By lex, on November 9th, 2012
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*
When asked to write about my father I became overwhelmed with different things I want to share. I want to talk about how much we had in common. For instance, how both of our first jobs were at Baskin Robins. He would tell me I was the female version of himself but in a way he could have never predicted. I have always been a “daddy’s girl.” I am not sure what drives the connection between father and daughter. I am not sure if it was growing up under him or our genetics that makes me feel so close to him but its something that a person only feels with family. Something my father always knew, but I took a little longer to figure out. At his service my uncle spoke of a car accident my dad had been in some thirty odd years ago in which he flipped his new red convertible soft-top jaguar and landed upside in a ditch, just short of miraculous not only to be alive, but also unhurt. My uncle talked about how most people wouldn’t have lived through that event and regardless of what you believe to be true about why that happened, what happened after that was his almost just as amazing. Somewhere between a long list of accomplishments in the Navy, a happy thirty year marriage to my mother, and three strong kids, my father built a full life for himself. He gave selflessly to his family and to his country. Again this is something I wish I could have appreciated sooner. He was one of those people who was good at everything they tried, in that annoying sort of way but also the same person who would never admit it to himself or any other. I know every girl believes their dad to be the best but mine actually is. My dad was and still is the funniest, smartest man I have ever known but chances are if you’re here reading this you have probably come to some of those same conclusions on your own. My father taught me everything I know about life and myself, in his life and in his death, a cost at most times hard to bear. All I can think though is, that he too lost his parents when he was twenty-one (he passed just days after my twenty first birthday) but he pushed on to do all the things he loved with all the passion he had in him. I want to be a person like that. I want to live my life doing what makes me happy, even up to the very last moments. I already know if he could see me today, the person I have become, that he would rest peacefully because I know its going to be okay. One of the hardest things dealing with was being in a world he no longer was a part of, so I made it not true. I decided to make him part of me, because he already was, and try to carry on in the best of my ability. I am going to continue to take care of myself and to push myself because I am a LeFon and I know really understand what that means. The last time I spoke to my dad was the morning he passed when I was supposed to be going in to get my wisdom teeth out. He told ” Be brave. You’ll be okay. I love you.” Those words play in my endlessly but I couldn’t really ask for a better good bye. I love you, Dad.
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.