I WAS 13 YEARS OLD THE FIRST TIME I WENT SCUBA DIVING. My family was on a trip to Cancun, and my dad took me and my sister, Carrie, who was 11 at the time, for a scuba lesson. We did a low-risk resort-style dive, going no deeper than 25 feet. But we loved the underwater world. We were hooked.
My dad had started scuba diving 30 years earlier when he joined the Merchant Marine. He traveled the world on merchant ships, which allowed him to dive in many distant port cities. Later, he and his dad, Herb, would go on dives around New York City.
Since Carrie and I received our open-water certifications almost 10 years ago, my dad has taken us on amazing dive trips. We once saw a goliath grouper in the Florida Keys that was so incomprehensively massive that I thought it was a manatee. Off the coast of Saba, we saw two gorgeous, dainty seahorses, one brown and one gold, curled around a piece of coral. On a night dive in the British Virgin Islands, where we did a phenomenal liveaboard trip, a bright-orange octopus turned teal in front of our flashlights. We have seen sea turtles, eels, stingrays, sharks, and other fascinating and stunning animals. We have dived shipwrecks, airplane wrecks, underwater sculptures, caves, and many reefs. Our dive trips are full of entertaining characters — we have shared laughs with divers from across the world.
But my favorite part of diving, even more than the wildlife and underwater scenery, is that I get to do it with my family. My dad is the ultimate dive buddy. When we are diving he focuses primarily on my sister and me. Are we keeping track of one another? Of the divemaster? His attention is a force of love. Every dive, before we got in the water, my dad would ask us the same question: “Have you checked your sister’s air?” He wants us to do for each other what he automatically does for us.
A few months ago, my dad was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer. He underwent surgery that required doctors to remove part of his skull. One of his first questions afterward was whether he could still dive. All our searching indicates that brain surgery is often an absolute contraindication for diving. We checked with my dad’s neurosurgeon at Yale and the medical experts at DAN, who confirmed that it is very unlikely my dad will be able to dive again.
Doug McKay died peacefully from glioblastoma on June 3, 2022.
Kat and Carrie were by his side.
I have never been on a dive without my dad. It is almost impossible to imagine going without him. I will miss my dad and think of him every time I dive for the rest of my life. But I will also remember all his lessons from our many dives together. On each dive, before we start, I will check my sister’s air. AD
© Alert Diver — Q3 2022