Tonight my Dad is on UAE 419, out of Christchurch via Sydney, bound for Bangkok.
He wasn't meant to be.
Last night before dinner he was playing with his five granddaughters, who were alternatively squealing in delight and fake fear as he chased them around the lounge. He made sure there was ice-cream for dessert. He ran the bath for three of the girls and helped to get them ready for bed. Then he sat down and together we watched the ABs beat up on the Wallabies. He whooped and cheered, as he is wont to do.
Yesterday he let Bella help him wash the car, which mainly involved letting her get away with spraying him constantly, again accompanied by many squeals of delight. Then in one of those displays of grandparently indulgence he took turns to drive the same granddaughters around the back paddock on the family pit-bike, and they came back all covered in grins and mud.
This morning, when he got back from church we were planning the afternoon. Yum char for lunch with the extended family, or a visit to Hagley Park to sit in the sun and feed the ducks.
Before the phone rang.
I could take some time to write about the turbulent, sometimes troubled relationship I have with my Dad, and how at times I still struggle to connect with him.. And I do - and we're not perfect family - despite the words above.
But tonight, my Dad acting as the legal guardian of a student, is riding that plane to Thailand, escorting that same student home to her mother. A mother who will greet her with the awful news that her father is gone. Taken in a car accident, while we all slept last night.
My Dad sits next to this student, knowing this news, but not being allowed to tell her. Knowing that she probably has some inkling of the awfulness. Knowing he can't be anything other than be there in the capacity that any human can be. As a human.
So tonight, I'm watching the thin line track across Queensland and on over the Northern Territories, and I'm sitting here missing my Dad.
Being thankful for my Dad. Being humbled by my Dad. Hoping I'll be even a little bit the Dad that he is.
Safe travels Dad, safe home ... Bella's waiting to feed some ducks.