The new diamond on my left hand sparkled from the bright sunshine streaming in the window – my heart was bubbling with happiness. It was my first visit out west to meet my hubby’s family and here was Dad, treating us to a flight in his beloved Cessna Skyhawk.
I sat in the back seat, grasping my hands in anticipation. My father-in-law was in the captain’s chair talking to the air traffic controller and my husband was beside him, listening in with his own headset.
“Okay, we’re off,” said Dad as he applied pressure to the throttle and the plane started to race down the runway, gathering speed. He gently pulled back on the yoke and I felt the wheels leave the ground. We were airborne, rising as we flew over the town of Sidney.
Dad gave us an aerial tour of southern Vancouver Island. He talked about his love of flying – the freedom he felt soaring with the birds high above the ground. He pointed out the hidden estates along the coastline. He flew over his home, giving the wings a friendly dip to signal Mom we were there.
At one point my husband took over and his father relaxed, proud to share this flight with his son. To this day, I’m the only passenger who has ever flown with both these pilots on the same flight.
Dad tilted the plane for our final approach aligning us perfectly with the runway ahead. He pulled back on the throttle, lowered the flaps and let us descend gradually, smoothly touching the ground right on the button.
“You’re showing off Dad,” said my husband and Dad grinned from ear to ear as we taxied toward the Flying Club hangars. He loved completing picture perfect landings, particularly when there was someone else in the plane to appreciate it.
A few years later, Dad traded in his Skyhawk for a two-seat Ercoupe. As a result, this became my only flight with Dad and the last one my husband shared with his father.
It hurts to watch Dad suffer silently while he’s being eaten away by cancer. Yesterday, on his birthday, my husband and I celebrated his life with the stories we will be remembering. We kept things light – just the way Dad liked it. We even got him to chuckle when we reminded him of how funny his dachshund Winston looked sleeping in the co-pilot’s seat with his Mutt-Muffs on.
As we were leaving, I held Dad’s cold and worn hand close to my heart and said ‘good-bye’.
“You’ll be back?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Good. I’ll see you then.”
Dad, soon you’ll be surrendering to the soft rainbow of light and the gossamer of wings that come to transform us. I will miss you when you go.
This one’s for you…
“Bravo Zulu, Dad.”
The first photo is Dad’s Cessna Skyhawk 172 – the one I had my flight in. The second one is of Dad flying his Ercoupe over the Straits of Juan de Fuca. It was taken by a professional photographer from an accompanying aircraft.