Sunday morning we got a call from my sister. Daddy didn't wake up. Mom woke up and dad was cold, passed in his sleep next to his sweetheart, a quiet, reasonable way to go. Not really in character if you think about it. Now we have to reorganize and figure out how to make sure mom has a place to live and enough money to feed herself and such. Odd that in a Superpower nation a middle class woman has to count her pennies.
Daddy was a pilot and he flew into the storms, face first and joyous. He flew by the seat of his pants, by instruments, by guess and by golly. His middle name was Byrd and he flew like one whenever he got the chance. He took my friends up in a Cessna and tried to make them pass out, doing loop-de-loops and lazy eights. He flew into thunderheads, drunk and crazy, slamming into the side of the mountain, breaking the plane and his nose and sobering him up but not enough to stop him from trying it again. Even after his vision left him, even after his hands started shaking and his breath came in a tube, he wanted to fly.
"Bill, I honestly think, no, I KNOW it that if you could just guide me to the seat and get me onboard, I could fly again. See, when you fly in those storms you can't see anything anyway. I was flying by 'feel' most of the time and I can still FEEL, even if I can't see!"
He told me time after time how he just needed a chance to sweet-talk a pilot into letting him try those controls one more time.... He could have done it, too. He might not have landed well, but I know he could fly blind if we just had given him the chance.
Daddy had great eyes before. He could spot a hawk up in a tree a zillion feet away. He'd home in with the transit and let me watch the redtail swoop down and take a jackrabbit. Some summer nights dad would get out the transit and we'd look at the moon, and at Mars. I think I saw the rings of Saturn once, but that's not probable. With dad, it was possible. In the last couple of years I was always finding great books on planes and think how dad would like to look at this one... only dad couldn't see anymore.
Now dad can see as far as he wants. He can see those rings of Saturn, he can see the sparkling ice on Titan. Dad knows now what he argued and debated about all those years. He was a devout atheist with nothing but disdain for religions. I suppose my pagan faith disturbed him. He was used to argueing about Jesus, but he didn't know enough about Isis to form a good arguement. You could see he was disappointed in me, but still he figured I'd come around. We'll have to talk about it when I see him next.
Dad's physical form is in a morgue now, waiting to go to a hospital where medical students can cut him open, marvel at the shape of his lungs and heart and wonder how a man so torn up and rebuilt could have lasted 83 years! He lasted because he was solid steel and full of piss and vinegar. Dad flew like an eagle and walked the earth like a proud stallion. He was weak at times and had his flaws, many bad times, but he lived them all and took the hits.
I'm proud to be his son.