The Best Kind of Man

What kind of man is a genius who is never arrogant, confident but never harsh, a conservative superhero with no concept of prejudice, who moved as one of the greats in United States’ aerospace yet who was so humble, I didn’t even realize the extent of it for years?

What kind of man was he? The kind of man who married me.

Mr. Air Force One, flight test engineer in charge of the U-2 and SR-71, all Connie variants including those for SIGINT and the D.O.D., Joseph F. Ware, Jr. was a both simple and complex. As a child he was a Dennis-the-Menace-type genius who invented things, got into things, out of curiosity, discovering his ability to make things. In 1926, he designed and built his own radio broadcast station in the attic of his home, 404 Clay St., Blacksburg, VA, two blocks SE of Virginia Tech, then “V.P.I.,” as he referred to it. Then he needed programming, so he bugged his mother’s parlor and broadcast the ladies’ discussions. He wired a backyard tend from the house fuse box and blew it all out. But when his step-father bought a house next door, Joe was the one who they asked to wire the whole place.

He was a simple guy who did his home work, graduated early from VT then on to Caltech where he graduated early again with a Master’s in Engineering. He was a Wright engine test engineer at Patterson, NJ, taught math at Virginia Tech, then went off to Burbank, CA, to work at Lockheed, Skunk Works, under Kelly Johnson, becoming Department Manager of Engineering Flight Test. Tony LeVier, a good friend, and all the test pilots worked for him. See Shadow Life: Aerospace, Love, and Secrets, noted in the right column.

He had two wives before me, three children from the first marriage. Both his first wives passed away. And then he met me.

I was different: a pilot, like him, who looked at him as if he were Elvis Presley, a rock star in the aviation world I admired. We’d walk for hours around any airport and talk. I’d ask him more questions than I knew I had, and he’d answer them, often with personal items about the designer, as he knew many of them.

And I was/am transsexual. I waited for years to see if his kindness to me was a front, a curiosity, expecting the usual bigotry, but after four years, I was surprised to learn that he was, indeed, into me and that the one who was bigoted was I, against our age difference. He was 40 years older, and I couldn’t allow myself to love him. Realizing that, I dropped it, and I’ve been thankful ever since. He was the best, the most intelligent, caring, conservative yet compassionate man I’d ever known, and he continues to inspire me today.

Loving and Fighting

NX28FE Joe and me in 8FE.jpg
NX28FE, Joe in Front; Me Flying in Back.

He held me close and kissed me gently…

We drove up the freeway toward a Lockheed Martin Star Dusters picnic to rouse with long-term friends. I rested my hand on his thigh…

We walked out of the airport cafe onto the ramp and stood by the flaps on the back of the left wing, a T-28 Fennec, French warbird. Two people watched us from a distance, unmoving. Their faces were grim.

I reached for hope in the thick aluminum of the flaps, scanned three ancient dings in the skin that I swore were bullet holes from Algeria. He survived, and so can I.

Joe smiled at me. It helped but glancing back at the men, my face grew dark.

“Don’t worry about it, Jenna.”

I prayed for a lighter mood, patted the plane as if he were a giant German Shepherd. “It weighs on me. It’s been years.”

Joe lowered his face and said to me quietly. “Lets go up for a while.”

Life

In late evening, on the crest of a country hill, a young lady held a baby rabbit in her hands. The little thing was alone and needed help, so she fed him, warmed him, snuggled him to her breast with comforting coos.

“It’ll be alright,” she said, kissing his ears, knowing he comforted her as well.

The breeze calmed and warmth from the land beneath flowed into her. She reached out with her feelings and loved the grasses, the trees in the distance, the faint glow of a distant town in a valley, but her eyes were drawn to the stars. Out there, she knew, were wonders she longed to embrace: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Planets Nine, Ten and Eleven, other stars, nebulae, galaxies turning like spokes on a wheel amid unknown depths of dark matter, expanding with dark energy… And, she thought to herself, we’re part of it. Life is part of it all. It’s not out there, separate from us; we’re here, too, all part of the same whole.

How could it be the universe could generate such a beautiful thing as life in a design that would let it go, let it die, let this wonderful appreciation for our place in the cosmos perish with “death”? How could it be that we get to connect so beautifully with life around us only to have it removed?

Perhaps the answer is in our quest to learn and in what we can do with it. The application of knowledge isn’t about things staying as they have been, but improving them.

A microbiologist, she knew: A high mutation rate helped our species adapt to changing conditions through our evolution, but that mutation rate also results in aging that is more rapid than it needs to be, through cell replication error.

What if death as we know it is only the beginning of our species’ life span? What if, now that we’re beginning to learn, we could use our larger brain to adjust the mutation rate? What if cell manipulation and chromosomal repair, through our own body’s stem cells could extend life? That we could use the brain we’ve been given to change ourselves, so we could love the cosmos longer?

It won’t be there in time for us, but it may be available to our descendants:

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/12/researchers-rejuvenate-aging-mice-stem-cell-genes

https://www.earthchangesmedia.com/researchers-rejuvenate-stem-cell-population-from-elderly-mice-enabling-muscle-recovery

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2875071/

Joe Found Me

One magical evening, in the still air of twilight, a wonderful man picked me up at a private airport and took me to his hangar to show me the new airplane he loved. This is not unusual. Pilots love to talk planes.

“Go ahead,” he said. “Climb in.”

“Me?” The plane was too good. I didn’t feel worthy. “No, I can’t.”

His smile told me there was much more to him than an airplane could convey, and he began a life of lessons for me. “It’s okay,” he said. “You can do it.”