By the time this goes to print, I may have stopped weeping at random moments. Perhaps not. My blue-eyed, Irish, Air Force fighter pilot, 95-year-old daddy has died and there is scarcely a daughter on Earth who does not understand that special loss. I find it’s a bit like being cut loose from your support line in outer space. I’m not sure I can get enough oxygen or ever feel completely safe again.He died in his sleep, just as he hoped he would. I am grateful beyond measure for that blessing. If you knew my dad at all, you knew that he truly considered being in a wheelchair, or bed-bound, a fate far worse than death. I am proud I was able to help him sustain his dignity right to the end. He was the perfect gentleman and host always.
If I have ever made you laugh, you can thank him. He taught me everything I know about how funny life is, and how to share laughter with every smart-aleck remark. We were fellow curmudgeons and critics of life in general, laughing at everyone and everything, especially ourselves.
All my life, my mom constantly said, in an exasperated tone, “You are just like your father!” As I spent more time with just him, I was stunned. I am just like him. Sometimes I knew what he was going to say before he said it. He always understood exactly what I meant. Because he was human, that means that we shared foibles and I have to work hard to modify them. But they came with a lot of really good stuff, too, so it’s well worth the trouble.
People adored my dad, right up into his dotage. He could also really tick people off. He never hesitated to stand up for what he believed was right even if it infuriated those he really should have placated. I believe the kind word is “feisty.”
So if there is a heaven, and I like to think there is, he is now wearing his bright orange flight suit and screaming along at Mach 2 in some cockpit. He is mixing a strong drink and serving escargot for everyone at a big party he is throwing — and he and my mom are either dancing to the Big Bands or on a long car trip fascinated and amused by everything they see. You can do all that at the same time in heaven.
The one thing he no longer needs to do is bail me gracefully out of absolutely every pickle I ever got myself into. That man was there for me, with counsel, car repair or cash, every single time I called his name. He was my knight in shining armor.
He gave me an epic safety net. Now that I look down, I believe it is still right there and always will be.
Jean Gillette is the Community News editor for The Coast News Group. As a journalist, she primarily worked in San Clemente and Los Angeles. She has been with the Coast News for 20 years and lives in La Costa.