It’s Father’s Day and since I wrote about my husband’s days as a father last year, this year I’ll talk about my dad.
My father was born on a farm deep in the Arkansas Ozarks during the Great Depression. He was the youngest of five children. With a ninth-grade education, he joined the Air Force during World War II and was trained as an aircraft mechanic. Afterwards, on the GI bill, he acquired every license the FAA had available. He married my mother as soon as he returned from working on bullet-riddled aircraft on Guadalcanal and they had three daughters. He hired on at Vance AFB in 1960 to teach maintenance. He spent some time in Houston with NASA as Director of Aircraft Maintenance. Then later returned to Vance and retired in 1989 after becoming the Director of Aircraft Maintenance for them.
When he wasn’t working, his favorite past time was fishing. He built a pontoon boat from plans he found in Popular Mechanics magazine out of Styrofoam pontoons with a wooden deck and only one seat—for the captain. The rest of us stood. We named it “Happiness is . . .” after Snoopy and the Charlie Brown series. It brought the family together and soon he bought a place at Canton Lake for our weekends away from work. It was the beginning of my love of the water. We ate gallons of fried fish and hush puppies because of his passion for fishing. (I’m the middle kid in front of him).
Toward the end of his life, in the hospital for heart surgery while my mother suffered with lung cancer and chemo, his dementia increased. His doctor smilingly told me Dad thought he had once worked for NASA. I informed the doctor that the frail old man in the chair who couldn’t remember what he ate for breakfast that day did work for NASA and that was the one thing he still remembered. It was the highlight of his life—next to his family.
He died fourteen months after Mom, his mind confused and broken. He had survived the Depression, war, and long working hours. But all good things must come to an end. His body had endured enough, and it was time.
I love you Dad and thanks for raising me. I know I didn’t always make it easy.