Sometimes we hear news and we have a reaction that surprises us. My dad is 70 years old and was recently laid off. In a perfect world, he would be retired already and staying home to drive my mother nuts. Instead, their financial situation kept him working and the lay off scared my parents. I know that he started looking for work immediately and even met with a bunch of recruiters just to get his resume out to as many places as quickly as possible.
My dad called me tonight which is unusual. He only calls when there’s bad news or if he wants to bitch that he hasn’t seen his granddaughters enough. Knowing that he spent time with them on Saturday and Sunday, I knew that couldn’t be the purpose of his call. I was in the middle of putting the girls to bed when he called so I called him back. He asked if the girls were in bed then told me to sit down. Obviously, this wasn’t going to be good.
My dad found a job. This job will take him to Afghanistan for a year, working on computer systems on an American military base. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he would take a job like that, one that would require him to wear a uniform even. He was in the Air Force for over 20 years and even though he’s been retired for decades, I’m certain he’s missed that life every single day.
My dad joined the military at 17. I don’t know all that he did in the military, but I know that he was in Viet Nam and later was part of a Special Ops group that flew C-130s around the world. We were stationed in Germany for the better part of my childhood and I remember many TDYs where he’d be gone for weeks at a time, but never long enough for a permanent change of station. Wherever he went, he brought home wonderful gifts and never arrived on time. This is where the “hurry up and wait” expression comes from. Thankfully, C-130s are so freakin’ loud, we always knew when he was close. I remember going to meet his plane after he had been gone forever. They were supposed to arrive at some crazy time in the middle of the night. My mom was smart and knew better. She brought things for us to do and blankets for us to snuggle up with. Hours later, we heard the plane arrive and jumped out of the car. We looked and looked for my dad, but couldn’t find him. I remember being on the sidewalk leading to their squadron and turning all the way around, wondering where he was. There was a thin man in a flight suit with a mustache laughing his ass off at us. He had been gone so long, he had grown a mustache and started running so he lost a ton of weight. Since that day, he has worn a mustache.
His last job in the military was flying on a security detail for President Reagan. He retired in the early 1980’s then went to college and worked in the computer industry. There were some hard times financially and we finally moved halfway across the country when I was 15. Since that time, he’s had multiple jobs, some of which have involved travel, mostly within the United States. Last year he did spend a bit of time in Qatar doing something similar to what he will do in Afghanistan.
My reaction should be that I am scared for my dad, going to such a dangerous part of the world. Instead, I am jealous. I am jealous because I never had an opportunity to do something like this. To take a job that would let me see more of the world. I never wanted to be in the military, nor did I want to travel to dangerous areas. When I was in high school, I wanted to become a teacher and work in areas of the country where there weren’t a lot of teachers. I had Appalachia and Indian reservations specifically in mind. Obviously, I never got that teaching degree so those dreams were never realized.
Instead I got married and had babies. I’ve only recently achieved my goal of earning a Bachelor’s degree. This degree is in business and I’ve done a little research, if only to dream, looking at jobs that would take me around the world. I found an interesting position with the FBI that required a year working in Dubai. L’Oreal offers internships to students in a variety of degree programs to learn their business at their various facilities in Europe.
I don’t for a single instant regret the path my life has taken. I have an amazing family and live in a beautiful home. I earned my degree as an adult, which made me appreciate the education more than I would have as a teenager/young adult. Every once in a while though, I can’t help daydreaming about the places I could see and the jobs that I could have if only I had gotten a degree immediately after graduating from high school.
I complain about my dad, but I am very much like him. He can be arrogant, condescending and rude. He is opinionated and is always right. I have many of those traits as well, but I try to keep those behaviors under wraps and use my “inside voice.” This blog is an outlet for some of those things. There is one trait that I have that is from my dad that I’m not ashamed of: the wanderlust to see the world and do things that many others wouldn’t think of doing. He started his travels at the age of 17 and his choices gave my sister and me the opportunity to travel around and see things that many others haven’t seen.
At 70 he continues to feed his “wanderlust.” Perhaps that can be my goal… I’ll start traveling the world as a crotchety old woman of 70. Imagine that.