Monday, May 17, 2010

Adding a little more to the story...

In order to get the last post done in time I didn't really write very much about my father for whom Micaelyn is named. Thus I'd like to add just a little more to the story.

I was very little when my parents were divorced, and my father always lived several hours away (at least) so I didn't really get to see much of him. When I was in late elementary school he was transferred to Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, FL (he wasn't active duty Air Force - he was in the Civil Service). At that point he lived 8 hours away, so I really only saw him a couple of times a year. However, when I was 20 years old I decided to move there for the whole summer to spend more time with him and also my little brothers who were 1 and 4 at the time. I got a full time job working in a hospital affiliated gym (because I was majoring in Exercise Science: Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, as well as Biology: Pre-med and Chemistry: Pre-med - and I managed to take home several Outstanding Senior awards for having the highest GPA in each of those 3 majors - Isn't it ironic that instead of becoming a doctor I ended up being a stay-at-home mom to a bunch of special needs kids? As I always say, God's plans are so much better than our own!).

Within my first few days in Florida my father invited me out to lunch with him and his coworker - a young Air Force officer. The two men worked side by side alone together in a locked vault all day long doing top-secret work for the Air Force. Throughout the summer I would occasionally see this young officer on other occasions. Sometimes he came by our house to hang out with my father and talk about things most people couldn't begin to understand. Not having much understanding of radar, missiles, drones, and all the high tech topics they were discussing, along with the fact that a lot of what they did was shrouded in secrecy, I didn't ever really hang around to get to know the young officer very well.

After summer was over I left Florida to go back to college. However, when Halloween rolled around I skipped a bunch of classes/labs/clinicals so I could go back to Florida and take my little brothers trick-or-treating (I had a professor complain about that, but I argued that nothing was more important to me than my family. I think if I wouldn't have been the top student I would have gotten myself in a bit of trouble for skipping!). While there the young AF officer invited me to a Halloween party with him. I told him I would be busy taking my brothers trick-or-treating, but he told me to just meet him there when I was done and promised to not dress up himself so I wouldn't feel out of place or not recognize him. So after I finished taking my brothers trick-or-treating I drove over to the party, but when I saw how many cars were there (A LOT!) I chickened out (I can be pretty shy!) and went home. Later he called me and said he was disappointed I didn't make it.

The following Memorial Day weekend (obviously quite a few months later) I headed back to Florida, and while at work my father told the officer I was headed down and casually mentioned how I would be bored while I was there. The officer said he had a new jet ski and told my dad he would take me out on it. How on earth could I turn that offer down? I might have been shy, but I was also adventurous and loved to have fun! :)

So one afternoon along with my father I met the young officer at an area called Bonita Bay right there on the Air Force base. I said good-bye to my dad and sailed off into the water with the man I would marry just 7 1/2 months later.

Almost a decade later just before Christmas of 2007 we went back to Bonita Bay to say a final good-bye to my father. He had died of a heart attack at 55 years of age, and the Air Force had arranged a ceremony on one of their boats to spread his ashes out at sea. We rode out in the bay, through the pass beyond Shell Island, just as my husband and I had done 10 years before on our first "date" together. A plane flew overhead in a final salute good-bye to my father. It was the plane my husband had spent so many hours/years working on doing airborne telemetry we affectionately called it "his" plane. At my husband's request, the Air Force presented each of my dad's 4 children with framed pictures signed by the members of his squadron (the same sort of going-away gift that is given when a member leaves the squadron either through retirement, transfer to a new base, or separation from the Air Force - my husband has several of these from his years in the Air Force).

The pain of losing my father will always be there, but I am ever so thankful that God orchestrated things the way He did! My father did a lot of really important and amazing work, but few people in this world will ever know or understand exactly what he did (and thus the reason I'm not going into any detail on that). God blessed me by leading me into marriage with the one man who best understood what my father did, a man who had the capacity to actually talk with my father like few others could and therefore became one of the few true friends my father ever really had, the man who fought for recognition for my father, a fight which subsequently led to my father receiving numerous awards and honors for his work. Because of this I will never have to wonder what my father really did. My children can learn about their granddad from the man who best knew him and his work, their own daddy. My father may be gone, but his work will be well remembered in our family!

During the time my husband was in the Air Force working with my father the squadron had carved a wooden plaque to hang above the door of the vault that read "Big Ern's Playhouse" (Big Ern was my husband's call sign). After my dad's death they took it down so they could make a new sign in memory of my father (I think the new sign was supposed to read "WolfMan's Den" since they called my father WolfMan). Only God could have known that from those two men working together in a locked vault doing top secret work for the military a man and woman would be married, the man would accept Christ into his heart as Lord and Savior of his life, a child would be born, and 4 orphans would become beloved sons and daughters (and that's just what has happened so far, only He knows how many kids are still waiting for us!).

The following two pictures were taken when Ernie was promoted to Captain (before we were married). He had already asked my father to pin-on his new rank before that time he took me out on the jet-ski, and when we started dating he figured I would be the perfect person to pin-on his rank on the other side. How cool is that?

The picture below is the one given to me by the Air Force during the ceremony out at sea (my 3 brothers each received one made specifically for them). Since my father could have retired earlier in the year (at his 55th birthday) for his 30 years in the Civil Service my husband requested these pictures be made for his children in place of the one that would have been given to him at retirement. It was signed by the members of his squadron - since the notes were written specific to me about my dad it is really special. The boats at the bottom of the picture are the ones used by the squadron in support of their missions, and the ceremony was held on one of those boats. The white plane in the picture is the one my husband worked on for so many years as a contractor after separating from the Air Force. Thus even though he was no longer in the Air Force he still worked on the base supporting his old squadron doing nearly the same job as a contractor instead of as an AF officer. The plaque at the bottom reads:
Gary "WOLFMAN" _______ (I don't list last names on here)
83d FWS Computer Engineer
(aka Mr. WSEP)

The following picture is the one that was given to my husband by the same squadron for his service to that unit. The plaque at the bottom reads:
30 SEP 96 - 29 JUN 99
"Namesake of the PLAYHOUSE"

Remember I mentioned the wooden plaque that had hung above the door to the vault for over a decade that read "Big Ern's Playhouse."

This is a shot of the pictures hanging in our office along with some of my husband's other military things, many of which are related to his work for that same squadron. The collage hanging above the picture I received in honor of my father is one my husband received for his work as a contractor working on the E-9 (the white Air Force plane seen in the pictures). Unfortunately all the signatures are on the back of that picture so we have to take it off the wall to read them.

The next picture was taken during the ceremony as we were heading out of Bonita Bay (and it really is a "beautiful" bay!) towards the Gulf of Mexico. The land seen in the picture is Shell Island, a popular tourist destination in Panama City. This was the same route my husband and I had taken a decade before on our first outing together. I don't really have words to describe what it was like to take that same journey to bid my father a final farewell while remembering the time I had bid him a brief farewell before heading off on the "date" with his friend that would change my life forever.

Looking up from the boat.

A presentation to my granddad. As hard as it was for me to lose my dad, I felt worse for him. He buried his younger son from a heart attack at only 26 years of age. Then his older son died from a heart attack at 55 years of age. Those 2 sons (my dad and uncle) were his only kids, so in burying my dad he had outlived all his children (and also one grandchild).

The E-9, the white Air Force plane my husband spent so many years working on as a contractor (the same one seen in the picture given to me by the Air Force) flies over the boat.

God blessed us with truly perfect weather and indescribably gorgeous skies for the ceremony.

The sun cast its final light as I unwillingly forced myself to say good-bye, but I take peace in knowing my father lives on in eternal light with our Heavenly Father, the One who is the true Light of the world.

1 comment:

The Kings said...

what a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing!