Today, Wally Funk, 82, became the oldest person to fly in suborbital space. She trained as an astronaut in the 60s when women were not allowed to become astronauts. As I was watching, I couldn’t help but think of Dan and mom one Christmas.
Dan was fascinated with space exploration. He was going to be the first Chaffee in space. When Roger Chaffee was named as one of the crew members for Apollo One, Dan was both thrilled and disappointed. He wrote a letter to Astronaut Chaffee and, to his surprise and delight, Dan received a lovely letter in return.
Excitement turned to horror and grief on January 27, 1967. Dan never again spoke about becoming an astronaut. But that came later, after my story.
My older brother Scott was in the army, stationed in Germany and away from home on Christmas. We were spending Christmas at my grandparents. Santa brought Dan a space helmet — the space capsule was awaiting him at home. Dan was also interested in becoming a newscaster as a fall back career, so as a present to Scott, Dan taped interviewed the first woman in space — Mom.
The only thing I remember from that interview Dan asking if the helmet was a problem. Mom said she didn’t wear a helmet because it mussed her hair. The look on Dan’s face and my mom’s efforts to keep from laughing were front-of-mind today when Wally Funk finally made it to space.
Happy birthday — or as we used to say to each other — Happy Happy Joy Joy!
Another birthday and you’re not here. So much is going on on the political front, you should be here to see it.
There have been many time in recent days, I think about calling you, but I don’t know the number where you are. I still have a copy of your outgoing message. Even though I very accurately remember your voice, I still play the message once in a while, just to hear you talk for a few seconds.
I was at the doctor’s office the other day, sitting in the waiting room and … you know … waiting. There were two men talking. One got up and went in for his appointment. The other gentleman started to talk to me.
As it turns out, this man graduated two years ahead of me. That means we both have the reunion coming up. That also means he graduated is Dan’s class. And, of course, he knew Dan. Quite well, actually. As he was called into the office, he asked me to tell Dan “hello” the next time I talk to him.
I got a call from the treasury office and they gave me good news and bad news.
First, the good news: she kept saying “checks.” That means it’s not clothes! HALLELUJAH, BABY!!!! No dealing with bodily fluids of a beloved, long-dead brother.
The bad news: After almost 11 years, Dan’s estate is still technically open! The creditors have all settled accounts and would have done so within a year of the probate, but the final paperwork was never filed.