Most boys grow up idolizing superheroes but I wasn’t one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I donned the occasional Batman outfit for Halloween and I definitely had an imagination… just not for Superman, Spiderman, or any other heroic-Man. But there was one superhero I looked up to a whole lot- my Dad.
Now I know, Dad, that you could dig into a storage closet and find some super cute photographic evidence from my childhood that contradicts this anti-hero claim. But for the sake of not wanting either side here blushing, I will hold back the juicy stories and you keep the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle photos right where they are. For your birthday I wanted to revisit some old memories which conjure up a real image of a superhero.
When I was a wee little kid, just having a refrigerator that magically produced food which was magically prepared for entering my body, was awesome. Your production of those fruit roll ups and neighbors who had Shark Treats (go Mr. and Mrs. Long!) was also worthy of accolades. There was lots of magic between the moments of hunger and satisfaction. I was only three or so, and the how wasn’t really important. What I knew was that you were a superhero for being able to fill the cabinet with fruit roll ups and keep me stocked in beef jerky.
You held the keys that took me to various green vistas to smack a little white ball around. Hours of fun. Who knew? This kid did. And boy did I smack and chase that thing around like a cat and his mouse toy. You also helped fix all the divot marks in the back yard, front yard, side yard, and apologized for the divots in the neighbor’s yard, as I hit real and plastic golf balls in my spare time. You even showed me the lot across the street were I could swing a golf club, with divots aplenty, and nature would take care of it! You never were able to remove that golf club damage on the ceiling in the basement…but I suppose there are always gaps in the superhero movies that can’t be explained. At least the damage didn’t stop the show!
You also obtained for me a magic club, called a sand/lob wedge by club maker US Junior that sort of defied the laws of physics. I could hit club with more distance and spin that my next longest club. A superhero club without a doubt! Weird, but awesome nonetheless. Sometimes I still wish I had that one in the bag.
You assembled the swingset and basketball hoop at our home in Pennsylvania.You poured some liquid stuff that became super solid stuff so that I could chuck a ball through a hoop held up by the liquid/solid thingy. For ten years. Almost every day that it was sunny. I didn’t need to know how you did it, but I did know you did it. We hardly broke any car side mirrors in the process of errantly shooting basketballs, but never fear, I was sure you could fix that as well!
Soon, I grew up out of my toddleresque years and realized daddy wasn’t exactly king of the world. While there was still an element of believing you had some magical powers, I began to see that in the real world, you too could be victim of circumstances you couldn’t change. Like the one time we went on vacation with The Banko’s. The plane ride there was delayed almost a day, but that was not even the worst of it. Upon arriving at one of our destinations, we found out that our river tubing experience wass going to be led by a man named Rambo. Good thing Rambo’s parents named him descriptively and correctly foresaw his svelte torso and rippling arms, because the river was three times its usual height. We were going to need Rambo. They sent ten pasty white gringos down this river…and only one of us didn’t get our bodies tossed around like a salad. Mr. Banko was a boss at riding an inner tube. Rambo did what he could, you did what you could, and all in all we can say that river humbled us. Some superheroes would dust that under the rug, but not you. It was a worthy lesson every time it was brought up.
And let’s not forget the time where Jerry and I both injured ourselves on the same summer weekend. I blasted my chin against the bow of a boat riding a wave, and my brother ran headlong into a out-of-water sailboat with the engine propped up. Right into the blade of the motor, not an inch away from his eye. I’m willing to bet 100 bucks if we took a poll of who wanted to go to the emergency room twice in 48 hours, you would’ve politely declined with one of those witty joke of yours. But alas, there you were! Even for nitty gritty when the doctors had to describe the mayhem that was our faces, you didn’t pass out. (Mom was your pillar of confidence there for sure). Oh, my son has a hole in his lip? Oh, the blade of the motor left a mark on his skull? Great. But you managed to handle it. Life had decided we were not going to have a vacation that year and you rolled with the punches. Real superheroes know how to do that.
On that fateful day that you got a hole in one on the longest par 3 available at Carlisle Country Club, number 13, there was the sensation of experiencing the miraculous in the moment as it happened. There was the obligatory drinks at the end of the round and some stories of previous hole in one’s. (There’s no way that legendary long hitter from CCC actually got a hole in one on hole number two with a 3 iron…no way!). But I learned a flash in the pan isn’t what you play for. Some of the best golfers in the world never get a hole-in-one. Its the experiences in between that matter the most. The game didn’t end that evening and the next day we played again, in pursuit of the intangible satisfaction of playing a game that cannot be beaten. You taught me not to live for the “hole in one moments” but to enjoy the game along the way instead.
In adulthood, I have gained a better understanding of what a superhero is and its likelihood of existence. When I picture a superhero in real life, the simplest picture is that of you, Dad. Maybe you don’t make Arnold Schwartzenegger buckle in his knees just at the sight of your left and right biceps, but you don’t have to (you’ve got JB for that). Maybe you don’t fly around like Superman, but you don’t have to. Everything you did was super enough for me to know the difference between movie hero and real life heroes. More important then having flying powers with an intolerance to kryptonite is humility, a sense of humor, contentment, and service to those you love.
Happy birthday, Dad! I hope it is as wonderful as my many memories of our time together are….
(And your welcome for not using all embarrassing stories for this post. No promises for spilling the beans at a later date, though…)