The Sky is Ours


Photo courtesy of Pixabay, photo credits to Free-Photos

So, why did you want to be an astronaut? (Photo courtesy of Pixabay, photo credits to Free-Photos)

There is a quote from Rob Siltanen that I love. He talks about the outcast, the ones who don’t fit in society, and how their individualism drives the human race. We adapt, we change, and we grow. All of this is necessary to move forward.

When I saw it, I thought it was made for me: a small town dreamer in a world that seemed almost too big. I always thought the world was too vast to understand, but I would never back down from a challenge. My dad used to point to the starry night sky and name all the constellations that reached his eyes’ view. He would bring me with him to gaze upon them, while stating everything he knew about them. At the time, I would begrudgingly accompany him, but looking back, it feels like those were our special moments. We would lay on our backs and trace the stars, reaching out as if we could touch the sky. As I grew older and taller, my dad would tell me I was closer to reaching the stars. I jumped as high as I could, but it would never be enough. After my failed attempts and the crestfallen look that stretched across my face, he would crouch down, “It’s ok, you’ll reach the stars someday.” I promised him that I would touch the sky, one way or another. In reply, my dad smiled almost knowingly. It was the handcrafted memories like that that meant the most.

My dad had to leave for deployment a couple of months later. Even though he was thousands of miles away, he told me, “We’ll always have the sky.” From that moment on, I held onto that. The sky was ours.

Sometime later, My mom bought me a telescope and I would look up to the sky and familiarize myself with the constellations. I talked to the sky, speaking about anything and everything that came to mind. It felt like the closest I could get to talking to my dad while he was away.

A few months after my thirteenth birthday, he passed away while stationed in Afghanistan. I was utterly devastated. The doorbell rang, echoing in the house. It continued to ring as I answered the door to two uniformed officers and my mom came to stand beside me. The ringing didn’t stop when they delivered the news or when I caught my mom from falling.

Life seemed to drag from there, coming and going in a blur. At his funeral, I was surrounded by his comrades as they walked by, patting me on the back, muttering their condolences. I wasn’t even able to look at his body, they weren’t able to recover it. According to a close friend of his, he died saving locals and some soldiers. He died a hero, they said, but that didn’t matter to me at the time. To me, my dad was a coward, because he left me alone.

I couldn’t look to the heavens anymore without thinking of him. I couldn’t go to the garage, because I might see my telescope and think of him. I couldn’t close my eyes anymore, it reminded my of the expansiveness of space and I would think of him. All the while, the ringing never seemed to stop, at least not all the way. A light chime in the back of my mind lived on.

Time carried on and so did the ringing, I tried to busy myself of deafen the sound but nothing worked. At least, not for a while.

On the third year anniversary of my dad’s death, I was brought face to face with everything I tried to run from. I pushed away the thoughts of my dad everyday, but on this day, I let myself be. Eventually, you get tired of running. I rolled the telescope from the garage and in the stillness of night, I checked up on the constellations I used to be so fond of. And for the first time in three years, I talked to the stars. Then, in the tranquil darkness, the sustained ringing that haunted me quieted. And if anyone would have asked me, I could have sworn I heard the stars talk back.

I returned to my routine of stargazing whenever I could and pondered over the absurdness of becoming an astronaut. My mom pushed me to do what made me happy, and as I went out at night, the stars smiled almost knowingly. That gave me my answer. I focused a lot on work and doing whatever I could to heighten my chances of being an astronaut.

During my senior year, I received a letter inviting me to join their candidate program to become an astronaut. Elation doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. From there, I worked even harder until, eventually, I was strapped in a space shuttle.

The countdown felt like slow motion when, suddenly, the astronauts and I were thrust up towards the sky. Ground control counted off.

“28 miles and climbing.”

Images of my dad pointing to the sky flashed in my mind.

“140 miles and climbing.”

My dad turns to me, smiling, and brings me close.

“208 miles and climbing.”

“It’s ok, you’ll reach the stars someday,” he said.

“250 miles, we’ve reached orbit.”

Ground control and the astronauts clapped excitedly, but my focus was elsewhere. I unbuckled the safety belt and floated weightlessly in awe as the others followed my example. A smile crept across my face as I thought of my dad. I had fulfilled my promise to him, I touched the sky. My dad’s words replayed in my mind, “We’ll always have the sky.” And we did. The sky is ours.