Keeping active in various activities I shared with my departed partner keeps alive all those connections we took so long to create, and enjoyed so much. Especially so, if they are shared with another who is wearing the same brand of shoes. By that I mean, one who has lost a loved one as well, and was a part of the same sets of activities.
Let me be more specific. The other I am referring to is a friend whose partner departed about four months after mine, and whom I knew basically from the Antique Jewelry world that my partner and I shared for the last 35+ years. I invited him to attend a summer picnic with me that our Antiques dealers association held every year. I have kept my relationship with that organization very close. It was for all those years one of our many families.
This year the picnic was held on the grounds of the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport. An amazing treasure located so nearby and in such a beautiful area. Suffice to say it was much enjoyed by all who attended. The day was perfect. The food was good. The venue was fascinating.
The museum was named after Glenn Curtiss, an aviation pioneer. It was very well supplied with memorabilia from a very historic era. Having grown up in Buffalo, NY in the early part of the 20th Century, I was quite familiar with the name Curtiss. During WWII Curtiss-Wright Aircraft had its main factory there and turned out thousands of fighter aircraft needed to win that war. In particular, they made a model P 40 that was the backbone fighter aircraft for a group of American volunteers who fought for the Chinese Republic, long before Pearl Harbor.
It so happened that one of our association members was a daughter of an American fighter pilot who flew and fought for the Chinese against the invading Japanese. The group was famously known as the “Flying Tigers.” (Historical Flying Tiger books are available at www.DanFordBooks.com) . Interestingly enough, her mother was a nurse attached to that group, and married to her fighter pilot father. Here`s where the amazing power of revisited memories come in. I`ll try to be brief.
The existence of WWII Curtiss P 40 aircraft is substantially nil. There are very few left. One is now in the restoration shop of the Glenn Curtiss Museum. It is severely damaged, and many parts have to be refabricated to bring it back to its complete state. It is a work in progress, and a completion date is far in the future.
I was completely unaware of what I just described until I just happened to overhear a conversation between a visitor who knew about the aircraft being restored, and wished to see it. He was speaking to the museum curator, and requesting permission to go the restoration shop and see it for himself. The curator, politely but firmly, declined to take him to the shop, as he indicated the work in progress was in an extremely fragile state and no one could be permitted to see it for fear that further damage might occur.
After the visitor left, I went up to the curator and explained to him that within our group there was an actual daughter of one of the Flying Tiger pilots, and for her this would be the opportunity of a lifetime to see the aircraft in which her father fought the Japanese. My plea was accepted, and I immediately contacted the daughter and her husband, and we accompanied the curator to the workshop.
What a sight…
Here was a partially restored Curtiss P 40. Not in very good condition at all. Many parts missing or broken. But, the fuselage and wings were clearly recognizable, and it still had the shark`s teeth design on its propeller section. I remembered it well. The daughter had never seen a P 40. She was born after the war, maybe 10 or so years later. It was a memorable moment for her. I could see how she was moved.
I said to her: “Touch it.” “It was in one of those your dad risked everything.” She did. She touched a physical reminder of her father`s contribution to her survival. She never realized what a small aircraft it was and how difficult and courageous it must have been to do what he did. In a distinctly real way, his love was relighted in her.
I could feel it…