“Daddy, when do you feel most alive?”
I asked him outside Panera over my bagel and his cinnamon roll.
“I feel most alive I’m taking off in the P-51 mustang.”
Translated: When he’s all speed, sleekness and power. When gravity has no say and when the clouds are his neighbors instead of his guardian angels, he is alive.
Last Sunday, three out of the four Nightingales piled into a friend’s Piper Saratoga to visit the fourth Nightingale in Santa Barbara. No road trip for us—not when Dad can magic us off of the ground!
Daddy let me be his co-pilot. He trusted me to steer, while never taking his eyes off of the horizon to keep us all safe.
Cities that usually take hours to pass whizzed by in minutes. I leaned out my window to memorize the copper and eggshell lego houses below.
And I wondered, “What does it say about a daughter if her father is a pilot?”
It means if he tells her to touch the sky, it’s not metaphorical encouragement.
It means that she should delve into what gives her life, that she should be meticulous and passionate and zealous about what makes her come alive, as if she could reach up to the stars.
Because Dad knows. He has actually touched the sky.
And he’s made it so clear: he dreams of the same fate for his two kids.
A few nights ago as the moon burned red, the three Nightingales, the “Original Three,” as we have dubbed ourselves while the youngest lives far away, camped outside of Dad’s hanger at the airport. We plopped open three fold-up soccer-mom chairs and crunched tortilla chips as we observed nature’s masterpiece—the blood moon—unfold.
We joined the world in watching an eclipse, the likes of hasn’t been seen since 1982, and won’t be seen again until 2033.
And instead of watching the brilliance creep up the rust-colored moon, Dad was captivated by the flashing lights approaching the runway.
“Look, Ren! They’re coming home from somewhere. Let’s listen for his landing. I can always tell how they land by the sound.”
He clapped politely as minimal screeching occurred when the wheels met the ground.
“Pretty good!” He laughed.
And I laughed at him for laughing. God was playing a magnificent magic trick with the cosmos, and Dad was watching the aluminum contraptions soar home- the kind he could rebuild and wire up with his eyes shut.
But that’s my dad. He pays attention to what brings him life.
Dad, you’re my hero. You’re my breakfast buddy, my encourager, my jokester. You inspire me with your integrity and superpowers. Spending time with you is my favorite. I am incredibly honored to be your daughter. You’ve only gotten cooler with age, and I am so excited for more adventures with you this year!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY! 39 (AGAIN!)
Keep ‘em flying!
And keep ‘em full of life.