Dad's influence is there, when he isn't

I didn't grow up without a father, but since Dad was a commercial pilot, he wasn't a regular part of my life. Depending upon where he was based, I might see him weekly or as little as once or twice a month. So the time I did spend with him took on greater meaning.

In fact, one of my earliest and strongest memories is of going to the airport to meet his plane one night. I was about 2-1/2, dressed in my nightgown since it was so late. I walked up the aisle of the plane, focused intently on the cockpit's glowing lights.

When I reached Dad, he said, "Hi, Princess, want to help Daddy drive the plane?" Together we taxied into the hangar.

I pulled that memory around me like a cocoon at times, especially since, as I grew older, Dad more often seemed like a phantom - here one moment, gone the next. But when he was home, he shared stories and advice.

"Always know two ways out of a situation," he said, when I was learning how to drive. He'd learned this after flying through hazardous weather many times. Another admonition, also storm-related, still helps whenever I'm feeling troubled: "Get yourself above the clouds. Nothing can hurt you there."

I've often wondered what it would have been like to have Dad around all the time, especially since, today, he lives a thousand miles away.

But the time I had with him has never left me, and in some ways it was enough. Distance, whether in time or space, is like thunderheads. A few good moments can help you rise above the gray and the rain.

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