Dec 20, 2015 12:00AM
By Tim Gill
I was on a Southwest flight to San Diego tonight. As we were taking off, I closed my eyes and replayed the same memory I always do when my plane takes flight.
During the more than 14 years since I left my teaching position at Middletown High School, I have flown at least 100 times for various reasons related to my job. When my sons were little, they would always have the same response when I would get home from a long trip. They would run over to our front door and, one at a time, as I came around the corner, yell “Daddy!,” running as fast as they could into my arms. I would give them a big bear hug, flip them over backwards, and then land them on their feet. That moment when they would yell “Daddy!” and jump into my arms is the memory I replay during every takeoff.
When they got too big for me to flip, they would still yell “Daddy!,” and run and jump on me. Then when they became teenagers, they would yell “Daddy!,” and I would get a high-five instead of a hug. My sons are 16 and 20 now. Before the Valley Fire, the last time Jake, the elder, was home, I came home from work, and he and Connor yelled “Daddy!,” and we all had a good laugh.
So tonight, when I instinctively closed my eyes and hit the play button, I realized that the home where this memory was made is no longer there. I was really struck by the finality of what has happened. That the space in which that memory was created is gone forever. However, I also realized that, in a way, the fire gave that memory back to me. Despite replaying it, the images were not as crisp as they were when my boys were 3 and 7 years old. They had faded a bit. Tonight, however, that memory was as clear as if it had happened last week. That wouldn’t be true if we hadn’t lost our home in the Valley Fire.
As we headed toward 35,000 feet tonight, I realized that, thanks to the fire, indeed many of my once-faded memories of living in our Cobb Mountain tree house are coming back to me. It makes me happy to think of these moments, many of which I haven’t thought of in years.
I had the middle seat and tears in my eyes; the two strangers on either side of me must have thought I was crazy. The tears were happy tears, though. Silver linings are sometimes hard to find when you are looking through the ashes. I found one tonight.
Tim Gill works for Kelseyville School District. He and his wife, Jamey, have lived in Lake County most of their lives. They owned their home on Cobb Mountain for 16 years, and plan to rebuild.