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Surprising Our Super-Hero Dad

Surprising Our Super-Hero Dad

F-100 pilot

My super hero could fly.

My first memory of Dad as super hero came in the first grade. Allowed to navigate the theater concession stand on my own, I was having trouble making headway to the front of the counter. When my father showed up to check on me, he could see the best of human nature was not shining on his six-year-old son. In the hierarchy of bad behavior, my father finds line cutting and taking advantage of kids as egregious as lying, cheating and disrespecting the flag. At first, I was embarrassed by his admonishment of the clueless teens and oblivious adults, but as they backpedaled, made excuses, and finally apologized, his superpower was revealed: protector of Tommy.

Down time with Dad and sis.

My Man of Steel wasn’t like most Dads, but at the time I had no idea he wasn’t the norm. He flew fighter jets (didn’t everyone’s Dad?). He brought glory to the Crimson Tide. He sank free-throws from a county away, and crossed the globe with an ease reserved for neighbors who cross the street. While his life and accomplishments were big, it’s the seemingly small, unmentioned moments that I replay with fond recollection. There was the time he proclaimed I was the best fisherman (since retracted) or the day I rebelled at mowing the lawn, and waited until dusk to tell him it was too dark to mow. He suggested I locate a flashlight.

Our in-house pillar of strength had his melting moments, like the uncharacteristically revealing letter he sent me in college, where he wrote, “your mother’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”  Saying holiday grace was a moment of pause, togetherness, and thanks that (though never admitting it) would choke him up.  During long absences, he would entrust and recognize me as “Man of the House” until his safe return (good thing Mom was my back-up plan).

Last week my father turned 80, and my mother, sister, brother, niece, nephew, aunt and I were there to see that he celebrated the milestone with a full-court press. We surprised him and he was delighted. At breakfast days later, he said the weekend was the best he ever had.  It was nice to learn we had some super powers of our own. Happy Birthday Dad, from your former crackerjack “Man of the House” and equally gifted (and-likely-still-the-best) fisherman son.

Little man with a big fish (and big hero).


  1. What an absolutely wonderful tribute to a great father! Wish more men would “step up to the plate” nowadays. Kids are sorely lacking good role models.

  2. Beautiful, Tom! Brought tears to my eyes, too. My dad turns 79 on Sunday. Wonderful dads are amazing blessings. Happy birthday to your dad and congrats on pulling off the surprise with your family! I simply adore all these photos. 🙂


  3. Thanks everyone for the really nice comments, most appreciated.

    Like Gable and Lombard, Grant and Hepburn, Mom and Dad were movie stars in their kids’ eyes.

  4. Tom – Such a beautiful gift to your dad, this piece.
    Isn’t it nice to be able to say these things TO our parents, while they’re alive, instead of waiting to say them ABOUT our parents, at the funeral…
    May your dad live to see many more happy birthday surprises!

  5. What a sweet post about your dad, thanks for sharing some good memories! I was pleased to find that it was a birthday tribute, not a memorial tribute. So glad you still have your superhero! Love that last picture of him in front of the basketball team pictures. He looks like a bit of a scamp. I hope he has many more great birthdays.

  6. Tom,
    Thanks for sharing about your cool Dad! He still has that spark in his eyes! I wish your Dad a very Happy Birthday and many more!! Just a beautiful post 🙂 P.S I bet the fish still have something to fear!

  7. What a wonderful tribute to Dad, and beautifully written as only you can. Those are great pictures of Dad. I also like the picture of you and the fish. That fish was probably caught on night crawlers that came from that very back yard.

  8. This so explains the son of the Superhero and The Woman who believes words trumpet trinkets….you are amazing! Love you and Happy Birthday Mr. C! xoxooxox

  9. I think both you and your Dad are so fortunate to be able to have this CODA…beautifully written and no surprise why gardening is your medium…what a looker too: you also have your own delicious presence…so Happy Rita Flora sent me this…

  10. I should know better than to read a post about your family when I’m at work. Everyone’s asking why I’m teary eyed……………….


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