I’ve always said, “My dad is my hero and I am not ashamed to say that I love him to bits.” Yet, I think it’s easy to fall into a casual rhythm in life, wherein we forget the monumental impact that some people have on us, and that complacency generally causes us to love them less than they deserve.
On 10.31.94, American Eagle flight 4184 crashed into an Indiana soybean field, killing everyone aboard. My dad was flying ATR 72s for American Eagle at that time, and we had not heard from him in hours. As the minutes ticked by, I sat in my parents’ closet with my small face buried in his clothes, bawling and trying to recall his smell, lock every possible memory in indelible carbonite, and refusing to let go of anything “Dad” regardless of whatever reality lurked outside of that little closet. Finally, the phone rang and he said, “Hey guys, I’m on the ground. The weather has been horrible. I will be home in two hours.” The relief that washed over me can’t be explained, truly.
It’s been 22 years and I still recall that night more often than one would think, yet my life has grown larger and I am now a papa as well as a son. The memory always reminds me that life is short, life is fleeting, and that I want to love my dad, be a papa that loves my little person well, and strive to be a papa loved by my little person.
As my little family settles into our latest adventure (building a small homestead), I get to spend many of my hours with my son and my dad. While my dad continues teaching me the finer points of carpentry, home building, septic installation, footing layouts, tree felling, bargain finding, and quality time, I get to teach my little boy where the diesel goes in the tractor, how to find Goldbug in Richard Scarry’s books, how to start the mower, and how to use a screw gun. And, just like my dad and I rolling through the Smokies listening to Neil Diamond cassettes, I get to take my little guy on evening “Jammy Rides”, but I have the added blessing of my dad’s company.
In my daily life, I do a lot of dirty jobs and a few clean jobs, but in-between the never-ending chores I'm reminded of my children and who I am working for, who I am providing for, and who is observing/emulating me. Flight 4184 will always make me think of my dad, and my new homestead will always represent my wife and children.
- Jesse Mase
D. JESSE MASE was born in the South Pacific, raised in the Midwest, married in California, and recently moved his small family in southern Appalachia to develop a small farmstead. At his core, he’s a builder and maker, entrenched in woodworking, welding, photography, micro farming, micro brewing, and general all around proficiency/sustainability gathering. Many of his photos are from the road, traveling around the US shooting film.