Thursday, January 12, 2006

Heroes

It’s usually around the age of three or four when a young man’s mind begins to turn over the concept of heroes. Invariably, these thoughts center on men – I’m not being sexist – who seem to possess superhuman qualities. Even if the individual we choose to be the center of our universe is, in some strange turn of events, an actual non-fictional being, we endow him with abilities and powers beyond the reaches of man. For example, I went through a period when my kindergarten teacher, Mr. Drork, was my hero, and I would have estimated him to be somewhere near 9’6”. He was tall – he didn’t have a problem with our calling him Mr. Stork because of his height – but looking back, he was probably somewhere around 6’4” and the rest of us were all about the right height to bite his ankles. However, in all the time I was in his class, I never saw a pack of NBA scouts hovering around the monkey bars waiting for the moment to get him alone and steal him away to play center or power forward.

Throughout my youth, the list of my heroes was broad: John from CHiPs (never thought Ponch was all that cool), Shazam, Indiana Jones, Hank Aaron, Shaft (“he’s a bad – watch your mouth”), Murdock the helicopter pilot from the A-Team, Lee Majors (because he was married to Farrah Fawcett and because he played both “The Bionic Man” and “The Fall Guy”), James Bond (as played by Sean Connery), Aquaman, Richard Nixon, Cary Grant (no one cooler with the chicks), Han Solo, David Letterman, and Mr. Peabody (the time-traveling dog who had a pet boy named Sherman). Depending on the stage of life in which I found myself, or the circumstances I was facing, my “hero worship” would vary.

Now that I’m officially old (I have a 401k, attended parent/teacher conferences at school, passed kidney stones, found a certain degree of relaxation in turning off the TV and reading a book, etc.), my fascination with these many people whom I venerated for so long has waned. The “real” people I still respect for their accomplishments, and the fictional ones still give me reason to smile and/or laugh. However, I can now safely say I have chosen heroes far more worthy of my esteem and their popularity with me will never fade: my sons Jack and Sam.

Allow me to list their heroic qualities:

1. Faith – this may be hard to imagine (as it is especially so for me), they believe I know what I’m doing. Their faith in my abilities to put a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food in their mouths is steady.
2. Humility – they defer to me when they don’t know the answer to a question. They’ll readily admit they don’t have the knowledge and then display their first heroic quality and believe I do.
3. Strength – they ably bear the burden of putting up with my shortcomings and never falter in supporting me.
4. Honesty – more often than I would like to admit, they’ll make statements like, “Dad, you’re weird” or “that shirt makes your belly look too big”. No hidden meanings there.

To sum it all up, they have the superhuman ability to see beyond reality and to move on to the higher plain of accepting me for who I am and loving me for being their dad. That’s what I want to be like when I grow up!

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