March 22, 1997
Notice that it's the 22nd of March today.
Twenty-two was always my number. Football, baseball, basketball, whatever; if I had a choice--it was 22. Sounds good, twennntty toooo; and looks good, too, with it's nice repeating curves. Who wants 68? Or 53? No ring to 'em.
For some reason, the number on my back was important. And when the announcer said, "tackle by number 22 of the Tigercats, uh, Line-gar (or Lenin- gar, or Lean-jer; but never correctly pronouncing it : Linen (like the white cloth, you know--linen...) - ger)"--well I was a proud to hear my number called.
I'll bet you'll have your own favorite number someday, too. And I guarantee people will stumble over your last name. If they have problems pronouncing "John", either you are in a different country; or you should politely move along, and start conversing with someone else.
When you get that number someday, I'll be on the sidelines yelling--"way to go number blah, blah, blah". Or just be on the sidelines watching.
I still remember my Dad (your Grandpa Linenger) being there. Always. What I wouldn't give to have him back now.
During my first launch on shuttle, the weather was lousy. We sat on our backs for two hours past scheduled liftoff time, hoping that the weather would clear. Then just before it was time to scrub, the clouds opened just enough and we took off. My Mom said that she saw a rainbow appear at that moment.
My launch to Mir was at night. A perfectly clear, spectacularly dark night with billions and billions of stars out. We lit up the sky precisely at the planned launch time, and people watching said that they could see the solid rocket boosters being jettisoned at two minutes, and then us burning the three main orbiter engines well beyond that. My Mom said that she then saw a brilliant shooting star flash across the sky.
She is sure that Dad is still watching from the sidelines.
Good night, John. Love you. I'll be watching over you.