“There are three stages of a man’s life: He believes in Santa Claus, he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, he is Santa Claus.” – Author Unknown
When I was a child, I believed there was nothing that my father could not fix. G.I. Joes, Hot Wheels, and all other items of importance were delivered into his hands, to be fixed on a grease and dirt-specked workbench during breaks or after work at the car dealership where he fixed cars.
There was not a problem large enough to overwhelm him, an enemy to great to defeat him. My father, like all fathers, I imagine, was a bit of a hero, running down the small-town street in the middle of the night, answering the call of the siren mounted atop the volunteer fire station, a corrugated metal en-cased building where fathers and heroes gathered.
My father seemed to know things, about everything. There were few subjects on which he didn’t have an opinion. He knew everyone, and would regularly quiz me on who lived in all of the houses along the route of our school drive. Not only did I need to know who lived there currently, but who lived there before, and why exactly the field that always flooded was called “duck pond corner.” (Note: It had once been a pond, but was filled in and farmed, flooding each year regardless, inhabited by ducks that never received the note they were no longer welcome.)
Now, I am the father, and I see that same questioning in my son. If a toy breaks, he believes I can fix it. I am not a master technician, nor am I a handyman by any means. I would have an easier time constructing a sonnet than a V8 engine. Yet, I find myself gluing, screwing, and nailing as if I know what I am doing, fearful to admit to my son that I am any less than the hero he believes me to be.
His clear blue four year-old eyes moistening with years, his pouting lips down and thrust out, his little voice saying, “Daddy, it broke!” These are my Popeye spinach. I am what I am and that’s all that I am, except when he needs me to be more. At that point, I become Superman. His disappointment is kryptonite, and I will crawl through Hell not to feel its weakening green rays.
As my son has gotten a bit older, he has shown interest in new things. Like my father, I have something to say about them all. Thanks to Google and books, am even learning something about them myself.
He sits on my lap and we rock, reading about dinosaurs, robots, trains, or whatever else he is interested in that day. I think of the pressure of being a father, to always have to know what is best, to always have the answer, to always be able to fix toys and kiss boo boos. I think of my father, and how he did the same. I wonder if my son will someday be the one feeling papa pressure.
I hope so. For all its trials and tribulations, I would hate for him to miss out on it. Because when you fix it, know it, or make it better, you get a smile. That little smile fixes me.