Missing my dad today.

He was 39 when I was born.  Strange that he passed away when I was 41 and that I was the same age my  mom was when her dad died.

My older son dimly remembers him (he was six when I flew with just him from Florida to the wake in Maine). My younger son doesn’t remember him at all.

I’m the youngest of four.  The 11 year gap between me and my oldest sibling, a sister, feels like a lifetime.  She has memories of him I don’t share, but then, as an adult (21-25) I lived off and on with both parents, and then in the same state for a few years in my late 20’s, and late 30’s and early 40’s.

Dad was a Navy pilot.  He started flying young in Stearmans, then SNJs, then SBD Dauntless, then after the service, a Navion, a Twin Bonanza, and later, a friend’s Shrike.  There were others, I know, but those are ingrained. He told me once he regretted not staying in the Navy, but had a family and that was no life for them.

He was a marketing person (he told me my being in marketing was genetic), and a lover of animals. He accused his Yorkie, Molly, of attempting a “brain transfer” on him when she stared at his cheese eating.

He was a steak and potatoes guy.  And loved a good Martini.  When I arrived on my parents’ doorstep at 38 or 39, sans kids, for a weekend of just being me, he’d be sure he had Cosmo fixings ready.  My mom, who is still alive at 88, told me he would “light up” when he knew I was coming to see them and that his energy changed, and I had a residual effect on him for days.  This still makes me smile a soft smile.

We called him a curmudgeon and that he was loved in spite of  himself.   He was gruff, but got misty-eyed and told me to “never settle” when I was in my twenties and dating.  In 1993, I married a pilot who asked his permission first, to the delight of my dad.  At the wedding my dad overheard my groom say something he found concerning, and yet, never said a word to me about it. He knew my first marriage was in trouble when he died.  My regret is his not meeting my new husband of four years, who, I am sure he would say “deserves me.”  And prying them apart would be hard.

He’d tell the same stories over and over, and we’d all laugh anyway.  He wasn’t much of a friend maker, or socialite, but the friends he had, he kept for good.  And if you put him in a room with them, he turned animated and grinned.

I talked to him last, in April of 2005, two days before he died the way he wanted: of a very fast massive heart attack, brought on by COPD, brought on by smoking unfiltered Camels and pipes most of his life. (He quit in 1996).  I told him about my business trip and that I would come up that weekend to fix his DSL issues. (He lived about an hour and a half away).

My mom called from the hospital two days later and had to put the nurse on the phone after telling me.  I drove to her that night, an hour and half away, my best friend on my cell, keeping me centered and not thinking about what I was driving to.  My mom insisted I could come up the next day.  I realized then she was in bad shape. She had married him at 18 and the adjustment to life on her own would contain giant Bell curves of ups and downs.

I have never been afraid of dying. I am quite sure that it is an extension/new version of this life. And now I get signs from him all the time.  He sent me my husband. We’re sure. Too many “coincidences” not to be. And every single year, on his birthday and on his death date, I get a big, fat, HELLO. A Stearman flying over the house. An obscure song on the radio. A weird story on NPR that reeks of my dad.  Or I start reading a new novel and the main character’s name is Jack, or lives in Maine or drives an Oldsmobile.

Explain that.  I can.

Hi Dad. Miss you. Love you.  Always.

jens jump drive 002


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