Are We?

The long desert road ran straight, the reddening horizon seemingly endless. Drowsing in the backseat of the family rambler was my grandmother. Her father was a chemical specialist, working with the Air Force and NACA (National Advisory Council for Aeronautics) during the early 1950s. Why were they driving through the American Southwest in the late evening heat of early summer? She was only told that papa had a job at a base out here, somewhere.

The low rhythmic rumble of the car slowed and then stopped. Grandma awoke and rubbed her eyes, asking “are we there yet?” as a child is want to do.

Papa turned around from the driver’s seat and told her to come and get out of the car, her older sister still slumbering and mama looking with concern out to the now darkling sky. Holding her hand, their feet crunching on asphalt and red sand, papa led her to stand on the shoulder of the road. She followed his dark hand as he raised it to his lips, “shush and watch the sky” he told her. Her brunette head tilted back to look up into the night, witnessing for the first time in her young life the full scope of the Milky Way; of thousands of twinkling stars splashed across the infinite dome of heaven. Her mouth hung open…until a handful of those far away lights broke free of their hangings and soared down to dance above the desert.

She watched as the lights did somersaults and pirouettes, chasing each other like Tom and Jerry, but just missing each other before the expected crash. Suddenly as they appeared, the lights stopped in mid-air and shot straight up, back into the blackness. No sound. No disturbance at all. The jackrabbits nibbled scrub nearby, unfazed. “What were those things papa?” He stood there, still watching the sky.

“Those are going to be my job” he said in reverence. My grandmother shrugged and walked back to the waiting car, too sleepy to pursue the question.

****

The stories of captured flying saucers that began to spread though our collective consciousness after the Roswell Incident of 1947 also stirred the memories of my family. Passed on to me by my grandmother, her stacked and collated recollections were undoubtedly dimmed by the darkening of time. Certain events, certain chains of conversation would awaken in her these memories of what her father had told her of his career and his experiences. Did he truly see UFOs, touch alien artifacts, and behold the remains of creatures evolved under a different sun? Did grandma create artificial memories in order to ensure that the real memories could survive, even if fractured and manipulated? I don’t know the answer to that question, but it haunts me.

Her earliest story related to the appearance of dancing, zooming lights over the skies of New Mexico, where her father went to work at an air base. The name of the base, of the exact nature of his work, were not clearly understood by my grandmother, especially as she was a young child at the time. When she told me this story, I could feel her awe, her latent and underlying sense of fear, at what she could not understand. Over the course of several years of living in and around New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona she would hear about the events and experiences of her father’s. He knew many people; military commanders, prominent scientists, senators, even Vice-President Richard Nixon. He was not a low-level civilian (grandma loved to relate that she met Bob Dole when he was still a member of the House of Representatives during the 1996 presidential race).

I remember when FOX TV did their ridiculous “Alien Autopsy” special. We watched it, grandma sitting in rapt attention. When we got to see the alien she scoffed and said it was a fake. I asked her why she thought that – she said that “my father had seen them [the aliens], he said they were small, grayish, not human-like; the one on TV is too big.” I asked her for more details and she deferred. “Only dad would know” she said. I had to take it on faith that she was telling the truth. She was a borderline psychotic most of her adult life, always paranoid, with a warped religiosity. Raised by a devout Catholic father and a Seventh Day Adventist mother, she would go to church on Saturday and Mass on Sunday. Hopelessly confused by so much dogma, literally everything held portents, was affected by prophecy, and could be manipulated by “demons” which is what she assumed UFOs/aliens were.

She told me once of her father working with wreckage of an alien spacecraft, that the materials were lighter than any metals on Earth, but far stronger. Things that she said would be studied and later incorporated into stealth aircraft. She was not in the least surprised by the reveal of the F-117 or the B-2 bomber. She saw them as extensions of her father’s work. She told me that he had known that the Soviets also had recovered alien technology and were working with the United States…I asked her why they would do that and she said that her father assumed it was due to mutual fear of the “others” out there…out there. Out there where?

My grandmother and I did not really get along. She was manipulative, mentally ill, and abusive. If only she had been more stable perhaps I could have gotten a clearer, more detailed understanding of her experiences, and those of her father. All I can do today is recall what she had told me and apply it to the wider network of individuals with similar stories. Conspiracy websites, books, and radio shows about UFOs and aliens fascinate me and that longing I have to know the truth has never left me.

I too have seen the lights in the sky. I cannot explain them. Was she right? Did she have some special, hidden knowledge? Are we, an insignificant race on a small planet orbiting a humdrum star in the outer rim of our galaxy, being visited by beings of greater intelligence? Are we alone?

Are we?

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