So My Dad Passed Away Today …

… there is nothing quite as jarring as a phone call at 6:10am from your brother, you know just know it can’t be good, such as the case of my call this morning.   I was beginning to wake up, excited for my youngest son’s fifth birthday when I was greeted with the news that my father had passed away roughly a half hour earlier.

 

My father’s passing was not a shock, as I had been down to Manhattan see him in the intensive care unit two weeks ago, and spent three days with him in the intensive care unit this week, but there is still not much comfort in the facts you know in your head when your phone rings.

 

My father is an unlikely catalyst for world travelers, but somehow he was.  Growing up in Brooklyn, the furthest he had traveled outside of the United States was Canada, while in the Army.  Later in life he took cruises and saw the Caribbean, but he always encouraged his three sons to travel.  He understood the world, and many facets that made the world a global environment without ever having crossed an ocean.

 

Growing up next to JFK International Airport,  the global gateway to the United States, my brothers and I always had airplanes overhead, which encouraged our desire to travel, and this was encouraged by our Dad. My father, without seeing the world first hand, sent two of his sons to visit the Soviet Union, a son to study in Australia, let a son pick up head off to London for a few months … all while we were still in high school.  Since then, my Dad’s kids have collectively set foot on every continent, and found ourselves curious about the world we live in, and very comfortable to just pick up and go anywhere, encountering situations that would make my father laugh even though he could never experience them.   One experience sticks out in my mind, involving my brother and I meeting up at Hong Kong International Airport, I was arriving and my brother was departing. I stood in the lower level immigrations arrival area, before passport control, as my brother stood in the upper level departures area and we shouted back and forth, chatting normally. A seemingly normal conversation thousands of miles from home, because somewhere along the way we were encouraged to go out and be part of the world.

 

My Dad was not an airplane person, but while he never openly encouraged my love of planes, he sure did a lot to assist my airplane fascination.  Saturday mornings in my house meant one thing as a kid, a trip to the flea market. My Dad was a consummate flee market expert, going every Saturday to the flee market near our house, always followed by a trip to McDonalds for breakfast afterwards if I was with him. After breakfast, the drive home frequently went the long way, driving home up Rockaway Blvd, which runs parallel to the north side perimeter of JFK International Airport.   Every now and again the drive home included a spin through the terminals at the airport.

 

Every summer was spent at the Atlantic Beach, where it overlaps with The Rockaways, right under the approach and departure waypoints for JFK Airport’s Runways 13R/31L and 13L/31R.  As a kid going to the beach meant watching the Concorde more than once a day, often arriving then departing, as well as planes from all over the world. At the beach my Dad would often take walks down the jetty, and would ask me what airlines were overhead. While my Dad often didn’t know the answer, he knew I usually did, or if I didn’t I’d be determined to find out.

 

My Dad and I rarely agreed on many things, and almost never saw eye to eye, which is probably not uncommon, but he pushed my brothers and I to find out who we were, and know why we were who we were.  My Dad pushed us to think of others rather than ourselves. My Dad pushed us to think beyond common conventional thinking … although he’d deny it vehemently.

 

This morning, as I sat in the dark before my kids were awake, absorbing the news I glanced over at a National Geographic Magazine sitting on the floor, that had been knocked off the night stand, and thought of something I heard many times from my Father when I’d ask questions about the world, he’d look at me and say “Go get a National Geographic.” Funny … I always have gone and read National Geographic.

 

As I ponder the difficult task of telling my kids that Grandpa is no longer with us, and reconcile everything that I think everyone probably reconciles while dealing with a situation such as this I leave you with this.    As a kid my Dad used to tell me to sit behind the wing, because if you could see the wing attached to the plane outside the window you knew everything was OK.   To this day I always try and find a window seat right behind the wing when possible.

 

Happy Flying Dad!

 

@flyingwithfish

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Comments

  1. Probably your most difficult post, but your most poignant and touching. Thank you for sharing these stories about your dad. He is looking down to you and smiling.

  2. My condolences.

    I just wrote a post about Starwood’s Pay your Birth Year rate and used my dad as an example for $32 per night hotel rates.

    We are celebrating his 80th birthday in a few weeks time.

    The last few years world travel has been on the back burner as my wife and I use vacation time to visit our parents.

    Our parents are there for us for so many years and spending time together in their old age is one of the joys of life.

    Remember the fond memories you had with your dad and family.

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on such a difficult topic…one that someday we must all face. Great recollections…bless you and your family.

  4. Steven, I know how these last few weeks have torn you up. Perhaps now that it’s finished you can heal any rifts in the family and remember your father as the great dad he was. Concentrate on your son’s birthday right now. The next few days are going to be surreal.

  5. Sorry for your loss Fish. I am about to begin the journey of fatherhood myself. I am certain I will experience many joyous moment as you, and your father, have. Take care

  6. So sorry for your loss. I just lost my dear Dad, who always encouraged me to discover other lands, five months ago. I know what you are going through now. Even though you expected it, it is a shock. It is not easy, and won’t be for some time. Everyone grieves at their own pace. Don’t rush it.

  7. So sorry to hear of your family’s loss. Sounds like you have some good memories and stories to continue to pass on. While it sounds quite strange to put in the same paragraph, happy birthday to your son. Amazing how life forces us to recognize both birth and death at the same time. Thoughts are with you…..

  8. My condolences…the only thing one can say at such times. However, know that your remembrance is well received…true from the heart.

  9. Fish – so sorry to hear of your families loss; while you mentioned it wasn’t exactly a shock, it still is. I must say it sounds like your father shaped you well and got you out there to see the world. Sounds like you have a lot of great memories as well. Everyone grieves a bit differently, but I know you’ll always remember him and the great memories. Again, I’m sorry to hear of the loss and my thoughts are with you.

  10. Your family has my sympathy. I lost my mother to cancer a year and a half ago; knowing what is to come does not make it easier to accept when it arrives. Two days after my mother’s memorial service, we took our infant foster daughter home from the hospital. Fond memories of family travels when I was young have driven me to expose her to exploring the world. When our foster care caseworker commented that our daughter had already been more places in her first 18 months than she had in her lifetime, I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying “You haven’t seen anything yet”. A love of travel and an appreciation for other places and cultures are probably the greatest gifts that can be passed from one generation to the next. When the adoption is finalized in a month or two, our little girl will be getting a passport and frequent flyer numbers to start her on her way.

  11. Sorry to hear that… keep the good memories and the good times.

    There’s a saying (of uncertain origin) that nobody’s really gone until nobody remembers their names…

  12. Thank you for your honest words. Please accept my condolences and regards for your very sad life moment.
    Thank God for your father and his gifts and encouragements of you. All the best for your difficult next few days

  13. You and your family have my deepest condolences. I also feel bad for your son, whose birthday will forevermore coincide with the sad memory of the passing of his grandfather. It seems that life is often a mixture of things seemingly opposed.

  14. Sorry to hear about your loss. Your dad reminds me of my dad in many ways -instilling in me the love for travel, National Geographic (second hand copies), and most importantly to think of others, all while being raised in a middle class family in India. Greatly touched. May his soul RIP.

  15. Hi there,

    Terribly sorry for your loss, and thought I’d drop in a note to say that I found your closing words really charming!

    AS.

  16. I’m so sorry for your loss. But this was a very nice tribute to your dad. M condolences to you and your family.

  17. Steven, thank you for sharing these precious times. I loved when you and your father went to the flea market and he would bring little gifts to the beach club for all of us to enjoy. Those were always a highlight in my day, along with running around with the group of kids from the club.

    Your father was also the first to welcome my husband at the beach. His kindness and thoughtfulness of others cannot be compared.

    Sending you big hugs and strength. With love, Brooke

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