Way back at the age of 7 or 8, I was a curious child who believed the backing from stickers made them fireproof.
To test the theory, I brought a page of them to the kitchen, turned on the gas stove and held the sheet above the flame. It turned out the page was extremely flammable, so I dropped the small fireball on the floor, where it landed on a small woven rug we kept in front of the sink.
I yelled, “Fire!” In sprinted my dad, wearing no shoes but seeing the small fire his son started. Without saying a word, he stomped on that rug and put out the fire.
If you ever wonder why some people idolize their fathers, it’s because we’ve seen them become superheroes in moments of crisis. No matter what my dad ever did after that, he’d always be the guy who put out a fire with his bare feet.
His first words were to ask if I was OK. I told him I was. Then he proceeded to tell me how stupid my actions had been.
All these years later, I find myself doing the same thing when my children are in danger. I’ll swoop in, do what’s needed and then ask if they’re OK. Once I know they’re fine, that’s when the lectures and admonishments begin.
This is one of my favorite stories of my dad. He’s not perfect, and no one should ever expect a dad to be perfect. But his prioritization of his children over himself can’t be questioned. First he solved the problem, then he checked on my well-being and finally he taught me a lesson. He’ll always be that kind of hero to me.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately after a bit of a health scare with my dad. He’s fine now, but we didn’t know if his life would ever be the same. I would’ve kicked myself if he never knew how influential his barefooted firefighting was to me.
I used to be my dad’s shadow whenever we were home at the same time. I was often his gopher — go ‘fer this, go ‘fer that — and learned a lot about tools and basic electricity from helping him work. I now know that he likely could’ve done most jobs faster if he didn’t have an uncoordinated son with little practical knowledge of how things worked. Now he has an uncoordinated son with a lot of practical knowledge of how things worked. He took the time to teach me.
Sometimes he taught without even trying. We were a big family with a limited income, so my dad worked as much overtime at his factory as he could to provide for us. I could remember him going weeks at a time without a day off, yet I never heard him complain.
He taught me to always have a joking answer ready, like how when someone asked him how he was, he’d say, “I can’t complain. No one will listen.”
He taught me to put God in the proper place in my life. He taught me you don’t have to sing every song at church, but you should belt out your favorites as if no one’s nearby.
Since his health scare, I’ve been finding ways to spend more time with both my parents. That’s included helping with some minor chores and home fixes for them. It’s been odd taking over the lead role in that, having my dad become my shadow a bit.
Still, it’s nice to have my childhood superhero around, even if it’s just for a little while longer.
David Trinko is editor of The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.