When I was little, I was convinced that my Dad could fly. In fact, I was sure of it. We had a small kitchen that was closed off from the rest of the house, and in the evenings, he would sit us kids around the table, serve us dinner, and then tell us that he was not just Dad, but SUPERDAD. We would laugh and deny his claim, and, so to prove it to us, he would get a running start from the back of the kitchen and “take off” into flight right out of the kitchen door. In my little-girl heart, I was thrilled! It was true. My Dad could actually fly!
Growing up with a Superdad was a gift that I have only come to just recently fully appreciate. But he was not super because he could fly, or because he was particularly successful, or because he was perfect in any way. He wasn’t, and if you ask him, he would say that he was a nobody who has never really done anything all that special. He was super, simply because he was devoted.
My Dad wore himself out in every possible way to provide, to protect, to teach, to listen, to be there, and to consistently plan and implement FUN in the lives of his children and grandchildren. He had a unique gift for thinking up hair-brained ideas, like the time he hauled an old playground slide out to the lake, rigged it up to the bed of his truck, and backed down to the edge of the water. This makeshift waterpark, invented by Grandpa, was a hit with his children and grandchildren. It was over 100 degrees outside that day, and by the time the day was finished, the soggy beach towels, damp life jackets, and ice chest full of soda had been put away, my Dad was completely spent. But just like The Giving Tree, “he was happy.” His joy came in his devotion to his family, no matter the cost in personal comfort or convenience.
Having a Superdad has made it easy for me to honor, revere, adore, and respect fatherhood. Sadly, we live in a time when the role of fathers, in many respects, is being diminished and downplayed. I like to optimistically assume that most Dads are like my Dad, imperfect but devoted. If my assumption is true, then honoring fathers is easy because they don’t need much to feel our love and appreciation for the work they do. A simple “thanks, Dad,” a phone call, a hug, a note jotted down on a piece of scrap paper, a homecooked meal, a chance to let the baby fall asleep on his shoulder, an evening walk at his pace, or a weekend drive where he gets to ride along and hear all about you and what you are up to, seem to be pay-off enough for a Daddy’s heart.
You know he never really wanted anything in return anyway.
The simple is usually enough for him. In the end, The Giving Tree was just an old stump, but was happy because the boy was there. And though the tree wasn’t able to give the boy much, she was still able to give him what he needed . . . which is, after all, a good Dad’s greatest joy.
In January of this year, I lost my sweet, wonderful Superdad to Covid. He had underlying health issues that made him high-risk, but he was only 64, still working full-time as an attorney, and a fully active husband, father, and grandfather. He first started feeling sick in mid-December and left us just a few short weeks later, on January 9th.
I was not ready to lose my Dad. My children were not ready to lose their Grandpa. And my mother was certainly not ready to lose her sweetheart. But in the weeks and months that have come and gone since then, I feel a profound need to love, support, and honor Fathers. Oh, what would we do without strong fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, sons, and husbands?! If women and mothers are the lifeblood of a strong family, then it follows that men and fathers are the heart, the masculine muscle that beats constantly and quietly.
How we love them for it!
This need to honor fathers that has risen inside of me since my Dad’s death has eased the pain of loss just a bit and made it a little easier to bear, but it still hurts.
In the story of Old Yeller, when little Arliss had lost his dog and felt like he may never be happy again, Pa sits down next to him and says, “Things like that happen. They may seem might cruel and unfair, but that’s how life is a part of the time. But that isn’t the only way life is. A part of the time, it’s mighty good. And a man can’t afford to waste all the good part, worrying about the bad parts.”
When I miss my Dad the most, I can sometimes feel him sit down beside me and tell me the same exact thing.
So, as you honor your Superdad this year, remember that he doesn’t want much. He probably just wants you to come and sit awhile and maybe remind him that, when you were young, you believed with all your little heart that he really could fly.
Julianne Heywood is the author of The World Can Wait for Moms and The World Can Wait for Dads!