My father turned 60 on Saturday. Even now, typing that out still seems like a lie. I knew his birthday was coming up, but when my mom first mentioned that it would be his 60th, I was a little stunned. I stopped, considered the math, and conceded that yes, rationally speaking, he must be 60. And still I am certain that it is untrue.
My family is suspended in time in my mind. My siblings are the kids that I played tag with, the ones who I fought over N64 time with, the ones I invented games with. My parents are still the unshakable forces of nature that managed to both create and withstand their insane children.
When I wrote my “childhood stories” post I went with stories from my father not just because they were topical (road trip stories following my returning via nearly the same route) but because they were his. We have never been in want of love from either of our parents, but they show it differently. His stories have come to hold a special place for me.
His favorite stories can be recited by everyone. His enthusiasm is a bit harder earned than my mother’s (which is less a comment on his enthusiasm than hers, because she’s excited about every single thing ever). As such, it’s something of a trophy. This is to say that with my mother, the basic objective was to never merit her scorn or disappointment, because then you’ve really fucked up. With my more even keeled father, it has always been about those amazing moments when we earn that excitement.
He carries his favorite stories around in his heart like a boy scout vest, covered in badges. We all know all the stories because he tells them all the time. I can’t actually speak for my siblings because I’ve never asked, but I suspect that they would agree that there is a sense of pride when one of your dad stories gets taken out, dusted off, and put on display. They are stories I know well not just because of the many times I have heard them, but because of how much they mean with each re-telling. It’s a big deal when a superhero tells stories about you.
Growing up on the edge of the San Fernando Valley, we had all sorts of weird wildlife problems. (Also fires. So many fires.) My father was the great slayer of rattle snakes. He gave me the probably not actually hugely useful life advice about standing on my tip-toes and raising my arms in the air to appear larger in the event that I encountered a mountain lion. Probably better to just not encounter mountain lions. He took us on hikes into the critter-infested hills and in spite of all the foreboding about the aforementioned dangers, it never occurred to me to be afraid, because he wouldn’t let anything happen.
As far as I’m concerned, nothing has changed. He is still that superhero. I guess what I want to say to the calendar with its logic and its math is that it is simply wrong. Look, I get what you’re saying with all this adding up years on earth to produce an age business, calendar. But it’s irrelevant because superheroes don’t age.