My dad died when I was one. I don’t remember anything about him. I have one photograph of his image. I’ve had to make do with that. As a result, I’m open to stories about fathers, preferably ones that leave me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Tales of unconditional love that ended in a happily ever after. Not that everything went the way of a fairy tale, but that good prevailed. I’d like to share just such a story that ran in our local newspaper.
“Superman wears a father’s cape”
by Sebastian Moraga
This is my first fatherless Father’s Day. He died in March.
Now, if you fear this will turn into a weepfest, rest assured, it won’t. My dad is the reason why.
My dad had a tough life. The heart trouble that killed him at 69 started in grade school. His father died in his arms; his only marriage ended in divorce. And though he trained as an accountant, he turned 50 working as a fisherman in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, miles away from an IRS office.
But he never stopped believing that he was close to his next great day. To my dad, the past mattered little and today’s troubles would be overcome tomorrow. Girl break your heart? You’ll find a better one. You watch. His arthritic knees hurt? So what, they hurt yesterday, too. Now how about those Mariners?
That optimism bathed almost all of his actions. It made you feel safe and certain that things would improve. Even if they didn’t, he made you feel like he was on your side and that might just be enough to weather the storms.
While the winds blew, he might tell you a story or two.
Like the time a man entered the kitchen of the restaurant where he worked, greeting everybody. My dad just nodded at him and went about his business, leaving the man to walk out feeling a little perplexed. Then a waitress zoomed into the kitchen and asked my dad. “Wasn’t that exciting? Tony Bennett in our kitchen.”
Or like the time a coworker of his left a newspaper in the lunchroom fridge. When quizzed about why, the man could not formulate an answer before my dad chimed in with, “It’s ’cause he likes his news fresh.”
Or like the time in the 1940s when he, his mom and his three siblings boarded a bus and the driver referred to my grandma as “Miss.” My dad, at most 8 years old at the time, snapped, “Mrs. Not ‘Miss.’ Can’t you see her four cherubs?”
Then when the storm passed, he would cook you something and ask your opinion of Ichiro.
So this Father’s Day, I will skip remembering there’s one phone call that won’t happen, and instead remember the good times–the Mariners, the gigantic meals, the banana milkshakes. How he persevered until he found the job he loved, how he told everyone for 33 years that things would turn out all right for me.
It’s what he would have liked me to do, because he loved me and wanted me to be happy.
Besides, it’s not like I won’t miss him June 18. The storms of life keep brewing, and now I can’t hear his stories or the sound of his casino chips as he bets them all on me.
He was my John Wayne, my Superman, my RoadRunner. Everything that is invincible in this world, I saw it in him. Let a squadron of Wile E.s take their shots–we all know who wins.
All that is gone, and yet reasons to rejoice abound.
His knees don’t hurt anymore, his heart doesn’t trouble him anymore and he’s buried next to his older brother, whom he loved. When it came time to die, he died in his bed, still aware, still looking forward to tomorrow and more than 7,000 miles away from Dutch Harbor.
For the tough life he had, that is a bouquet of blessings.
So this Sunday, when the blues come calling, instead of mourning him, I will thank him. Thank him for a life well lived, for the sweet example he set of how to be a good dad, and for the thousand and one stories I wish I could share with you.
Like the time we went to a Mariner’s game and I yelled at the batter to drive a run in. “C’mon, dude, take him home.”
Behind me, I heard a familiar voice whisper, “Country roaaads…”
Rest easy, my Superman.
A flesh and blood father, not a comic book character…but definitely a superhero! Like my father-in-law whose loving spirit hovers close by. Just in case…