In pop culture, heroes are depicted as larger-than-life action figures. The brave souls out saving common citizens from evil are aliens, mutants, average Joes bitten by spiders, vampire slayers and warrior princesses.
In reality, there are no such protectors of the common man. And although evil does exist, it comes in the form of prejudice, intolerance and hatred. Perhaps not as nasty looking as a big slimy monster, these villains still need slaying.
I am lucky enough to have found a real-life superhero in my family. In searching for the perfect role model, I had to look no farther than my father.
True, he cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound or control the weather with his mind, but that is only because he has no need to. His greatness comes from simpler powers; and the greatest of all is his ability to love. He lives with two of the craziest women on the planet. Saying that my mother and I “don’t get along” is putting it mildly. He is our mediator, and no matter how shrewish we act or unfair we make life for him, he never holds a grudge.
He is also my protector. When I come home from school crying he comes to my rescue with a kind word and food that is completely devoid of any nutritional value. When I have a massive school project due in seven hours, he uses his super-human talents and ingenuity to help me pull off my greatest masterpiece to date. He is constantly taking off from work to rush my brother and me to our doctor, dentist or optometrist appointments, as well as ballet classes, football games and dances.
He is always there for me. When I joined the wrestling team freshman year, he came to every one of my meets and cheered even when I got beat. He’s never missed a volleyball game. He’s sat through hours of others’ dance routines just to see me perform one. He’s watched me cheer at countless football games and attended every performance of the school play (whose set he single-handedly built).
I’m pretty sure he has no idea how much of an impact he has. I know I don’t tell him often enough. He’s made me see that landing the lead or scoring the game-winning point isn’t all that makes you a hero. It’s the little things that make a person’s day. It’s having the right attitude and doing the right thing. It’s being a loving husband and father.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.