The Most Interesting Man in the World has nothing on my dad.
My dad is the most amazing man I’ve ever known.
“Frank the Tank” (to the pilots and engineers he’s worked with over the years) is a bush pilot who’s flown all over the world and left his mark in more than a few corners of it. When I was a kid, he crashed over the Arctic (not his fault,) and was found by the Coast Guard a week later, drunk as a skunk with a group of Inuits. When I was a teenager, he was put under house arrest in Saudi Arabia for a year after belly-landing a Sheik’s plane when the landing gear didn’t come down (still not his fault). When I was in my 20’s, he smuggled alcohol into a Muslim country more than a few times (definitely his fault) but didn’t get caught (so no fault assigned!). When I was in my 30’s, he achieved 20,000 hours in the air – almost unheard of with bush pilots – and he threw a wake in Greece, where he was working at the time. His wake to be exact, replete with enough rum to drown a giraffe and a full-sized coffin he built himself in which he was carried through the streets of Corfu. Oh, and for an encore? He flew a company plane full of the other pilots & engineers for a 4-day party that spanned the skies between Greece, Switzerland, and Iceland – all under the guise of plane repairs.
In fact, the only reason he isn’t The Most Interesting Man In the World is because he was busy getting a Cessna 125 from the airport to a mechanic shop and couldn’t make the auditions that day. And in case you’re wondering how you go about getting a Cessna 125 from the airport to a mechanic shop, it’s easy: you knock the wings off, stick a dealer plate on the back, and drive it down the highway.
Now, “Daddy”, on the other hand, was home a few months a year on average while my mom essentially raised my brother and me by herself (you’ll soon meet my fabulous mom/confidante/soul mate but that post will take much longer to write). He might have missed most of our birthdays, a couple of band concerts, one or two graduations, and more than a handful of holidays, but I don’t remember ever missing him. He taught me to believe – In myself, in my family, and in Santa Clause. Seriously. We lived in Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island, until I was four years old and unlike every other little girl who wanted this to be true, I can claim with total honesty that my daddy flew me to the North Pole to pick up Santa Clause and fly him back to town. Santa even called me on Christmas Eve every year until I was 12. And people wonder why my daddy is my hero. In later years when my dad was home, he would come into my room every night before he went to sleep, kiss me on the forehead, and call me Princess. And seeing as I was that kid who stayed up late reading under the covers, I was almost always awake when he did, even though I pretended not to be. He taught me to hug and say I love you as often as possible but not to say goodbye. Instead, we would say to each other “See you later, Alligator”, “In a while, crocodile”, “Not too soon, you big baboon”, and “I’ll be there, Teddy Bear”. He told me I could do or be anything I wanted to, he wouldn’t accept namby pamby excuses for not doing it, and he taught me not to take things (particularly myself) seriously because none of us are making it out alive. And although I credit my mom for teaching me how to raise my voice and stick up for others, my daddy taught me to fight back. I don’t know how he did it, but no matter where he was or how long it had been since I’d seen him, I knew every minute of every day how much he loved me and how proud he was of me. I still do.
As you can imagine, we have a unique relationship. Due to similar mannerisms, a penchant for shaking our respective tookuses in what I’ve dubbed BumWiggle Hugs, and a fundamental need to wave our hands around when our mouths are moving, I’m often compared to my mom – but my sense of humour is all my dad. For example, he’s always said I put so much sugar in my coffee because I’m not sweet enough and I need all the help I can get. I’ve always replied that he’d better be nice to me now because one day I’ll be the one choosing his nursing home. He says I can be replaced. I say “I double dog dare you”. He asks why I can’t afford the other half of my shirt. I stare at his stomach and reply that he should come talk to me when he’s put his ‘beach ball’ away.
Needless to say, he’s been a lifelong source of advice, lessons, and a list of ‘Things to do while under house arrest in Saudi Arabia’. In other words, I blame my shocking lack of good judgement and complete disregard for authority on him, but damn, I’m fun at a party!
However, he has given me some pretty good advice over the years and I’d like to share it with you:
- Family first. And he meant the people you choose as your family as well as blood relatives.
- Do what you can and don’t complain about it.
- You pack it (in), you carry it (out).
- Always have enough money to get home in a cab no matter how rich your date is.
- You can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friends’ noses.
- When in need, don’t yell ‘help’, yell “This case of beer is too heavy and I need help carrying it!” (I can tell you from experience that this works)
- It’s always happy hour somewhere in the world.
- You can be cheap, or you can be easy, but you should never be both at the same time.
- Party as hard as you like, but always, always show up for work the next day.
- Don’t eat yellow snow or drink green water (although green rum smuggled into Muslim countries is perfectly acceptable).
So, if you see me lugging my 100lbs dive bag down a hill grunting like a wild boar after a bar fight because I refuse to let anyone help me, or hear me loudly defending my right not to have children and someone else’s right to be ignorant about it (another post entirely), or see me arriving at work on Monday morning after a 3-day party looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, that’s due to my dad.
If I trip and fall down the stairs on my way there and skin my knee because I didn’t notice the snow and forgot to wear shoes with treads? Well, that’s all on me.
There are many other stories to share (and even more I don’t know about), but I’ve got to go – my dad lost 10 lbs this year and I have half a shirt to look for.
I love you, Daddy, Thank You for giving me Santa Clause.
As for you all? See you later, Alligators…