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Man of Steel

June 18, 2013

WARNING: This post contains movie spoilers.

man-of-steelI took my family to see Man of Steel for Father’s Day. For several days prior to the film’s opening, Daddy told Mother he was dying to go.

“I wanna see the new Superman movie.”

“Well Bobbin’s taking you to see it for Father’s Day!”

“Oh really?! That’s GREAT!”

Ten or so times, Daddy repeated his cinematic desire.

“I wanna go to that new Superman movie.”

“You’re in luck! Bobbin’s taking you to see it for Father’s Day!”

“All RIGHT!”

In addition to Henry Cavill’s pillowy yet firm pectoralis major, I appreciated his manifestation of emotion: saving his classmates from drowning after their school bus swerves into a lake and watching his father die in a tornado chisel intensity into his face (and pectoralis major). Cavill exhibits depth far beyond what Dean Cain achieved on Lois & Clark. (I watched Lois & Clark during my formative years, so Dean Cain remains my Superman point of reference.)

Most little girls view their fathers as Men of Steel both physically and emotionally. A former Army Ranger, my father always maintained a particularly stoic temper. He sort of but not really wept in front of me once; my grandfather (his father-in-law) passed away while Timber was studying abroad in London. When we broke the news to Timber upon her return, he quivered while offering his most logical explanation: “I wanted us to grieve t-t-t-together.” Daddy quickly regathered his impenetrable armor and let Timber do the crying.

While Daddy always remained outwardly reserved, his expression suggested otherwise: furrowed brows and physical tics hinted that M16 rifles constantly fired in his mind. His crinkled eyebrows have softened into Alzheimer’s Stare.

Last week Daddy’s childhood best friend’s mother passed away at 97. During the drive to and from the funeral he obsessed over when he and Mother were scheduled to pick up the dogs from the hillbilly pet resort. As if unmoved by or unaware of her death, he didn’t reminisce with other service attendees and continually asked Mother on the ride home, “When are we getting the puppies?”

Finally before bed he mentioned, “Well I’ll miss Aunt Jenny.”

I spent Saturday with Timber, and my friend Kari asked how our dad is doing. Intrigued by what Timber would say, I let her answer: with a shrug. One of the last statements Daddy made to Mother before fading away was:

I’m afraid.

“Daddy isn’t afraid anymore,” Timber later said when I noted his overall apathy.

Daddy carries on fearlessly, unable to fully feel.

Daddy used to be my Superman but has transformed into a different kind of Man of Steel.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2013 8:14 am

    I’d call this a Journal Entry of Steel; thank you for sharing it with us. I took my kids to see Man of Steel on Father’s Day, too. Superman was my first superhero obsession. At four, I’d climb up doors and dressers with a blanket stuffed into the back of my shirt, and I’d launch myself into the void. Usually, my father would catch me and tell me to cut it out. I didn’t. At seven, Spiderman stole some of my attention, and I learned how to shimmy up the sides of a narrow hallway to “lay” patiently in wait with my back against the ceiling – sometimes for an hour – just to freak out whoever was unlucky enough to pass below me. Usually, it was my dad. (I don’t know how he never figured to look up. Maybe he didn’t on purpose to let me have my moments of glory.) It wasn’t until I felt the dark void of preteen angst approaching that Batman took over as my favorite superhero.

    Even so, Superman will always have that special place – the “first” – in my heart, and I was excited to see this newest vision of him, especially as a father myself. That’s because my dad, to me, was equal parts Superman & Jack Tripper (we’d watch Three’s Company reruns together, too). The scenes with Kevin Costner reminded me of my talks with him as a young man. I was angry and frustrated… scared of growing up. He would reassure me, and each time, it sunk in a little more. I teared up a few times in the theater, not just thinking of times with my dad, but putting myself in the adoptive father’s shoes, too; I know what that’s like. Never thought I’d identify with Jonathan Kent more than Supes, but I guess I’ve grown up, thanks to my dad, and thanks to my kids.

    I explained all this to my dad over a beer and a plate of fish n’ chips that night. We laughed and talked about old movies and Star Trek, finally somewhat connecting after at least a year of him shuffling around dead inside. He’s no longer made of Steel, but he’s still superhuman to me. I think all Dads are, Bobbin 🙂

    • June 18, 2013 9:22 am

      Beautiful comment! While I’m not a mother yet, I understand what you mean about eventually identifying with parental characters in pop culture. It hit me first when I grasped where the mom in My So-Called Life is coming from…

      I’m glad Man of Steel helped you bond with your father on a day that often assists in fostering such reconnections.

      • June 18, 2013 1:20 pm

        Dude… I had that exact same MS-CL moment. Especially when she starts butting in on the whole Rayanne/mom relationship, and with Angela’s “new” friends vs her old… Gotdamn what a good show. I’ll never forgive (or watch) Party of Five for killing it off in the ratings. I was the exact same age as the characters, and it felt REAL, which was damn near impossible to capture at the time. Le sigh…

  2. June 18, 2013 8:52 am

    Hi, there,
    Nice post. I think it’s wonderful that you took your father to see ‘Man of Steel’ on Father’s Day.

    Our mutual friend, Judson Wright, sent me the link for your blog. I think blogging’ s a great way to work through tough feelings and think it’s good that you’re doing this. In fact, I started my own blog as a way to cope, not with the illness of a parent but my own. I take a different approach in that I don’t talk about it directly but I do allude to it indirectly or briefly mention it in some of my posts.

    I welcome you to come take a look. There’s different kind of content there now so if you’re curious about my own writing, I recommend this section: http://www.popmythology.com/category/columns/hero-worship/

    Best wishes to you, your father and your family.

    -Daniel

    • June 18, 2013 9:38 am

      Hi, Daniel! Thank you so much for stopping by. My therapist thinks that blogging serves as a healthy coping technique, so I’m glad you also are finding comfort via writing. I’ll definitely check out your blog. All the best to you as well!

  3. rossboone permalink
    June 29, 2013 1:35 am

    Bobbin. Your dad is living a touching, heartbreaking man of steel movie that we are watching through you.

    • June 29, 2013 10:05 am

      I try to paint an accurate picture, although there are certain things I leave out to preserve the dignity of my family. (Such are the ethics of creative nonfiction.)

  4. Timber permalink
    August 25, 2013 9:48 am

    Though I’m certainly not happy about Daddy’s illness, I do find some comfort in knowing he’s happy. He truly is blissfully unaware his condition is worsening. Alzheimer’s is one of those unique diseases that seems to become more distressing to those who witness it than to the actual patient.

    • August 28, 2013 4:45 pm

      I appreciate your belief that he is happy. I want to believe that, too.

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