Having my son tell me that he wished he was more like me was the highlight of an otherwise disastrous day. I answered that I had my weaknesses, to which he countered, “But you never SHOW it, dad!”
That small exchange made me smile as I sprawled across the couch on my side, waiting for the Aleve to kick in. I was already frustrated by a nagging rotator cuff in my shoulder and a worn-out knee, one month shy of replacement. I had also been receiving bad news, non-stop, for the better part of 6 months when another driver AND a police officer informed me while driving that my driver’s side rear tire was low/flat.
I drove a quarter mile to the tire center to put air in to ascertain if it were truly flat or just losing air. That’s when my bad back went out on me, while filling the tire.
I made it home, popped the pain relievers and awkardly limped my way to the couch like Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant “Igor”, which brings me to this moment.
But through it all, in spite of it all, I smile.
I smile, knowing that my kids still look up to me and always manage to tell me at the strangest, yet most opportune times. Life has beaten me up pretty badly lately, but I don’t have the time, freedom or desire to feel sorry for myself. There is so much more to do.
I think back on the roaring lion that was my father and I understand now why nothing seemed to phase him. During my childhood, I thought he was perfect in strength, mind and character. He showed no weakness, no flaws. No matter what happened, dad could weather any storm and save the day. He built and maintained our home, fed and clothed us, taught us, raised us, fought off the other animals of the jungle and protected us, seemingly without breaking a sweat.
To hell with Superman. Super DAD was my hero.
Well, time passed and the real man of steel eventually succumbed to age and multiple strokes, but not without a lengthy and admirable fight. And I have to laugh because we never needed to put a towel to his forehead between rounds.
And so now it’s my time to lead my own camp, my own pride. Four mighty cubs on the cusp of lionhood themselves. And what I discovered along the way is that with leadership comes a vast array of responsibilities. Challenges. All of the things that my father conquered for us. We never looked under our beds for monsters because, thanks to “Big Ken“, they were too afraid to come out. It’s crazy though. It’s not as easy as he made it appear, but I manage. We’ve had happy trails and horrific trials, but we made it, albeit with less finesse. Dad was just too smooth with his. But that’s cool. I’m not trying to beat his records. My job is to finish the race strong. My job is to raise and feed my family. Teach them. Lead them. Scare off the monsters. Yeah, that’s my job.
And through it all, I will maintain that poker face; not giving in, exhibiting doubt or fear. And especially not in front of my babies.
If I cry, no one will ever know, for I Am Pagliacci.
If I fail, no one will ever know, for I am, I have to be, the new Superman.
If I fall during rehearsal, no one will ever know, for the show must and will go on, without a hitch.
The world will see a mighty warrior.
But I am not without tears. And for the moment, here I rest, waiting for the pain to subside…
…before I get back up again and look at the face of my father in the mirror as I groom my pepper-black beard, lightly sprinkled with salt. I’m 51, with a body that I’ve given 101 years of stunts and adventures. Unlike many, I have no regrets.
But after all is said and done, I could use a hug. I need my meds. I thrive on love. I sometimes need my father and I KNOW I will always need my God.
Because I am human: flawed, with weaknesses, self-doubt, judgement lapses and oftentimes crippled by my emotions in conjunction with the limitations of my recharging body…
…yeah, I’m a certified mess…
…but you’d never know by looking.
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