Thirty-six-year-old Ukranian Eggs
When I look at these eggs, I am reminded of one of the many "loveable eccentrics" that I have encountered on my life journey--actually he may have been the first person I recognized as such. Eccentrics are some of my favorite people. They whistle a different tune and dance to a different drummer. I appreciate that. I just wouldn't live with, depend upon or share a checking account with some of them.
I first met Boris just after I married my Air Force KC-135 pilot husband. Boris was a Navigator on the same plane and he and Bob were members of the 905th Air Refueling Squadron located on the S.A.C base at Grand Forks, North Dakota. Both had joined the Air Force "to see the world" and both had been assigned to a base less than 150 miles from their North Dakota home towns. In those days--the Vietnam Era--navigators filled the niche that sophisticated GPS technology fills today. One of Boris's jocular responses when asked why he had called for a change in course was that he was flying them around the mustard he spilled on the flight plan.
My first encounter with Boris was several weeks after we'd moved into on-base housing. Boris was hosting some of his squadron mates and their wives or dates for Ukranian food at the home he shared with 3 other bachelors. We walked in to find a tall lanky man, with an infectious grin, stirring a huge pot of borscht on the stove--while matching vodka shots with each newly arrived guest.
Boris was a first generation USA-born Ukranian whose parents farmed a small acreage in Western North Dakota. He was a study in contrasts: highly ambitious and animated but extremely reserved about sharing his personal life. He enlisted in the Air Force right out of high school then, while still a Private, applied for Officer Candidate's School and was accepted. He became a navigator, served in that capacity for several years then applied for pilot training. He did well enough that he was selected as a fighter pilot and flew some of the most dangerous missions in Vietnam. He retired from the Air Force at age 40, having finished his career as a flight instructor training foreign military pilots on the F-5 fighter plane. After retirement he returned to the family farm where he cared for his aging mother and a motley collection of animals. He became a virtual recluse, leaving the farm only to go hunting each fall and to take the occasional road trip.
On one such trip he visited us in our home three months after the birth of our first son and came bearing a celebratory gift: three intricately-decorated Ukranian eggs, sealed--not blown (an important distinction to him). Their beautifully-preserved vibrant colors always spark memories of a unique friend.
Last March Boris called as he did about once each year. Bob was gone, but Boris talked to me for over an hour, reminiscing about the old days. When I had asked how things were going with him, he cryptically answered, "Better" but would not elaborate. We found out two months ago--when Bob joined an email list for the 905th A.R.S. that Boris had died last December, alone in his house, of cancer.
In memory of a "much-beloved eccentric" and his Ukranian eggs.