Charlie's favorite reading material is anything to do with flying. He subscribes to all the flying and US services magazines, Air Force Times, Air Force Magazine, Sabre Jet Classic, Military Officer and others. He keeps them in a basket beside his chair for months and browses through them whenever he is bored. He reads the same ones over and over because, to him, each time he picks them up, they are new.
He has a large collection of every book I have been able to find on Amazon.com and elsewhere related to flying. Believe me, those old flyers like to write about their adventures, and Charlie loves to read and re-read their tales of flying through the wild blue yonder. He may have finished a book a month ago but if he picks it up tomorrow it will be fresh reading.
Every now and then a book comes out to which he can personally relate. He has read the biographies about Gen. Chappie James and Col. Robin Olds, both of whom he was serving directly under when he crashed in 1962 in Ipswich, England.
Many memories have been lost to him, but the ones related to his flying days remain uppermost in his memory. They must be residing in a different lobe of the brain from the meal he had this morning.
The other day, when news came on the TV about Harrison Ford's crash in a small WWII plane Charlie perked up his ears. "That's the same model plane I first flew," he remarked. I wasn't sure he was remembering correctly but I soon found out differently.
A short time later, his best friend from the Buffalo area called and asked if we had seen the TV report. He, Charlie and his brother had driven to Michigan in 1951 and purchased an identical used airplane and hauled it home behind their car. The men (boys then) restored the plane and soon had it flying over Niagara Falls.
Charlie's brother was an aviation student at Beaugard Technical High School at the time. It was that plane that first peaked Charlie's interest in flying. I'll bet if he were to get into the cockpit of that plane tomorrow he would be able to rat race it through the clouds just as he did when he was seventeen.
Just don't hand him a TV remote and expect him to be able to turn on the TV.
His daughter is, at this moment, on her way to visit for a few days, accompanied by her 14 year-old son. When I told him Zachary was coming, he asked me who Zachary was. Even after I explained, I'm not sure he made the connection, although the boy has visited several times.
Chances are, that he will forget who the boy is as soon as the car leaves the driveway, along with memories that were made during the visit.
However, night after night he tells me the same stories about things that happened during his Air Force career from 1954 – 1972. Those memories are as fresh as if they happened yesterday.
What strange disease, this thing called dementia.