As a child, most of my friends had at least one character from a movie or a cartoon that they would pick as the super hero that inspired them.
But I always struggled to find one that I would genuinely feel inspired by. And it wasn’t because I didn’t watch enough action-packed cartoons or movies; I can proudly say that I probably spent more time than it’s healthy in front of the tube.
While some super heroes have day jobs- maybe they even work a 9-5 office job- it’s all the really cool stuff they do when they don their masks and capes that sets them apart from your regular human being.
Super heroes fight crime, they dodge bullets and wrestle the bad guys into surrender. Their physical might allows them to jump from buildings or moving cars, and their personalities allow them to become celebrities and spend their share of time under the limelight, they might even do a movie or two- it obviously helps that they have chiseled and powerful bodies.
Super heroes have many talents. They as easily pick up an instrument as they do a paint brush, and the art they create is powerful, moving.
Above everything, these exceptional beings are role models, they inspire with their values, they sooth with their calmness, and they provide reprieve with their humor.
And you grow older, and you come across a movie like Watchmen, where super heroes are, in fact, real people. Yes, they have exceptional powers, but they never leave their human complexities behind them. As a matter of fact, it is these struggles what defines them, what makes their legacy even more appealing.
And one day, I realized that I already had my favorite super hero, and that was my father.
My father has done amazing things in his 75 years on this planet, things that I couldn’t possibly try to emulate or replicate.
My super hero boxed professionally- and could have even gone to become the first Mexican-born lightweight champion had he not decided to retire early to focus on his family. He worked as an engineer and traveled extensively. In the early 80’s he became a great cartoon and caricature illustrator. And it was by delivering a poster for a movie he had been commissioned to do, that he became a stunt man first- remember that I said that super heroes jumped from buildings and moving cars?- then transitioned into a full-time actor, a job he held until his retirement. This is how he ended up working with people like Arnold, Carl Weathers, Tom Hanks, Anthony Hopkins, Raul Julia.
The biggest influence that my father has had on me, however, has not been because of his professional accomplishments, but because he has lived by a code of conduct fueled by compassion and affection that has been truly inspiring.
This is a man who was so fearless and caring for what is right, that he risked his life to take down a man armed with a semi automatic weapon, even after he had just been recovering from a nearly fatal accident while doing a movie stunt.
During the deadly Mexico earthquake of 1985, my dad spent days digging people out from under the rubble, because he just knew he needed to help.
My dad’s finest work, however, was steadily done through my 43 years of being with him on this planet.
But you never completely grasp what it takes to be a super hero until you become somebody else’s, that is, until you have children of your own.
Up until I had Miles, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on my father and his many talents. I felt I understood what moved him, and I even felt empowered enough to judge his actions and decisions. I guess we all grow to be adults because of the influence our parents had on us, both the things we loved about them and the things we promised ourselves we would do different, because we know better.
And it is funny how things tend to come full circle. Having Miles has taught me about what it is like to truly be selfless, to put someone else above my own needs, to make personal sacrifices because you love someone more than you love yourself.
In this past year I lost my job with the company I had been with for 15 years. I also suffered what could have been a terrible and life-altering skiing accident, that still left me wearing a neck brace for almost a month and a half and temporarily unable to do most basic things, like picking up Miles.
And now I am just beginning to understand how hard it is to be a man / father / super hero amid adversity, through sadness, loss and pain. I have a deeper appreciation for what my father has accomplished because he overcame some of the same setbacks I am facing today.
These lines are a homage to the great life that my father has led.
And on this Father’s Day I want to say “I love you dad, because you have shown me the work it takes to be a super hero, and I am hoping I can pay it forward with Miles”.
I cannot finish without expressing horror for what is happening in our borders, where almost 1,500 children are being separated from their parents. And all because they wanted to get a better life, and now they are caught in between a game of power and politics, and their lives used as bargaining chips.
No child should ever go through that!