Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Tribute To My Father

All our Fathers are unique men.  Sometimes they are loved for it, and sometimes not.  Not all have been great or even good men. But this tribute is for my Father.  And he truly is a great man and well-loved by many people.  No lie. 
Alvin C. Farage was born in Kansas City, Missouri, April 27, 1933.  Wow, a long time ago.  He died two days ago at 79 after a very long and painful battle with cancer.  The cancer may have taken his body.  But it did not take his spirit.  It did not take the laughter and smiles he shared with friends and strangers alike.  It did not take the kindness that was in his soul.  It did not dampen his drive, energy, and zest for life – because it lives on in all of us – all of those who knew him.


Dad was an impressive athlete and bore the competitive spirit and focus of an Olympian.  Whatever he put his mind to, he conquered. In the early days, he played football and basketball.  He built model airplanes and won trophies throughout the southeast.  I spent my youth watching my Dad pitch fast-pitch softball at Lion’s Park in downtown Pensacola.  On the weekend he played golf and won local tournaments.  When he wasn’t on the golf course, he was fishing either with family or friends in the Gulf of Mexico.  Or water skiing.  When he pitched his last game and was tired of golf, he turned his eyes on tennis.  He won tournaments there too. Then he fell in love with snow-skiing.  Yes – he was a Floridian who loved to snow ski in Colorado.  And he didn’t just dabble in all these sports.  He pushed himself to always be better.  He took lessons, but they never lasted long because he just GOT it.  His body knew what to do; he understood.    
But playing sports wasn’t the only thing he excelled.  He was a fantastic and creative builder.  The single car garage in our home quickly became his workshop.  If Dad didn’t have a racket in his hand, he had a hammer and nail.  He built a swimming pool after watching one being built – no drawings, no plans.  He saw it and knew he could do it.  He built a tennis court.  Remodeled the house.  Many times.  Did I say many times?  We lived on a woody two acres – if Dad had lived to 100, he would have filled the yard with an ever expanding “weekend” project.  And later, he learned to build furniture.  Our houses are filled with tables, benches, cupboards, and crafts that Dad built. 

Dad was a proud American.  He served in the Navy for two years on a destroyer out of New York then spent another six as a reservist.  He had great stories of those years on the ship.  The night he saved his ship from being cut in two by another ship.  Watching a man get washed overboard then washed back on deck again.  The evocative descriptions of sailing into Bermuda.  These were the stories he told over and over but I never got tired of them.  After his active duty tour, he worked at NARF, NAS Pensacola.  Dad retired from NAS after 34 years. 
USS Kyne DE 744

With all he did, I suppose some might think that there was no time left to be a family man.  But that was certainly not the case.  Mom and I were a part of his life as deeply as water is part of the Ocean.  Mom and Dad were childhood sweethearts.  They lived down the street from one another, grew up together, and married.  Four years later, they had me.  Dad and Mom were always a team.  They planned their life – together.  They worked as a unit.  He was a giving husband and playful father.  He liked to play pranks on us.  Once, he convinced Mom and me that the roof was leaking water into my bedroom – on a bright, sunny day.  He was that convincing. He also told me that I couldn’t throw a football left-handed because the “the threads inside the football are wound a certain way and the football won’t spiral if you throw it left-handed.”  I believed that for years and later embarrassed myself over those “facts.”   It isn’t possible to tell of all the things Dad did.  All the vacations.  All the holidays he made extra special with his enthusiasm.  Dad approached life with great energy and hope.  How could you not love him?

Now Mom and I sit numb.  Surreal.  I feel like Dad is really just at the hospital or at Hospice.  We’ll see him again.  Surely.  But I know I won’t.  Not in this life.  Neither of us have mourned.  Not really.  Not yet.  But there are things.  His things.  The peanut butter in the pantry that is HIS peanut butter.  The tennis shoes that he always wore.  I was walking through the hall and I heard the alarm of his watch.  I almost stumbled.
I bought an American flag yesterday.  I will put it on his grave.  Maybe then I will cry.  Whatever the outcome of that, I know in the days and months to come, I will miss him terribly.  As I should.  He was a great man and still is in our memories.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Blue Angels

There’s been hundreds of articles written on the Blue Angels – The Navy’s Demonstration Team.  And here I am, adding to the mountain of material and probably not saying anything new.  But there’s something so remarkable about watching the Blue Angels that it compels me to attempt the foolish.  Of course, I’ve never been particularly quiet about things I’m passionate about.   

I’ve been watching the Blues since I was a baby.  My Father and Grandfather both served in the Navy and later worked for, what was then, NARF – Naval Air Rework Facility.  They both loved aircraft and had a serious interest in model aircraft competition.  So it was no strange thing to go to the yearly air show.  The first plane I remember the Blues flying was the Phantom – a massive plane that made the ground shake when it took off.  Sometime after that they changed to a smaller aircraft, the A-4 Skyhawk; the same planes that hang in the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, FL, the city I was born.  And it seems like just yesterday the Blue Angles began flying F/A 18 Hornet but this is the 25th Anniversary of their flight. Which makes me feel like I should be walking with a cane.   

Watching the Blues fly their annual beach show is thrilling.  If you’ve never witnessed a show, put that on your list of things to do before you die.  It really is that impressive.  And as thrilled as I am to watch them, I can only imagine how it must feel if you are on the wrong end of America.

 A dark silhouette silently rises above the horizon then screams with incredible speed and accuracy across the land.  Your mind only has the time to register, “What’s that?”, before the jet is there and gone again. 

It's a terrifying menace descending from the sky.   Intimidating to put it mildly.  But I’m not on the wrong side of America.  Good thing.  I am very proud of our Navy and Marines and all those who serve.  So when I watch the Blues perform their maneuvers, I smile.  It’s a great feeling.