By Gabreal Easterly
January 19, 2010
During the day while me and the MacManus's, Pierce's and the Thompson's ran around the Loop at full speed ahead, Dad and Mac would do constant fly by's they knew right where we were at all times. Dad told me when I was older that Mac (Brian MacManus) would come over the radio every morning saying, "Good morning neighbor."
As soon as Dad got a break from flying we would head out to one of the many Forest Service cabins. This is where I fell in love with Alaska, just as Dad had, it was also where our greatest memories would be made. Dad taught us so much about going without all the everyday amenities. Life is so simple in a forest service cabin, no phones, no TV just us boys fishing all day, exploring each new lake looking for new fishing holes, casting under each scary log that came out of the depths of the lake only to catch another beautiful rainbow or cutthroat. Life was so simple and Dad always made it a point to go over why we were in the middle of nowhere to spend time together. As all Alaskans know, nothing brings you closer, faster than being in the middle of nowhere together.
When I turned 15 Dad had me go talk to Chuck Slagle about washing airplanes. He gave me the job for $5.00 dollars an hour, on the condition that I washed all three Twin Otters, seven nights a week. It was a lot of work but Dad could keep a close eye on me from his office, since Seaborne and Promech shared a dock. This is where I was taught about hard work and Dad came down to dock all the time to pull me aside and talk about how doing things right the first time would be the only way he would tolerate workers, since he had asked all the pilots and personnel to do the same. This is where my already great respect for Dad went to a whole new level. Dad always spoke his mind and was straight to the point. For this reason many people were often offended by Dad but he didn't care about what anybody thought about him, other than his family and his maker.
One day when talking with Dad about being a pilot, and some of my experience's with the other pilots he told me,"this job is dangerous enough, the minute you screw up, your dead." Dad knew all to well the dangers of the job and through my childhood in the busy days our community lost pilots every year. The losses have stuck with our whole community through the years, as it seemed to affect everyone whenever some one went down. We would gather around the families who had lost a loved one with prayer, tears, food and fly by's were always next to follow. It was at this young age that I learned how to deal with loss and to be a friend to the other kids who were left without a father. But I tell you this, there is no place like Ketchikan when you are dealing with a major loss. I have lived all over the United States and never saw a community that pulls together in time of loss like this one. I credit all the Wives and Mothers for this, they were and still are the anchors that never dragged to bottom but instantly pulled everyone together and took action.
Although nothing could prepare me for losing my Dad, these things taught me the right way to deal with loss. About two weeks before Dad died, I was having a really hard day upon arriving at Mom and Dad's house. I got out of my truck and went straight to the shop I didn't want Dad to see me crying. But Dad knew me better than anyone in the world and this day was no different, I was standing over the sink (our fish cleaning station) with my back turned to the door when I heard it open and close quietly, it was Dad, he came up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders and said "it's okay Son," I turned and asked him "Dad are you angry that this is the way it has to end?" My father had been suffering from cancer and this time there was nothing they could do. Dad didn't have to think about his answer, he replied, "No, I have lived my dreams. I flew in the bush for 30 years, I have a wonderful family, and I know who my maker is." I was speechless and we just hugged for a long time. To be able to die with no regrets and no fears, I can only hope that I could say the same when my time has come. Dad passed a few weeks later with all of his loved ones there to say their goodbyes, and with Mom by his side in his own bed with no tubes or machines hooked up to him. This was the way he wanted it.
Although Dad passed five years
ago on January 22, 2005 I still hear his voice speaking truth
straight to my heart. Although cancer took him from this world,
no disease will ever take him from mine. "Thank you Dad
you will always be my hero."
About: "My family has lived in Alaska for over 100 years, my Great,Great Grandfather Harry James Diamond owned the first fish trap on Annette Island in the earlier 20's. My father Mark Easterly was a Bush Pilot for 30 years."
Received January 18, 2009 - Published January 19, 2010
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