Winging It, as a Family

Share this:

In September 1997, a week after Payton was born, we found ourselves back at Hoag Hospital- but this time not on the maternity floor.

My dad was in bad shape and needed a blood transfusion. His overnight stay confirmed his kidneys were failing and he would have to immediately begin dialysis three days a week. He was in dire need of a functioning kidney.

We returned to Hoag again and attended a lecture on live kidney donation. I immediately volunteered to be tested. We waited and finally got the call – I was a match. This signaled the beginning of our journey into the world of organ donation. It was a long road, but finally, three  months shy Payton’s second birthday, a successful transplant took place.

The kidney not only gave my dad a second chance at living life to the fullest, but gave Payton, and his three future siblings an opportunity to get to know their grandpa.

Twelve years later, a special section of our Great American Field Trip is coming to a close tonight as I write this. Tomorrow, my parents, who have joined us for 10 days, will fly home.

If we thought we were packed in tight before, this past week we have had to organize the minivan with seven people spanning three generations, as well as six suitcases, a cooler, books, headphones, first-aid kit, a small arsenal of replica guns from various wars, water bottles, tissues, a trash bag, cameras and cell phones, sweatshirts, backpacks, purses … and a carload of functioning vital organs, thank goodness.

We had great serious discussions, and grand laughs in and out of the car. We learned a lot about history, geography and science.

One highlight was visiting the exact spot the Wright Brothers made their first successful flights near Kitty Hawk, N.C., in 1903. We ate lunch in a restaurant that was the site where they sent a telegram home to Ohio:

“Success four flights Thursday morning all against twenty one mile wind started from level with engine power alone average speed through air thirty one miles longest flight fifty nine seconds inform press home Christmas.”

Obviously the entire world has been changed by the invention of airplanes, but I feel that telegram sealed the fate of my own life.

My dad was from the generation of boys that all had at least one model airplane in their bedroom. His love of making models branched into flying radio-controlled airplanes and eventually earning his own pilot’s license.

I have great memories of our family flying in a tiny 1947 Navion to places with small airstrip, like California’s Gold Country. I was very proud of my dad and his ability to soar in the sky.

It felt like an adventure, climbing onto the wing’s black scratchy non-slip patch and into our seats. Dad would remove the chocks from the tires, get in, pull the glass canopy closed and twist his wrist to lock it into place. Then with his big important headphones he would talk to the people in the air control tower.

Dad: “Niner one seven seven six.”

Tower: “Clear,”

My sister and I would hold hands and giggle as we went faster and faster down the runway until the butterflies flew wildly in our stomachs upon takeoff.

I think it is my dad who made me want to feel those exciting butterflies again and again in life.

His passion for radio-controlled airplanes overflowed into creating a business. Almost 40 years ago, he founded Hobby People “dedicated to the true champions, those who fly for fun” and began selling models, radio-controlled planes, cars, helicopters and rockets.

Through thick and thin, our family business has been dedicated to keeping simple joys a part of people’s life.

It was powerful walking around the exact spot Orville and Wilbur’s hard work, persistence and unwavering faith despite many failures finally paid off. Twelve years ago, our kidney transplant was also a success due to doctors, patients, and surgeons taking risks and building on what they know and believing it could be done.

With the holidays coming, here is my shameless plug; Support a family business that believes in hard work and the power of dreams. Visit us Hobby People online Or, come by the nearest store, only minutes away from Newport Beach. Let them know I sent you.

You can follow the Fales’ Great American Field Trip on Jill’s blog,


Share this: