I especially connect with my father when I watch him fly a radio-controlled mini-helicopter that I gave him.
My father and I shared many years building and flying radio-control airplanes — gliders to be precise. I grew up under the strong influence of his passion for aviation and I remember that when I was a kid, there was nothing better than to go the airport, where my dad worked, to watch him do his job. Getting into the cabins of the planes with him, look at and touch the countless numbers of buttons and levers, communications with the control towers when we’d move these huge planes from one ramp to the other…the things that make up the daily life of an airport. During the work week my dad was the head of maintenance, and during the weekend, he’d distribute his time between the family, construction and flight. This he did with meticulous dedication, year after year.
I remember the excitement that came from flying something we had built ourselves. Planes that we’d spent months constructing! I also remember the sadness and feeling of impotence when they’d crash into trees, or on the runways. And how much my father wanted to get home to fix them and have them ready to fly anew the following weekend. The model plane club was on top of a hill, right in the middle of nature. It’s got some incredible views of the mountains of Caracas, of the wind, of the sun, of the clouds and the birds of prey who fly in circles and who showed us where the thermal currents were, where altitude in flight is gained.
Over the years, it became more and more complicated to keep up the amount of time we dedicated to our hobby: I started university and each of us went his own way. Time went on, but I still had the memories and the eagerness to go back to those years when we had such a good time and shared so many things.
For all these reasons, and given my father’s current state, I looked for the way to adapt the hobby to his current needs. In the local market, I found a small, easy-to-manage helicopter (the ones they sell for kids 14 years of age and older) so that he can fly it inside the house.
The connection that I feel with him when he’s flying is incredible. Even though his mental faculties have greatly diminished: his capacity for communication, movement, etc., he does maintain his capacity to coordinate the movement of his fingers, his eyes and his flight!
I don’t have new ways of connecting with my dad; we’ve always had a great relationship. It’s probably better to say that, as time goes on, I’m more committed to accompanying him in his new stage of his life, in growing what we’ve always had exponentially. I feel an extreme need to pay him back for all the years of dedication and affection that I’ve received from him.
Before, he was the voice of authority, of discipline, of order. We weren’t on the same wavelength. As I grew up, while the illness wasn’t quite as noticeable, my father made an effort to show me the darker side of life – or, better said, the darker sides of his personality: bars, booze, prostitutes, being out of control, progressive self-destruction.
For me, the most enriching thing of all that’s going on these days that I can talk to him without any taboos – a little bit of being on the same level. We see the reality of situations just as they are. Our relationship is more transparent, more human, and as each day goes by, I understand him better and I feel there is more and more emphasis on affection than there is on reasoning.
I’ve learnt to be patient and to value what really matters in life. I’ve also learnt from the mistakes that he’s made in life, in making an effort to curb my excesses, to always seek a better work/life balance…to communicate better, accept reality just the way it is, so that it doesn’t matter if I have to do something over a thousand times, to find inside myself the things which I always enjoy doing with him, and to make them stronger every day, to know myself better, to be much more sensitive, humble and human. He’s made me a better person because I understood something that he always repeated at home: “In this life, no one is indispensable.”
Christian Minardi, Venezuela