Last month my father Klaus Damian died much too young and rather unexpected.
He was a hero to me, like every father should be. But he made it especially easy.
When he retired he was the Head of the Astronauts Training Division at the EAC (European Astronaut Centre) of the ESA (European Space Agency). As far as I can remember he always worked with satellites and spacecrafts. He travelled the world to go diving with astronauts in the Caribbean, do zero gravity flights, to see rockets or spaceships take off from all continents.
I always remember the map of the world he had on his wall, which had a pin for every trip and they were everywhere.
The thing is that you don't realize this as a kid, you get used to the exotic food that you get to know. You get bored of meeting yet another astronauts (except maybe the Russians, they are fun). You forget where you put all the autographs and ESA and NASA stickers and patches. As a teenager you just expect every dad to be like that.
So he had a pretty busy life I would say, but when he retired he really started living it to the full. He travelled even more, whenever I tried to call him he was somewhere in the desert in a cave, on top of a mountain in South America, hiking the Camino de Santiago, climbing at Mount Everest Base Camp, sitting on his or some other boat.
In 2011 he, my brother, my sister and me did a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia and I must confess I had a bit of trouble keeping up with him. He didn't care if we slept in a luxury hotel, on a boat, in a bus or spent 24 hours in a train, he was always enjoying himself.
I have no idea how he found the time, but he also learned to sing, write stories, play the stock market, automate the house (so nobody knows how things work now), dive
, paint, run marathons, cycle and all kind of other things.
We didn't really talk to much, because of the distance, but also because we both are not really into small-talk. If one of us called the other one we always expected the worst, because why else would you call?
He didn't call this time.
I hope he doesn't expect us children to achieve what he did, because frankly, he made it a bit difficult by setting the goals so high. But without him I wouldn't be where I am now. I wouldn't have discovered the fun of science and computers so early. I might not have been so open to move to different countries and try new things. I will try to live my life to the full too though, because what else is there?
I will miss him.