Today my dad retired from the Coast Guard. I was so sad I couldn’t be there to celebrate in his last 31 years of service. When chapters come to an end, they come with a mixture of emotions; happiness, finality, sorrow. The best way to conquer this is to throw a little party and be surrounded by friends and family. Thank you Shayne and Elizabeth for representing, and of course the many others who showed up with love and kind words. I got to hear a wonderful retelling that brought tears to my eyes.
It was a slight comfort, also, that I had been able to be a part of his retirement from the Fairfax Country Fire Department over a year ago. You see, my dad and I used to go head to head a lot when I was a young, insubordinate child with a temper and righteous opinion (in that I thought I was always correct, not in that I was always correct). It’s because we are so similar, and it wasn’t until I started working that I began to realize that.
My internship and later my job both revolved around the career he had worked since a very young age. The fire department. And it was in this way that I was finally able to fully connect to what he did day in and day out. I started to know the same people he did, and my last name often brought me into the company of those that knew I was his daughter. That I was able to meet some of the most sincere, dedicated, kind, and hilarious people in the beginning of my working career is something that I will forever be grateful of, and also cherish. Because it was so freaking cool to sit down at family dinner on Sunday evening and revel in a conversation that only he and I knew what we were talking about.
I’ve spent pretty much my entire life knowing my father was cool. It started when I was in elementary school and the fire trucks would pull into the parking lot and draw up their ladders for us all to gaze up at. ‘My dads a firefighter,’ had epic weight that time of the year. It carried on to Halloween nights in which he would patrol the streets in his car, flipping on the bright lights every so often to both scare and amaze the children (and to let us know that he was there, watching us, a matter of opinion which changed with age.) Those times when we had to let him disappear for weeks at a time to travel overseas and serve a greater purpose. To sitting mortified in the front seat of his cruiser as he pulled over a car near our neighborhood, our curiosity and horror mingling in his return and retreating at his assurance that he just gave them a warning. More often than not they were high school kids we very likely knew.
Cheers to your amazing career as both as a member of the Coast Guard, a firefighter, an investigator, and the long continuing list of jobs you did that I still can’t keep straight. (I reminisce fondly of how often I was unable to say exactly what my dad did because it seemed like he did a little bit of everything. Or as he always said, “A firefighter with a gun.”)
Which Brings Me to Today
Obviously, I don’t work with fire departments anymore. And obviously this post isn’t about the fire department, rather the Coast Guard. But today my school went on an excursion to the local Arnedo fire department, and it brought back a lot of memories that have everything to do with my dad.
Walking into the bay, seeing all the fire trucks (about half the size of our own, by the way) was a strange step back in time. Because I guess there are some things that will forever be the same no matter which country you are in. And here in the Spanish fire department, that was no different. The red and white of the trucks, the gear laid out and ready to step into, even the smell of clean rubber floors brought me back a few years. But mostly it’s the people. The firefighter who spoke with us was kind and funny and knew what he was talking about like the back of his hand.
When he asked for a volunteer to suit-up in the gear, I was unfortunately chanted into the position by screaming 2nd graders. (I tend to be the popular choice due to my foreign charm, and the fact that I’m only with each class once every other week. This includes random hugs in the hallways, high fives, and my name shouted many a time as I try to casually make my way to the bathroom during breaks.)
He helped me into it and then slid the front of the helmet closed. The kids went nuts. I laughed. The firefighter helped me out of the gear and I told him my dad was a firefighter. “Really? In the United States? That is so cool.” “Yah,” I agreed, “that is pretty cool.” Because it takes a certain kind of person to show the compassion, dedication, and joy that he demonstrated throughout his entire career. And even though the word retired may have to follow that sentence, it still makes me proud to know him, let alone be his daughter.