For little boys, dads are superheroes. They’re big and strong, know how to drive trucks, and can kill snakes with shovels. They teach their sons how to ride bikes, whistle with their fingers, and start camp fires. They laugh at fart jokes, even if mom rolls her eyes and sighs. As a young boy, your dad is the promise of what you will become when you’re a man.
As little boys grow into teenagers and their hormones rage, they begin to think of themselves as the superheroes of the family. Dad is demoted to the hopelessly uncool guy whose entire existence is tailored to the production of maximum embarrassment for his son. When he mows the lawn in dress socks pulled to his knees, tells you how your mom was smokin’ hot in front of your friends, or blasts the Doobie Brothers with the windows rolled down, the teenage boy wishes (prays) that he could disappear into thin air.
But if all goes well, as a teenage boy becomes a man, he begins to realize once again that dads are heroes. Though they’re no longer as strong or as fast as their sons, they’re perpetually wiser. It becomes obvious that a dad’s presence, guidance, and unflagging devotion to his son’s success is hugely responsible for who he becomes as a man.
I lost my dad, my hero, on May 24th. Suddenly, I find myself living a parallel life to the one I always imagined, one in which I would watch both my parents reach old age. Though I find solace in the fact that he’s at peace after such an agonizing year, I’d give anything to have him back, even for a day. Grief breeds regret, and I find myself wishing I’d asked him more about his life, told him more about mine, or simply spent more time with him when I had the chance.
My dad loved the Ordinary House. Its quirky charms fascinated him, and he was always anxious to come check out my latest project. He was particularly excited about the kitchen, and after his surgery made seeing the room’s completion one of his recovery goals. I still can’t process the fact that I’ll never again have the chance to share my handiwork with him. Dad was an engineer and a builder with exceedingly high standards for craftsmanship, and there are few thing in the world that made me happier than hearing his approval of my work. His praise instilled me with the confidence to take on ever more complex and demanding DIY projects, first on my starter house in Chapel Hill and now at the Ordinary House. I can state as fact that I would not be capable or confident enough to take on this project if it hadn’t been for him. I will honor the skills he nurtured in me by continuing to do every project in a way I know would have made him proud.
A few weeks before Dad died, he asked me to come get his “cancer car”, the Porsche Boxster that he bought in November as a distraction from his failing health. Though he couldn’t tell you the day or time, he was lucid enough to worry about the fact that his new toy wasn’t being driven. I had plans to visit my dad later on the day he died and I was going to tell him: “You better start feeling good soon, because I’m not giving the Porsche back until you beat me at an arm wrestling match.” That would’ve made him smile.
I like to think he knows I had this challenge in mind and that he’s out there somewhere with a grin on his face and a barbell in his hand, working his way back into superhero shape, ready to wrestle my fist to the table.
I love you, Dad. You were a great father, and I miss you terribly.