The holiday season has always been a joyous time for me, but this year had a much different feeling. My dad passed away just three days before Christmas at the age of 81. Already battling Parkinson's disease for nearly ten years, he was struck with pneumonia and an aggressive infection that he was just unable to fight off.
My dad was born and raised in Northern California and came from a typical working-class family. As a kid, he developed a huge interest in aviation which eventually led him to join the Navy after two years in college. Having already possessed a private pilot's license, his Navy flight training gave him the skills needed to become a transport/rescue helicopter pilot aboard aircraft carriers as they traveled the globe.
After the Navy, dad pursued a civilian flying carrier. After starting out as a flight engineer on 707 freighters, he moved on to become an airline first officer on the 727 before finally getting a spot in the coveted left seat as captain aboard the MD-80. Of course, somewhere during this time, he met my mom, got married, and brought my sister and myself into this world.
In addition to aviation, two of my dad's other passions included fitness and the outdoors. He was the kind of guy that hated sitting still for too long—funny considering his job mandated he do just that! When not on the flight deck, he loved to jog, walk, ride a bike, or simply go outside and get some fresh air. In fact, he used to talk about being "trapped" in school as a kid, and how he would often just stare out the window on a nice day...I can totally relate!
With his love for the outdoors came an interest in fishing. He was nowhere near the same level of obsession that I've always been at, but he was responsible for getting me started and constantly helped support my passion along the way. After he took early retirement in the late 90's, we also fished together on a much more consistent basis. Some of our most memorable years were spent chasing striped bass on the flats of San Francisco and San Pablo Bays while aboard our 14-foot skiff. He had mainly been a trout, salmon, and steelhead angler most of his life, but striper fishing quickly became a new favorite.
I often hear people say their dad is the "best in the world." I don't really like to use such a cliche because there are undoubtedly a lot of outstanding fathers out there, but I can say with certainty that mine was pretty damn awesome. Our bond was strong and I definitely feel his absence every single day. He was always there for me in life, and I'm glad that my mom, sister, and I were all right there at the end, holding his hands as he peacefully slipped away into heaven.
With this being the final post of the year, I wanted to finish off 2019 with a simple phrase:
"I love you and thanks for everything, dad!"