My Dad is Superman. No, he’s bigger and badder than Superman. He’s a metamorphosis of all of the superheroes. I can’t remember ever needing him and not overtly receiving his helping hand. Once, I needed to design a car for the Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby. Pops was there (I won by the way….hard to compete with a scaled down model of a Ferrari). I had a difficult time as a young boy keeping my fluids inside me while sleeping. This is no lie. Guess who was there to move me to the dry side so he would be the one wading his way through the night on the wet side. Yup, Pops did that. I wanted to attend UNC, Chapel Hill. Someone special to me placed a call to my high school to let me know my dream had come true. Yup, it was Pops. I wanted to see the world after college. Having not a penny to my name I needed someone to make it happen. Pops was there. He has been there every time. He’s my hero.
My Dad flew the F-4 Phantom in Vietnam. My Dad is a fighter pilot! He completed over 120 missions!! What was asked of him, he did. He saluted when appropriate and played cards with the boys below deck when he could. He had a mustache. He always flew with a stuffed animal of Snoopy. Oh, and a cigarette. Times have changed.
I remember every detail of my Dad’s pictures from Vietnam because I used to spend hours at my grandmother’s (Nanny) house staring and analyzing his pictures. This can’t be him speeding by a Russian aircraft!? Yup, that was my Dad. I stared and stared and stared. Ultimately, the time travel would be interrupted by Nanny with her inevitable offering of flat soda and olive loaf. If he isn’t a hero for flying the Phantom, surviving his mom’s food has to meet the criteria.
I wanted to be my Dad. I wanted to do everything he did. I wanted to visit everywhere he did. My Dad had an Airedale terrier as a kid. I have an Airedale terrier. My Dad was in the Navy. I went as far as the Congressional Nomination stage of entering Annapolis. Ultimately I decided to go somewhere else, UNC, Chapel Hill. Oh, I forgot to mention. That’s my father’s alma mater.
He’s everything I ever wanted to be. As the Foo Fighter’s song says, ‘There goes my hero…..’He’s ORDINARY!’ Yes, absolutely. My dad isn’t a Wall Street tycoon. My dad didn’t rake in millions running a prestigious law firm. Nope, none of that. My Dad owns a car repair shop in a town of less than 5,000 residents. He works 6 days a week 10 hours a day.
His customers respect his integrity almost as much as I do. Every morning Pops would have keys under floor mats and blank checks waiting for him at work. A mechanic with ‘free reign’ would be a scary thought for most. Not my Dad’s customers. I’ve seen them return later to pick up their car and watch as my Dad hands the check back because no repairs were necessary. The customer would insist reaching into his wallet for a token of appreciation, but my Dad never accepted. He was presidential. He and his ilk should be whom we read about on the front page of the paper. He’s a man that looks another man right between the eyes. He’s a man that walks the walk of honor. He’s the man I can only pretend to be, but aim to impersonate in some fashion. I hope to represent his name well. He’s earned that.
I never saw Pops in the morning, and I waited on pins and needles (unless I was in trouble of course) for the sound of the garage door when he returned. I was like a puppy waiting for his owner. Pops is home! He’d stroll in with black fingernails and a look of utter fatigue. As he would always say…’Can everyone give me a minute…I’ve been on my feet all day!” So he read Newsday and ate his chips, or peanuts, or fritos, or whatever permutation of all of the above. That apparently was like a good meal to a sled dog because he would come back rejuvenated. When I heard the bag crinkle to close, I knew it was ‘make my Dad so tired he can’t see straight’ time. And he would oblige.
We played basketball in my room. My mom would plead for us not to because of all of the holes we put in the wall from crashing into it chasing after a loose ball. We boxed. He would use the lefty glove, me the righty. We played baseball in the family room with a mini-bat and a nerf ball. On the days I really wanted to torture him we’d go outside and play basketball in the driveway, or play a couple of holes on the makeshift golf course I designed in the backyard. My Dad didn’t care much for possessions. His khakis that he wore every day are proof of that. What he cared about and cherished above all however, was his lawn. He would talk to it like a grass whisperer. And here I am, a less than mediocre golfer hacking up his ‘baby.’ It hurt, it hurt deep down in his soul. But knowing he’s a conduit to my happiness, he let me play. He looked like Eeyore; depressed about his lawn, but still out there hanging with me.
The stories are endless. I have so many because I think about them like I analyzed his pictures at my grandparents’ house. I cherish them as I do him. We’d never let on of course. We were ‘men’. He would tuck my sisters and me in every night. He would always tell my sisters he loves them. Not me, we’d do our handshake routine and give a nod. It meant the same thing.
My Dad found out recently that he has stage 4 prostate cancer. Yes, MY dad. MY HERO HAS CANCER! He’s tough. He’s the adult. He’s the one that has to be ‘strong’. He’s the foreman of the house and must come off as robust and authoritative. But I have seen and heard tears welling up in his hawk like eyes lately. He’s scared. We all are. It has spread throughout his bones, and even reached his scapula. But guess where he was when he told me the diagnosis. He was at work! Yes, I know that Mr. Smith’s oil has to be changed because he’s going to visit his son at college. And I know the van in front needs an alignment for the business owner to put it back on the road. But Dad, you learned that your body is destroying itself not but an hour ago. So what!? That didn’t stop him. The doctor didn’t present him with Kryptonite, so he was back at work at 68 years of age and full of cancer. You know what, the Foo Fighters got it wrong. He’s NOT ordinary!
I’m much better at writing my words than speaking them. So if I only get one view of this post, I hope it’s the one it’s meant for.