As Father’s Day approaches, Doreen McGettigan affectionately recalls her favorite memory of her dad. Read more from Doreen on her blog.
My father was so proud of me when I got straight A’s on my final report card of first grade at Saint Christoper’s Catholic School in northeast Philadelphia.
The next day he put me in his little red MG and drove me to a children’s clothing store. With the help of a pretty young saleswoman we picked out a sleeveless pink and white seersucker dress. The woman then suggested a white hat with a pink bow, pink ruffled socks, white patent leather shoes and a small white pocketbook to match. I thought the outfit was beautiful and I felt so special I couldn’t stop smiling.
When Dad asked the saleswoman to add a sweater and a bathing suit, I was a bit confused but continued smiling. My confusion only grew as I left that store wearing my new bathing suit underneath the new dress.
I thought about the Father’s Day card I made for him in art class that morning. Should I give it to him early or wait until Sunday?
An hour later, I was sitting in a first-class window seat being served a Shirley Temple with extra cherries.
My father worked for Eastern Airlines. He was the VIP Representative, which basically meant he had drinks all day with people the airline deemed important enough to schmooze.
Seated next to me, sipping on a Chivas Regal and smoking a Marlboro, Dad explained he was taking me to Ft. Lauderdale in Florida for the day. The trip was a reward for my perfect report card. We spent the afternoon on the beach, had dinner at a fancy outdoor restaurant where I chased geckos and begged Dad to catch two of them and let me take them home. He laughed and said they could not live in Philadelphia because of our cold winters.
Shortly after take- off on the return flight, the attendant took me into the cockpit. The pilots let me ‘fly’ the plane. The Captain gave me a set of gold plated wings (not the plastic ones) and told me to go back to my seat because he had a surprise for me. The surprise was a spectacular light show provided by the Gemini VI Rocket that was launched from the Kennedy Space Center.
After seeing the rocket, the flight attendant handed me a little pillow and a soft blanket. I fell asleep.
When I woke up, I was back in Philadelphia in my father’s arms. I was so cold and in a lot of pain. I was as red as a lobster. It was painful to have my dad hold me so I walked. My brand new patent leather shoes pinched my sunburned feet tighter and tighter with each step I took. I was so relieved when we finally reached the MG and headed out onto the Schuylkill Expressway. I curled up in the tiny space behind the seats and thought about what a nice Dad I had. The clock on the dashboard said 12:05. I told him Happy Father’s Day.
That was only the first trip of many that we took together.
When my dad got sick, I flew down to Florida to be with him and my mother as often as I could. He passed away in January of 2014. On the flight home, there was a man sitting next to me drinking Chivas Regal. I smiled through my tears.
Every time I look up at the sky and see an airplane, I miss my Dad. Whenever I travel, I feel like he is right beside me.