The day before yesterday, January 28, Richard Carlsen, my father, died. He was 88 years old.

Perhaps the finest tribute a son can pay to his father is to say that he always took his father for granted – a statement I can make in good conscience. In a world filled with divorce, alcoholism, and irresponsibility of all sorts, it is a fortunate boy who never turns to his father for support and finds it lacking. I was such a boy. Like health to the healthy and food to the well-fed, my father’s guiding presence was such a constant in my young life that I was well into adulthood before I realized it was even there.

I doubt that Dad ever gave himself credit for the rock-solid father that he was. For a man of considerable intelligence, he never seemed particularly self-reflective to me. He seemed to have an opinion of himself – strong, capable, masculine – that he had long ago accepted and never doubted.

Dad made a career of the military – first as a WWII Marine Corps pilot and later as an Air Force officer. He was very proud of his role in this country’s defense. He rarely missed an opportunity to remind people that we’d all be Soviet slaves if not for the U.S. military.

He led a full life. He saw combat in the Pacific. He farmed. He traveled through Europe in a VW Microbus with Mom riding shotgun and his six children in the back seats. He skied, scuba dived, and sailed.

He loved reading about the world. He had a library jam-packed with books. He was a life-long subscriber to National Geographic and Time which he read cover-to-cover from the comfort of his living-room La-Z-Boy. He had a head full of fascinating stories from his long life and he never hesitated to share them.

I never wished my dad was anything other than what he was.