When I was a little girl, I thought my dad hung the moon. I was always proud as a peach to tell people what he did for a living. He retired almost four years ago, after 37 years as a pilot for United Airlines, as one of their most senior captains. While I have known for a long time now that he did not, in fact, hang the moon, that he is as flawed and as human as the rest of us, I still feel immense pride telling people what my dad did for all of those years and am in awe of all of the places he has been, sights he has seen and experiences he has had.
It is not easy growing up with a pilot as your father. It is especially not easy growing up with a pilot as your father, after a divorce and four hours separate your houses. His new life took him one direction. Our new life took us another. We saw him once a month through the school year and in the summer got to spend a month at his house. In that month every summer, he still was flying a good half of it, at least. He has ALWAYS called. He has ALWAYS very much had a presence in my life. But, the reality of having a pilot as a father is that they are not always PRESENT, even in the best of circumstances, much less any others. So, the time I do get to spend with him, even now, is cherished. Precious. And, if in that time I get to have my dad all to myself, golden.
I never got to fly with him as the captain. That makes me a little sad. There are times I could have over the years, but things, life, got in the way. This past week though, I had to get our youngest daughter, who has a Urea Cycle Disorder and is currently enrolled in a clinical trial in Houston, to her second set of appointments. My dad graciously agreed to tag along. So, I got to fly next to him.
The last time I flew on a plane or went on “vacation” with my dad, I was seven years old. That was thirty years ago. Good gravy. I didn’t get to sit next to him or my mom on that flight though. As a pilot’s kid, you get to fly stand-by and get any seat available. We were going to Hawaii on vacation. I was a talker then, as I am now. But then I was loaded up with a gym bag full of candy and activities and some poor stranger got to sit next to me for that entire eight hour flight. Lucky them. Ha!
This wasn’t a vacation, but before, in between and after all of the appointments, we made the most of our time in Houston. And, in the process, Abby and I got to relish and savor ALL of the time with my dad, her pap, who we only get to see a handful of times every year. For our Abby girl, HE is the only grandpa she has on this earth, (excluding MY grandpa, her great-grandpa who is very, very special to all of our kids). My husband’s dad passed away several years ago. Our other two kids have their grandparent’s both still living from my first husband. Abby has a lot of special people in her life, including my husband’s mom, Abby’s Granny who lives right next to us. But, my dad, is her only grandpa.
Here’s what I loved about this trip, for me, and for Abby.
She got to…
- Get her toes wet in salt water for the first time EVER! And her pap was right by her side.
- Be surrounded by butterflies at Houston’s Museum of Natural Science’s Butterfly Center.
- Make a wish in the fountain and Pap gave her the penny.
- Eat at Bubba Gump’s. I ordered salmon and was told that wasn’t fish in those parts. The bourbon sauce was TO DIE FOR though.
- Eat at D’Amico’s in Rice Village. Delicious food and super cozy atmosphere.
- Eat at The Gorgeous Gael, also in Rice Village. Side-note, they have board games for kids and that was a life saver as we were killing time to catch the shuttle to the hotel.
- Girl LOVES to eat, so food was high on the list of favorites, just like her mama, and just like her pap.
- Hear Pap talk about the routes he flew to get different places across the globe.
- See DINOSAURS!
I got to hear him say, “Abby, let’s catch this tailwind!” as they headed toward the moving walkway in the airport. As the engine roared, ready for take-off I got to hear him say, ‘let the big dog eat!” because it took him back to the days when he was the captain, and was cleared for take-off. Of course, he truly was flying a big dog when he was at the helm of a Boeing 777. And, on our fourth night together, as she was going to bed, I got to hear my sweet, brave, so very sleepy little girl, say “I love you, Pappy.”
As always, thanks for reading! Next week I’ll post all about the clinical trial aspect of our Houston trip!