of being put on a pedestal, but I don't mind it when I am. I'm just a normal girl. 

All I want is a normal life and a normal love. Because those two things combined are extraordinary.