Superman Who?

The father clutched his son’s tiny hand warmly.

"Do you know what I wanna be when I grow up Daddy?" The child brightly asked.

It was a sunny Sunday morning...too early for many people to be out, but Josh had insisted. All through the week, the boy would wait anxiously for his father to come home from work. Working late, there wasn’t much time left for him to play or get involved with his son like he wanted or should. A sweet boy with a heart of gold, the innocence of the young surrounded him and lit his face. It was the age of dreams and seeing only happy endings; the age of dreaming about what one wants to be when one grows up and believing that it would turn out exactly that way.


“I wanna be a pilot!” Josh said loudly, laughing with pure happiness. “I wanna fly and see where the birdies go off too!” His eyes shone with joy.

“And what will you do once you find out?”

“I will try to find Tootsie...and then I’ll bring him home!” The child smiled, cute little dimples forming at the end of his lips as he did.

“Good! I bet we'll have a great time with Tootsie”, Josh seemed very sure of that and nodded eagerly.

Tootsie was Josh’s pet parrot. Tootsie and Mr. Cuddles, the teddy bear, were the best; and while Mr. Cuddles went to bed with Josh, the parrot stayed out of the bedroom. One day when he woke up, he realized he had left the cage near an open window, giving Brutus, the neighborhood alley cat, the chance to have him as his personal "dinner guest". Josh would never have forgiven himself, so he was told that Tootsie had gone to visit friends, and maybe he’s staying because he likes it there with his old pals.

“Daddy?”, Josh said with imploring eyes.

“Yes son?” he said as he pulled him up in his arms.

“When I’m big and strong like you, will you take me to your office with you?”

“Of course I will champ!”

“And… and”, the boy was trying to think of different possibilities. “And when I’m big and strong just like you, will you still play with me?”

“Of course! You’ll be a big man like daddy is, and daddy will be proud.” He smiled warmly at Josh. Josh hugged his father in as tight a hug as he could muster.

“Daddy”, The boy hugged his father tighter. “You’re the only one who can open the jelly jar when mom can’t. I told Pete at school that you're just like Superman! He said his dad is stronger than my dad, but then I told him you can even go into the basement without any light on and the monster in the basement can’t even scare you off!” The child laughed with satisfaction.

“Did you now?” Daddy smiled at Josh.

“Yes”, the boy was in such high spirits. “And I also told him about that day you cut yourself shavin’ and you didn’t get even kissed for it and… and it didn’t hurt you ‘cause you’re brave and… and you weren’t sad for getting’ cut.” The boy swelled with pride. “Daddy…” the boy grew serious.

“Yeah bud?”

“How come you take so many pictures of us, but you’re never in them?”

“Well…” he thought for a moment. “That’s ‘cause…”

“Daddy I want a photo of you so I can show Pete how big and strong you are!” he said without letting him finish. The boy hugged his father again and smiled. He held Josh closer to him.

“I love you Daddy. You’re the best! And you ARE just like Superman! My daddy's SUPERMAN!" he gave his dad a sweet kiss on the cheek.

“I love you too son! You’re the purest form of love I have ever seen.” The boy clearly didn’t understand what his father meant and he didn’t even bother with it. He just hugged his dad…his very own Superman and clung on to his protective arms.

The images of being a young boy, looking up at my father and seeing him as the man of steel, is very real for me. Dad was stronger than anyone I knew and I was sure he could lift a car! He was smarter than anyone I knew as well...he knew how to fix a car, knew how to start a campfire and knew just when the fish would bite. He knew how to play baseball, knew how to make something out of wood and knew advanced math. To my young mind, dad was a superman...

I'm not exactly sure when it happened, or how old I was, but something happened and one day I noticed that his red boots were really just old, worn work boots...his cape was nothing more than a windbreaker. My dad wasn't superman. For a time, that realization really shook me. Finding out that there really isn't a Santa Clause or Easter Bunny, is a passage of maturity, but realizing that your dad really isn't changes how a boy views the world; If dad isn't superman, maybe he isn't so strong after all...maybe he doesn't know as much as I thought... maybe he doesn't always know best. There was even a time when I marked dad as a villain...sort of an anti-superman if you will. Perceived injustices, stubbornness and seeking my own independence, often pitted my will against dad's (and if you know my dad, that isn't always the smartest thing to do) times, I wondered what happened...where was superman?

The years past and I eventually had a son of my own... I had came to terms with the fact that dad wasn't superman long before, but the shock of that realization still affected I proudly held my new son, I swore that things would be different...I would be different. I was there when he took his first step...there when he first said 'Da-da' and I was there to see the wonderment of his first Christmas on his face. I taught him how to throw a ball...catch a pass and I taught him how to ride a bike. Many times, while Trevor grew, I caught him looking at me...almost exactly the same way I would look at my own dad.
As he got a little older, I started coaching the baseball and basketball teams he was in. I loved coaching, especially baseball, and I took pride in watching how the boys matured and improved their skills over the 3 or 4 years that I coached them. It was during the last year that I coached that I started seeing a change in Trevor. I don't know if it was expectations on his part or simple familiarity with me being his coach for so long, but he started challenging my coaching and while I was OK with him talking to me privately about his issues, there was a particular game where he let it all out for all to the middle of an inning...while he was on the pitchers mound. As head coach, you MUST maintain the respect and authority of the team as a whole and with that in mind, Trevor gave me no choice, but to send him to the bench. He threw his glove into the dugout and as he past me I again, caught a look in his eyes that brought memories crashing back...this time however, it almost brought me to my knees...there was disdain in that look and a sense...a feeling of betrayal...I no longer was superman...I was the villain. Guilt and remorse weighed down on me like heavy bags of wet sand...I was no better...despite my promise, I was no better. What did this mean? I KNOW I loved my son...wanted nothing but the best for him. I freely gave of myself and enjoyed doing so...and in spite of that, I was no longer superman. I felt like I had failed...

I've had several years to contemplate my fall from hero status and I've come to the conclusion that the 'fall' is inevitable. Every father/son relationship WILL pass through this valley at some point in time and honestly, that's not a bad thing! I think what matters is how the father handles it afterwards. Do you withdraw from your son and let yourself become a shadow of the man you once were? Or do you persevere and press on with your son? The choice is OURS...he is waiting...if you don't pick yourself up, dust off the remnants of your alter-ego, and just be the best dad you know how, your fate and your son's memories both will be sealed...

Oh...and I've finally come to understand that while some of the choices that dad made may have been harsh or not ones that I personally would have made, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he tried his very best to provide for us. He worked LONG, hard hours to give his family a home, clothes and food. And many times, after working all day, would come home to find a broken down car or appliance that needed to be fixed. He took pride in his work and the fact that he was a self-made man. Dad did the best he knew how to and it was through his providing that he showed his love to us. Dad? I just want you to know that after these many years, I understand and I want you to know that I appreciate the sacrifices you had to make for us and that I love you for it and you know what? I think that's pretty Super...

Thank you Dad...thank you for being my Superman...



  1. oh Dearest Brother!! only a heart that is truely bathed in His love daily..could have written this!! You are a blessing and I'm blessed to call you brother. love to YOU always debbie


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