Today is the first day I won’t be able to wish him a “Happy Birthday” over the phone via FaceTime, or the Stone-Age method of actually calling. It’s been a very strange experience. We had the standard father-son relationship with hunting trips when we could, talked about life during down times, and of course all things aviation/Navy related. We shared stories and asked what was different and how he did this or I did that. I had hoped to take him in a helicopter for one of his birthdays or as a Christmas gift to show him what flying really is! Joking of course, I just had to give him and his jet buddies a playful jab. As I continue to learn more about what goes into being an aviator, ground jobs and working with other military branches, I find myself wanting to pick up the phone to call him for guidance or just to complain about the day and hear “how it used to be in my time”. I’ll never forget the expertise and words of wisdom he imparted on me in regards to family, friends, and work. I hope to some day be half the man he was. I would like to end with my father’s favorite quote, modified slightly, from Gladiator, “If you find yourself alone, flying in CAVU skies with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you’re already dead!” Happy Birthday Old Man! *Raises a pint of Guinness and a shot of Jameson*
I remember being on the east coast for Christmas, I couldn’t have been more than five or six years old at the time. And this year, I wanted one thing, the giant stuffed bear from FAO Schwartz. I had my eye on it since I had circled it in a magazine months before and absolutely nothing else would do. A few days before Christmas my dad took me to get some last minute gifts at the mall, and while he had no idea my ulterior motives, I knew I would be coming home with that bear. Before he knew it we were at the checkout stand purchasing a bear too big to be put inside a bag. For the remainder of the shopping trip I sat perched on my dad’s shoulders while he carried this monstrosity around the mall. But he didn’t complain and I remember going home and sitting with that bear all night. And I remember seeing him smiling at me. He was a smiley man, always laughing and telling jokes, often ones not as funny as he might have thought. But that was him. That was my dad. He was never as concerned with himself as he was with the rest of us, family absolutely always came first for him. He was the Giving Tree of our family, but he was so much more. He had a way with words, as I’m sure any one who has ever read a post of his can agree with. But he could piece together advice in ways that no one else has ever seemed to manage to. Everyday I can still hear his voice reminding me of the things he used to tell Chris, Ashley and me when we were down, stressed, or just needing guidance. He had a way of bringing things into perspective, reminding us what exactly it is we are complaining about when we are otherwise so extremely blessed. My days constantly remind me of him, there are times when I want to text him because I got a good grade or to tell him a funny story about the dog, and instinctively I’ll pull out my phone before remembering, “I can’t do that anymore.” I was at Starbucks with my sister one afternoon, the place was empty except for us and the two workers. Barely audible over the sounds of coffee machines and grinders, the sounds of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” filled the background. Just barely audible enough to spark recognition, and before we know it were both crying. Reminded of our dad, our dad and that song. Reminded of the way he used to sing it when he drove us around, smiling and laughing. Reminding us of the way things once were and the way they are now. We spent the whole car ride reminiscing, stories of the holidays, of our dad slicing the turkey, teaching us to drive, fishing on Father’s day, and of birthdays. This year we celebrate his birthday for the first time without him. But we have memories. And pictures. Happy times. We celebrate the life of the man who raised us, instilled our values, and taught us to be ourselves and to be proud of that. We celebrate his birthday, because for the first time, he cannot. Today, I think of my dad. Of the way he loved flying. I think of the way his eyes lit up when he checked the sky as a plane flew overhead. I think of the smile through his voice when he told stories about being a pilot. I think about how truly blessed he was to be able to make a living off something he enjoyed. I think of how truly blessed my family was to have him. I think of how truly blessed my family is to have everyone that has supported us. But no tribute to my dad would be complete with a quote from Yeat’s so, “I heard the old, old man say, all that’s beautiful drifts away, like the waters.” Happy Birthday, Daddy, I’ll always love you.