Friday, June 14, 2013

DSWT Day 7 and 8 - Here's to My Dad

Ocean Beach

Hubby and two brothers
in Ocean Beach
Two full days to spend on the ground in San Diego between my arrival Thursday and departure Sunday. What was I going to do with myself?!  Day 1, Friday, I slept in with a vengeance. Catching up on my rest. I wasn't near as tired as I was after arriving in Bryce Canyon but I relished the opportunity to sleep without having to get up early. Lunch with my dad, his wife, two of my three brothers and my other half. After that, an afternoon in Ocean Beach... the most casual beach community in San Diego. Also a place I lived over 20 years ago, another life, another person back then. We wandered the pier, got ice cream, and talked. It was great. I had dinner with the rest of the family and a couple more friends including New York Strawberry Cheesecake to celebrate the hubby's birthday.

USS Midway

Day 2, Saturday. I slept in, not quite as late but much later than 5AM wake ups to get in the air before 7. My dad, husband, two brothers, two sisters, one niece and one nephew and I all went to tour the USS Midway. A new floating museum in San Diego's harbor. On the lower deck there were displays of aircraft cockpits that you could climb inside. I have to admit I monopolized those. I hopped in and looked at all of the knobs, dials, and instruments... I know what this one does and this one... this is old... no idea what that does... I grabbed the stick and made airplane noises. Then I figured I should share the fun with my little niece and nephew so we put them on my lap and I showed them what all the knobs and dials were for. We grabbed the stick and made airplane noises. I have to admit the 2 year old nephew was less than amazed but my niece, I think she's 5, seemed really interested.

Dad giving a tour of the E-2 Hawkeye
My dad was a Naval Flight Officer during the Vietnam war. He flew the E-2 Hawkeye. It was great getting a personalized tour of the Midway with my dad telling us his sea stories. We spent a long time in front of the E-2 Hawkeye they had on display on the carrier deck. We walked around it and he told us where they always found hydraulic leaks, the story of the one E-2 that was lost at sea, what is was like to fly on that plane. He talked about how bored the E-2 pilots were most of the time. They were required to turn on autopilot during the 4-5 hours of the mission that were not enroute to station, take off or landing. To keep the radar dish flat they had to do flat turns with no bank, apparently the only pilot the Navy trusted to do that with precision was the autopilot. He told us about the first, second and third dumbest people on the flight deck, etc. We also learned about the steam catapults used to launch the planes off the flight deck and the tiny patch the pilots had to land their planes on.

I was wearing my USS Sedona cap. I purchased it at the Sedona Airport after my "carrier landing" there. ("Carrier" as in - the runway looked like it was on a carrier. Not "carrier" as in my landing was that hard. Just to be clear.) Many of the veterans working as docents on the ship asked me which ship that was. So I had to explain where I got the cap from and why. Most of the veterans seemed OK with the story and somewhat surprised that a woman was telling them that she did the landing. One heard my story out... then about 10 minutes later he looks at my cap and shakes his head, smiling... Sedona eh? ... Huh. That made us all laugh.

The Retirement Party

Time for the big event. My dad's retirement party. I didn't know companies did retirement parties any more after seeing people who worked 20 or 30 years for a company get laid off. If anything the longer you work at a company the more likely to get laid off it seems. Retirement parties... real parties... paid for by the company the person is retiring from, just didn't seem possible. But my dad was having one and "all the suits" were there. The founder of the company, VPs and "C-level" executives. Friends and family - nearly a third of the party was family flown in by the company. Over 60 people were there.

Goofing around at the party
All but one of my six siblings were there. The one that wasn't just had a baby. All of my step-mom's five kids were there. Some of us brought our kids. Nearly a third of the party was family. Someone commented...  This isn't a retirement party, this is a family reunion with spectators! My dad's friends, many who I've met over the years were there. People that were friends of my dad and mom since my teenage years were there. People that I knew from working at the same company over 20 years before were there. It was a huge affair. And, of course, having my brothers and sisters there was very special. We are scattered about the country, each with our own lives and we rarely all gather in the same place.

I talked with the sibs, my hubby, and the other people there but I have to admit, there was one person I really wanted to talk with. A gentleman named Jerry Jackson. He's worked with my dad for a very long time and, he also happens to be a record holding, record breaking pilot. After I started flying dad bought me Jerry's book, Flight of the Feral Chihuahua. It is the story of Jerry's round trip transcontinental record flight. I really enjoyed the book and was anxious to meet Jerry and talk flying. Dad also told me there was rumor that Jerry recently crashed a plane and we both wanted to hear that story.

Dad and I found Jerry and his wife, Nina, and we heard the story of how Jerry had an engine failure on his newly built RV-10 during a test flight. Jerry said he had a total of 4 minutes between the time he first declared and emergency and the time he crash landed in a state (or maybe national) park and walked away with a repairable airplane. I'm not going to tell all of the story because Jerry will be writing a new book about it. Nina was also very enthusiastic about flying and told me all about the process of selecting a company to repair the plane. We chatted for a long time about flying and such. I asked Jerry what routing I should expect leaving the area headed north and he rattled off a route that was about what I thought I would get.
Me, brothers, sisters, niece,
nephew and dad.

As we talked I mentioned I had my plane tied down at Gibbs Flying Service at Montgomery Field. Jerry said he had his RV-6, the record breaking Feral Chihuahua, hangared there as well. He said he would be at the airport the next morning working on his book and offered to show my husband and I around his plane and the modifications he'd made on it for his record breaking trip. He also offered to take me up in it and let me fly it! I didn't have to take off early on Sunday this time, I had no high density altitude to worry about or gusty winds expected so I absolutely agreed to meet him late the next morning and meet his plane. After that I tore myself away from aviation talk and returned to the rest of the party.

As the sun set time the time for speeches came. We got to hear how much my dad is loved and respected by his co-workers and friends. It was so wonderful to hear. Then I spoke. A friend suggested I start with "a funny thing happened on the way here...". I didn't start with that. I did tell a couple amusing stories both of growing up this wonderful, workaholic father's daughter and then working with him. I talked about seeing his life transform for the better when he met his wife. In closing I said I was sure he would be as successful in retirement as he was in work if he put half as much passion into enjoying his life as he did into his work. With his lovely wife and support and encouragement by his family and friends, I'm sure he will!

Dad talked about how he dreamed of a retirement party with all of his kids there. How his dad had told him about his own retirement party as a janitor for Kodak when all of the suits came to congratulate him. And here we were, almost all of the kids and all of the suits were there to celebrate his retirement. He talked about how he tried so hard to do right by the kids with all of his work. (He was a single earner with seven kids and a wife to support.) He talked about his lovely wife and how wonderful she is (she really is). It was wonderful to be there and be part of fulfilling his dream.

My brother, my dad and me.
I dedicate this post to my dad. The man that instilled in me the discipline, work ethic, toughness and fairness that makes me successful in what I do. Who taught me to be a perfectionist, which sometimes helps and sometimes does not. Whose intelligence, passion, dedication, quirky sense of humor and huge heart are loved by those who know him. I can only hope I reflect those same qualities to my family and friends.

I love you, dad!

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