When Gregory MacDonald and I fought over whose dad was stronger, I was 100% confident that my dad won that contest hands down! My dad was taller than most fathers. He could do almost anything. Why just look at him here demonstrating his extreme Spartica workout! Okay, perhaps I was a bit off in my estimations of physical prowess. But I don’t think that I was ever mistaken when it came to reflecting on his exceptional capacity for emotional and spiritual strength.
Where did this man of mystery garner his power? Just like Clark Kent, it was all in those horn rimmed glasses. All the rage in the Buddy Holly era, this style of horn rimmed glasses was embraced by dad then and for decades to follow. It wasn’t a fashion statement for him. Rather, I believe that dad just had other priorities, which often focused on giving to others and on being kind, and those priorities trumped fashion. But it was more than just that. He wasn’t interested at all in being cool and all that goes with that pursuit. In not being a part of that longing, he was free to embrace a unique quirkiness, full of Bob-esque silliness and style. Dad can stand within a sea of inebriated sports fans at the Roger’s Centre during the seventh inning stretch and passionately sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with his daughter and son and be fully in that moment. Oh the horn rimmed glasses are now gone. They collided with a tragic death by fire when dad accidentally left them on a cookie tray under a frozen pizza. The rest is history. But a myriad of other cute and quirky fashion statements live on, and in me too, even at these well attended sports venues.
Not a lot of people know that my father lost his entire immediate family at the age of 16. If you have gone through any significant loss, you can appreciate and understand the feeling of a raw and broken heart. And for those who have said goodbye to both of their parents know the stark vastness of being orphaned. Now imagine experiencing all of that at 16. At that very pivotal time in his life, when he stood at the precipice of emptiness, dad chose to fill the void with spirit and community. There is an element in mystery in my reflection of this time of his life. I imagine all of the possibilities that could have occurred for him at that time. When my father experienced that loss, he was fortunate in that he had loving people surrounding him who wanted to adopt him as part of their family, but he was also courageous in his choice to trust and reciprocate the invitation. I wonder what would have happened if my dad didn’t have those people around him, or if he had chosen to fill the void with distrust and cynicism. What I do know for sure is that my father’s sense and experience of family is immensely plentiful. Whether you meet my dad at the grocery store, work, church, or in a line at the bank, you can become part of his family quite naturally. He will remember what is important to you. He will care if you are hurting. He will pray for you.
I have been the lucky recipient of my father’s resiliency. His family is my family and the essence of his daily prayers supports me in ways that I cannot begin to comprehend. In my darkest moments I have always felt that something within the web of life continues to support and sustain me. I will never fall through the cracks of loneliness. I have inherited this legacy from my parents and their parents and for this I am truly grateful.
Now you may be thinking that this picture that I am painting of my father waxes pristine, and that I am still that girl in the sandbox with Gregory MacDonald so sure of her father’s heroic strength. Maybe I will always be a bit starry-eyed about certain people in my life. Nonetheless, I can tell you that Dad is not perfect. That is what makes him so lovely. He struggles to find balance between the head and the heart just like everyone else, but the struggle does not tire him out. He has not been defeated. So what about Bob? He is following the Hero’s Path well into his late 70s.
“We have not even to risk the adventure alone
for the heroes of all time have gone before us.
The labyrinth is thoroughly known …
we have only to follow the thread of the hero path.
And where we had thought to find an abomination
we shall find a God.
And where we had thought to slay another
we shall slay ourselves.
Where we had thought to travel outwards
we shall come to the center of our own existence.
And where we had thought to be alone
we shall be with all the world.”
This path is a choice, a calling. On this Father’s Day, I celebrate that my dad has chosen this path. Super Bob, Man of Mystery. He stands alone in his quirkiness and walks with us in love.