The boy's dreams become the man who dreamt them. Summertime, 1949 - somewhere in Indiana 

At eight and seven respectively, my cousin Ron and I had been co-pilots for as long as I could remember. Together we had refought the entire Second World War from the cockpit of the most elegant, fastest and maneuverable airplane the world had ever seen.

Our deft craft was approachable only from the hayloft, easily the weakest and least safe part of the old barn, which, had there been anyone with the energy to do it, should have been torn down a generation earlier. Howard Hughes had his plywood Spruce Goose--we had the rotting wood, flying barn. But when you're seven and eight years old you see things in your own special way and fear is a function of selective consciousness.

There was a space where the shed roof had sagged and separated from the eaves at the hayloft's edge, leaving an opening that looked remarkably like the front of a B-17 bomber. (Well, we thought so.) Underneath, right next to the landing gear, the pigs snorted and grunted in the mud and straw. With crayons and paint and old boards, we labored at our artistic and scientific best to create controls and gauges and signs and all kinds of stuff with which to fly the thing. Fly we did for untold hours over those two summers. The war had been over for a few years, but we still had plenty of maps and pictures to plan our attacks with...we were the best. It was during one of these flights of fancy that Ron and I made a bond about flying. A promise to each other that no matter what, we would both grow up to be pilots. We pricked our fingers and traded blood in solemn oath.

Life, however, has a way of directing us away from our most enthusiastically planned dreams. The last time I saw Ron was that summer of 1949. Well, the last time for about thirty-three years anyway. After my father's death, the family moved east and we lost track of the cousins. We moved, they moved, there was no way to find them.

One night in 1982, as I sat at the dinner table with my own family, my oldest boy, then twelve, asked about my father's family. There had never been anyone from my side at any family functions, because there weren't any. I was the last namesake until my boys were born. My son was quite taken by that fact. But he was not satisfied with the missing relatives story and kept bugging me in his best twelve year-old fashion about finding them. So in one of those rare moments of divinely guided desperation, knowing of no other way to shut him up, I picked up the phone and called information in Indianapolis and asked for my aunt Zelma by name. Now there happened to be a listing there for the initial "Z". That was close enough and I placed the call. She answered the phone in her strongest 86 year-old voice. Ten days later my son and I arrived in Indianapolis for the reunion.

Of course Ron had gotten his pilot's license. Of course I flew United, mostly. I remember feeling strangely uneasy at the time about the fact that I had not kept that commitment to my cousin. Ron also owned his own plane, a small Piper four-seater. On the second day of our visit we went flying. Neither Ron nor I had forgotten our pledge, but it was never mentioned. There was no need to. A bond had been broken between us that was more than just two kids playing in a barn. It seemed at the time like not really a big thing but it was greater than and different from the thirty years of non-communication. It came to represent the essence of what brings trust into any relationship. We had given our word to each other in solemn oath, and I had broken the oath. It was only two kids playing, but it was really more than that. It was something that we all do many times in life. We make it okay to break our word. We find all the rationale we need to not complete. We do it as individuals, in relationships, families, governments but mostly to ourselves. We make it okay not to keep our promises. There was a part of each of us that I disappointed by not learning to fly. 

We were only a couple of kids playing in the barn, but it must have been pretty important at the time. I think it still is.

© 2007, Kenneth F. Byers

Other Transition Issues, Books

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A permanent state of transition is man's most noble condition. - Juan Ramon Jimenez

Ken Byers holds a Ph.D. in psychology with an emphasis in Men's Studies, one of the few ever awarded in the U.S. Ken is a full time Certified Professional Life Coach specializing in working with men in any form of transition and an instructor of design at San Francisco State University.

His books, "Man In Transition" and "Who Was That Masked man Anyway" are widely acknowledged as primers for men seeking deeper knowledge of creating awareness and understanding of the masculine way. More information on Ken, his work and/or subscription information to the weekly "Spirit Coach" newsletter which deals with elements of the human spirit in short commentary, check the box at or or or E-Mail You are welcome to share any of Ken's columns with anyone without fee from or to him but please credit to the author. Ken can be reached at: 415.239.6929.

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