Last Monday I had my first lesson with a new student seeking his add-on rating. He was determined, ready to launch into it, had a great attitude…and was ready to fill up my otherwise empty schedule. I had 3+ hours sweat equity invested in coming up with a plan to help him reach his goals. Since the weather Monday was terrible, we spent an hour discussing the plan, setting up some homework, and testing his knowledge. Weather for the rest of the week looked spring-time-good, and I was looking forward to getting in a couple of flights with this student before passing him off for a few flights with another instructor while I headed home for family time.
An hour later I was on the phone with the vet: my 15-year old dog was in bad shape. We set up an appointment to put him down on Thursday, if he lasted that long. I’ve had and lost dogs before, this guy was different. Over almost a third of my life, he’d seen me through school, jobs and joblessness, beginnings (and endings) of relationships; he’d been with me on many adventures; moved me in and out of new apartments and homes, and traveled with me all over the country. “Woof” and “Koko” were among my daughter’s first words, and he was the business end of the team when we did Search and Rescue and Therapy Dog work. Other than my family, there’s maybe only 1 or 2 people I’ve even known for 15 years. I knew this time was coming, and it wasn’t going to be easy letting go.
At first I thought I’d stay until Tuesday morning, take the flight with this new student, and then head home. By the end of the day though, I could tell I wasn’t with it. I cancelled the lesson and drove home. It’s a 5-hour drive for me, and I could tell I wasn’t all there. Distracted, unfocused, fixated on what the next few days would be like–caffeine and luck got me home.
Before coming back to work, I noticed the student had taken his name off the calendar, so I called him up to see how he’d been progressing. He didn’t exactly hit it off with the instructor I left him with, and in the interim had looked up a school that was a little closer to his house. So that was that. I’d definitely made the right decision not to do any flying, but it wasn’t without consequence. But I was able to spend a few good moments with my old friend before he faded away, and I’ll get to fly again another time.