I thought I would take a break from the exciting world of finance to focus on Thanksgiving and the many blessings we have.
It is nothing short of a miracle of winning the gene pool lottery to have been born in America. Most people around the world can’t imagine living in a country where food is plentiful in stores everywhere, fresh running water runs in houses and no military oppression. In this country, we have the freedom to travel anywhere and cross state lines without showing “papers” There is so much pain, dysfunction, corruption, and destruction going on around the world that it is almost inconceivable to perceive how fortunate we are.
During the summer, I was up early one-morning reading reports on the war in Ukraine. That previous day many young soldiers were engaged in street battles with Russian soldiers that included hand-to-hand combat. It struck me profoundly how I was safely in my den while, at that very moment, young men from both sides of the battle were fighting for their life. The thought of a 20-something young man having left his family and now engaged in street warfare while I, on the other side of the world, prepare for my day of meetings. It was a humbling moment and quite a stark contrast between our two lives.
In 2020, my wife and I moved to San Antonio for multiple reasons that included helping Keith, my father-in-law, as one priority. At 88, Keith was in reasonable health, although suffering from COPD, living in Aransas Pass, Texas. Elderly people can fall into the “tea and toast” syndrome with a diet of tea and white toast for breakfast, apples for lunch, and microwave dinners. Malnutrition results in weaker bones and health. We picked him up at the hospital not a moment too soon. After getting him moved in and settled, my wife, embarked on a quest to bring his health back with excellent cooking. Now, keep in mind even though my wife is an excellent chef, she does not like to cook. However, after Keith moved in, cookbooks started showing up in the mail, and amazing meals were on the table! His health did improve, and we were able to go out on short day trips or to places to visit. What became an evening ritual was to enjoy another delicious meal, clean up the kitchen, and play 3-13, a card game, for an hour or so before he retired. I regularly warned Keith not to die because he was my meal ticket to amazing meals every night.
My wife’s siblings came out many times to visit, which was good for all, as he did not do a very good job staying in touch with anyone for most of his life. One morning (we’re both early risers), I made him breakfast, and he shared his entire life story that I, fortunately, took notes of. That morning we researched the actual Navy ship he served on along with places he had lived. This year in January, we celebrated his 89th birthday with a party complete with candle lite birthday cake and us all singing him “happy birthday .”My wife learned afterward it was his first birthday party because his mom died when he was four, and his dad was overwhelmed with three young boys during the great depression and didn’t have time for parties.
I say we picked him up not a moment too soon, as it turned out we only had 13 terrific months with him. Keith died peacefully and without pain a few months later, on the morning of March 18, with my wife holding him. We are very thankful for the time we all had to renew our relationship with him.
I am thankful for being alive. Literally, the early morning of September 9, I was in the front seat of our contractor’s Piper Lance with our mission to fly to Dallas to inspect cabinets for one of our developments. Unbeknownst to my contractor, also the pilot in command, the compression in the number 4 cylinder had significantly declined during his short flight from Austin to pick me up. The landing strip in Austin is over 8,000’ long, with plenty of runways to generate speed for takeoff. The municipal airport I was at is only 2800’ long, or about half of most municipal airports and a third of the Austin airport. At the end of this airport, the runway is a city street with morning traffic, power lines, and trees. None very good to run into with an airplane. We taxi to the runway, turn, and stop facing down the runway. After a final inspection of the gauges, he throttles up full RPM and releases the brakes for what appeared to me to be a weak start. A short runway doesn’t give much time to decide to abort takeoff, and he was quickly committed. The plane limped off the runway, and I heard on my headset a faint audible “come on baby” from the pilot. We barely cleared the power lines, but we were not climbing. It seems we achieved about 100’ over the trees as we began to sink as the engine was failing. As the trees got closer, it was obvious we were in trouble. However, due only to God’s grace watching over us, a small clearing about the size of a football field appeared in front of us that we dropped down into. The good news is we didn’t land in the trees; however, our new problem is we’re screaming down this short dirt field at 80 MPH towards the trees at the end of the clearing. The plane is heading straight for a solid oak tree, and at the last minute, we bounce about 10” left as the right-wing slams into the tree and is severed immediately. The impact spins the plane clockwise as we slam into the next set of trees, destroying the entire left side of the plane and coming to a complete stop. From roaring noise to silence, we simultaneously shout out, “you okay!” to which we both reply, “yes!” I kick open my door and we jump out completely uninjured. Literally not a scratch.
This morning was full of God’s grace. If we had tracked 100’ left or right, we would have missed the clearing. It’s a miracle that we just missed a head-on collision with the oak tree, and our right-wing hitting the tree on the main spar slowed us down significantly. More amazing is neither fuel tank exploded upon impact with 50 gallons of 100 octane fuel in the tanks. In a short time, our accident scene was full of people from the paramedics, fire department, FAA, police, and sheriff. About two hours later and still before 10:00 in the morning, we were with our wives having breakfast. It was a very surreal experience.
What Does This Mean to Me?
Thanksgiving is a great time to think about all the blessings in our life. The worst conditions for people in America are better than most around the world. For most of us, we’re doing better than 90% of people in America. There is a lot to be thankful for.
I would be remised to not express my thanks to my wonderful wife of 43 years of love, support, and counsel. Nyle, my son whom we have worked together now for 12 years, and Rachael, who has been with us since 2010. Also, I am thankful for all of you that have read or listened to these Weekly Briefs for over 20 years now. I appreciate all of our clients that we have lived life together, learning and building wealth. I am thankful for everything God has given us and look forward to more adventures and experiences in 2023. We wish you a wonderful holiday season and a productive new year. If you’re really lucky, your future does not include a plane crash.