“Daddy, I saw the Concord!!” I sputtered. I was six years old and had just returned from my first overseas trip to the UK. As I met my dad at the airport I excitedly began to tell him all about my visit to the cockpit of the airplane we were on (back in the day when we could) and the fact that I had seen the Concord. Nothing about the sights and sounds of the UK, just the fact that I had been in the cockpit and there were lots and lots of switches and buttons and the fact that I had plain view of the sky. Much better than the little window that I had near my seat. He listened patiently to all my blabbering and would repeat the story in later years.
My dad had wanted to be an RAF pilot. At the time he was UK citizen and had applied for an interview. He apparently got it and had written to his mum but she made him swear not to go. When I was 16 and had come home excitedly with plans to be a helicopter pilot I was met with enthusiasm but caution. I was ready to quit school and get it going but I was made to promise to finish my A-levels. The next two years were excruciatingly long as I studied math, physics and chemistry when all I wanted was theory of flight, metrology and navigation. When I turned 18 I did my first flight in an airplane . Your first solo flight is probably the biggest deal ever and as I taxied in, relieved that I had not done anything stupid, my dad surprised me by being there. He had seen everything. A very proud papa indeed.
I later went on to be a commercial helicopter pilot. I had found my passion. While airplanes were very comfy and you had access to a toilet and coffee, helicopters could go backwards and hover and do spot turns. My dad shared my enthusiasm and would listen to my silly stories. He would tell anyone who would listen what I did for a living.
In late 2007 he was re-diagnosed with cancer.He had been a cancer survivor for four years. My goal was to be a Captain. I desperately wanted him to see me with those four gold stripes on my shoulders before his condition deteriorated. He had been my supporter and my pillar of strength for all these years, he deserved to see the end result.
In September 2008, I finally had it all done. I was a Captain. What a bittersweet time — my father passed away in November. He had seen me through from the beginning and had held on to the end. He had been too weak in his last days for me to take him for a flight. I think he would have been glowing if his daughter had been the Captain of the helicopter he was on.
As Father’s Day approaches, I have only happy thoughts. As with many of us who have lost our fathers, we would give anything for just one more day, one more hug, one more smile. I can only hope he’s somewhere watching over me.
I was at the beach where I live one evening alone, all the thoughts in the universe swirling in my head, when I saw a heart shaped cloud. I smiled, as I would like to imagine that was my pa, sending his love for me from the Great Beyond. One can only hope.