Joey’s first flight

As the wheels lifted off of the ground, I squeezed my son’s hand tight and held my breath. Would he love his first ride in an airplane, or would he be afraid?

Ever since Joey was born, he has loved airplanes. He would point to them and get excited every time he saw one. As he grew older, he would play with his toy planes and build planes out of Legos. And every day after preschool, we would drive out of our way, so he could see an old Air Force plane on display.

Joey is only 5, and there’s no way to know what he will be when he grows up. But I believe in exposing him to different things and letting him know that if he works hard, believes in himself and does well in school, he can be whatever he would like to be. He can achieve his dreams. I want him to know it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from.

I’m a single mom, and Joey has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. While some may say his future is limited. I do not.

And so, I lined up a ride in a Cirrus airplane, so he could experience his first flight. Grandpa Joe came along. I thought having Grandpa with would help Joey be brave.

The Cirrus pilot, Michael McDevitt took the time to teach Joey all about the plane before we took off. It was a Cirrus SR22, fresh off the assembly line. He was patient with Joey and answered all of his questions.

Then, we took off for Joey’s first flight. It was even better than I had imagined.

Joey absolutely loved it. Every minute of it. He marveled at seeing the clouds up close, and he was amazed with how small everything looked below. He even pointed out of the window and said, “Look how beautiful it looks.” He was in total awe.

My little boy looked so grown up, wearing his pilot headset and talking through the microphone. For a moment, I felt as if I were glimpsing into his future.

At one point, Joey moved to the co-pilot seat, and he even got to fly for a moment. Afterward, we toured Cirrus and Joey got to see how planes are built.

On the ride home, Joey told me he plans to turn my car into a plane. He plastered his room with pictures of planes and is now saving money in his piggy bank to buy a plane. I later told Joey that God gives everyone their own special gifts and talents, and he got very excited about that.

I have no idea what Joey will do with his life. At this point, he wants to be a “Dad, pilot, firefighter, plane builder, doctor, farmer.” He also wants to have 20 kids. And he says I get to live next door, so I can babysit.

I cherish the dreams of a child. And rather than telling him he can’t do something, I tell him, he can. I don’t want anything to hold him back. I want him to know that the sky is truly the limit.

And I’m hoping when he looks back on his life, he’ll know why mommy took him up in a plane that day. It was about so much more than the plane ride — it’s about trusting in God and following your path in life no matter where it takes you.

And it’s about knowing you can, even when the world tells you, you can’t.

One thought on “Joey’s first flight

  1. I’d like to share a couple of responses I received to this. A big thank-you to everyone reading the column, your support is phenomenal!

    Julie, that was a really nice article about flying. I find pilots to be interesting people and some of the nicest folks around. I have a friend, Gene Hanson, in Edgeley who is a real character. He takes 90-year-olds up and Hutterites and anyone else who would like to go up. He just loves to share the air with others. I think one of his planes has an open cockpit. My husband and his business partner own a small plane too and give many rides. He loves taking someone up who has never flown. I think your little Joey probably gave the pilot more joy than he got back! I hope he gets many more flights and enjoys each one. I find the air to be a most relaxing place. I cannot imagine how some people fear flying. Keep up the good work!
    -Lana Schlecht

    Hi Julie,
    I just read your article about your son Joeys’ first flight. If I had the power to name you “Mother of the Year”, you could consider it done! What a wonderful gift you gave him by tuning in to his interest in flying and providing him with that experience. Your thoughts on using the gifts and talents that God gives us reminds me of a good friend of mine, her name is Melanie Popejoy. Melanie is currently the Associate Director of Choirs at UND, but has taught Vocal Music for over thirty years to children from the elementary school level all the way through college age. Like you, Melanie teaches her students never to “settle”, and to always use their talents to the utmost and to treat each other with respect and dignity as they go through life. Melanie has taught singers in Texas, Missouri and North Dakota, and has been chosen as “Teacher of the Year” in every school and state that she has been in. She and her husband Jim have no children of their own, but if you were to ask any of Melanie’s thousands if students over the years, they would all be very proud to call her “Mom”. Melanie lives what she teaches and encourages her singers to build on their experiences and abilities, and next February will take 100 middle school singers from Grand Forks to New York City to perform in concert, as part of a multi-generational Choir, at Carnegie Hall! As you wrote, “It’s about knowing you can, even when the world tells you that you can’t.” I wish you and your family all of the best that life has to offer. Thank you for sharing your story.
    -Greg Nelson

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