We all want to treat our dads as Superheros. Lou has a different opinion because her dad told her so.
Although I love my dad with a strength that would make even a Shakespeare flip, I’ve never said – and never will say – that my dad is a hero. If only out of respect for him.
My dad didn’t want to be a hero. I mean, he really, really didn’t want to.
I was a teenager. That age when you buy gossip magazines and wonder: ‘how good would that be, being famous?’ So I asked my dad: “Dad, what sort of celebrity would you have liked to be?” He didn’t even take the time to look at me before answering. His answer flew out of his mouth, the black of his eyes still straight at his post-nap coffee: “I’ve never wanted to be a celebrity”.
“I’ve never wanted to be a celebrity”.
Thinking my dad just doesn’t get yet the wide range of celebrities he could imagine, I tell him that I mean “celebrity” as in “anyone famous”.
“Yes, so my answer’s the same. I don’t want to be famous.”
“Okay, but you’ve wanted it once, haven’t you? When you were young?”
“Noooow come on, that’s only because you’re focusing on the shallow aspect of it, you’re thinking about paparazzi. But not all famous people have their pictures taken when they shop at Tesco. Imagine, for instance, that you were so good at fishing [my dad loved fishing] that you became famous and everyone interviewed you!”
“Well then,” (he laughs) “there wouldn’t be anything about fishing I’d still enjoy.”
“Why is that?”
He looks at me as if that’s obvious.
“No, really, why?”
“I like fishing because you’re alone most of the time, and in any case far, very far from crowds. And there is silence and nature’s noise. You don’t matter anymore. You’re just so small.”
I want to go on because this makes me look like a big f***ing narcissist.
“Naaaa come on, wouldn’t you like it, for instance, that a fishing rod existed – named after you?”
“So I could use it how? I couldn’t buy it, there’d be my name on it. That would be ridiculous!”
“Ok then let’s think about something else. Look, you like playing the guitar, for example. Wouldn’t you have liked to be a mega rock star? With an entire crowd cheering you?”
“No, I’m uncomfortable just thinking about it.”
“Okay, so, how about a fighter pilot?”
“I wouldn’t have been able to.”
“I’m not asking you whether you could have been able to, but if you would have wanted to. I’d love a Nobel Prize, yet do you see me playing around with test tubes? No, you don’t. So please. Have you ever imagined, I don’t know, even just once, delivering a speech after getting the Oscar of the best fisherman in a leading role?”
Another conversation, many years later. I tell him – convinced that he knows it already – that my brothers admire him. He says, with the same haste: “They shouldn’t.”
“Oh for god’s sake,” I say. “Stop it now, you’re annoying, why don’t you just take it as a compliment?”
“Because they are more than what I am, even if they don’t notice it.”
“So being a good guy can’t just be something you have in common?”
“Yes, that’d be nice. But they shouldn’t see me as a role model.”
“Because that’s not right.”
“Is it not right to love you and respect what you do, who you are?”
“No, what’s not right is to think that I do things better than others.”
“But you do, for crying out loud, you do!”
“No. I don’t.”
We talked some more. I couldn’t let him say that about my dad. Yet at the end of our conversation, I’d got it. And it wasn’t even weird. My dad didn’t want to be a hero. He wanted to be nobody’s hero. He didn’t even want to be a hero for my mum. He told me that what mattered was not that he could save her from anything – he couldn’t. What mattered was that she knew she’d always be able to rely on him.
I told my dad: “Okay, so you dislike words such as role models, famous, stars, heroes. Still, like everybody else, you must have had an idea of what you wanted to be in the eyes of others, haven’t you?”
“Yes, I have. Someone reliable. Someone who tries his very best.”
“Oh come on, you try much more than all the.”
“No really, Lou, you don’t realize how great that is. If I can only manage to be a honest man, a man you can count on. And if only I can pass this on to you. Then my life would be meaningful.”
I had to tell my dad that I didn’t have his humility; that I wouldn’t mind at all leaving my name in history (or just a story read by ten people, that’s enough). As always he encouraged me. He told me he’d be proud if that was the case. However he said that he would be just as proud to just know that I’m trying my best; that I’m being someone you can count on.
My dad’s superpower is to never have wanted any superpowers. My dad belonged to this (perhaps endangered) species: people who are proud to be, as they say, ‘just normal guys’. Not because they find that this is enough; because it’s as respectable as any dream of glory, and because it doesn’t require any less daily effort.
Photo credit: Flickr/snapp3r