Sunday, June 19, 2011

Oh Superman, My Superman

Today is fathers day. I am feeling the sorrow that comes from loss and separation, the rage that comes with being forced into estrangement by a stranger, but also, the joy that comes from knowing that I had twenty-nine years of the best dad a boy could ask for. A dad that lives inside me and guides the good ship Donavan into the port of manhood like a bright star on a foggy evening.

My best friend David's dad was in town a while back and he told a story to us at dinner about buying Davey a toy rocket when he was little and how the rocket failed to blast off. When he told David that they would return it for a working one, David reminded his father that the toy store was closing in ten minutes. "We can make it!” his father said. He put David in the car, raced to the store and they had a successful launch a half hour later. Young David said to his father, "You're the best dad in the universe!” His dad recounted the story to us with tears in his eyes and said, "that's the kind of thing dads remember". David looked as his dad with the eyes of a boy in love.

I felt so sad in that moment, so sad in fact, that I excused myself and went to the bathroom. When I got there, I burst into tears. As I looked in the mirror, I saw the man that I have become staring back at me. A strong and capable man. I felt a deep melancholy wash over me as I pondered the fact that my father will seemingly never get to see that newly formed man up close. I felt envious of David. Envious that I too didn't have a dad who raced to the toy store to make things right for his disappointed son.

Then I remembered.

That is exactly the kind of dad I had.

I could recount dozens, hell, hundreds of stories proving my point but I shall keep it to one.

When I was about five, I had a small rubber Superman.

He went with me everywhere, leaving my little pocket only to take occasional flights of fancy from the end of my fingers and the depths of my imagination.

One night, as my father and I returned from a day of frolicking together, I walked hand in hand with him up the driveway of our home and noticed that my old rubber friend was not in his usual resting place inside my forest green corduroy trousers.

"Where's Superman?” I asked.

My dad sensed the panic in my voice.

"I'm sure he's in the car, sweet boy. Don't worry", said my daddy reassuringly.

He wasn't in the car.

I started to cry.

"Superman!!!” I wailed, my cheeks as red as apples.

I saw my fathers mind go to work.

"Where was the last place you remember seeing him, honey?"


We had spent the day at the park and went to Sears on the way home.


Sears closed fifteen minutes ago.

My father took me in his arms and we got back in the car.


Sears again.

Dark as the bottom of the ocean.

My father, my hero, didn't give up. He rapped on the door.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

A security guard.

"We're closed sir".

"I just need to come in and take a look around for a small Superman toy. My son needs it".

"The children’s department opens tomorrow morning with the rest of the store. Come back at 9am. We'll be here".

"No, you don't understand...we don't want to buy it. We already own the toy. My son dropped it when we were here earlier today..."

"Sorry mister, we're closed. I can't open these doors".

"Do you have kids?"

"Excuse me"?

"I said, do you have any children"?

"Yes. A daughter. Eight."

"It's his favorite toy. I'm asking you, father to father. Man to man. Please. Open those doors".

With the help of a flashlight and a couple of good daddies, Superman and Baby were reunited twenty minutes later. It sits on my desk to this very day, cape in tatters and paint worn off from decades of love.

My father and I aren't talking. We haven't spoken in nearly a decade. He's a prisoner of his own confusion and the warden is a black widow spider with an ego for an hourglass.

Cape in tatters.

Decades of love.

If we could talk, I would say the following to him...

"Dad, I love you. You will always be Superman to me".

And Superman will I one day be, to my own children.


Like father, like son.

When I lean down to kiss my future baby in their crib, I will kiss them with heart and lips that were loved by a father who always had an S on his chest.

And always will.

He lives in my fortress of solitude.
My yesteryear and my future.
My heart.

And no amount of anger or loss or time will ever disturb that peaceful slumber.

Thank you dad, for teaching me how to live, but more importantly, for teaching me how to love.


  1. you are such an intricate, beautiful person, Donavan

  2. beautifully written, and know that you are not alone...

  3. you know how much I love you and your writing...I will never stop appreciating your honesty, in both your writing and in person

  4. Your writing is both exquisitely beautiful & excruciatingly sad. Please write again soon.

  5. I see this was written almost exactly a year ago, I'm so sorry to hear about you and your father, I don't know if things have improved since then, but I hope they haven't gotten any worse (although from the sounds of it, I'm not sure how it could). My dad's been gone for just over a year now, and I too remember him helping me find lost things (oddly enough, a plastic Batmobile that got trapped under the porch) or on one occasion deal with a neighbourhood bully. That was a long time ago, but he's still a hero for all of that.

    I think I had one of those rubber Supermen too, like a Gumby with the wire skeleton buried underneath? Those were great toys, built to last. As long as the dog didn't get ahold of it.

  6. Dear Donavan,

    I am a great fan of your father's work, and I enjoyed seeing you and him working together in ads and hearing you and your sister on radio.

    I don't know you, we will probably never meet and I can only guess at what your situation is with your father and his current marriage. I can only say this. My father was less than perfect and we were estranged for a number of years. We reconnected and stayed close. It turns out that he was a better man than I thought. When he passed, there was a sadness (I have said often that when I meet my reward, should I find that cancer is an animate being, I'd like to spend two straight weeks kicking it), but there was one thing that I will not forget.

    My father was dying. He was disoriented, hallucinating and declining. We had an argument about something and as appeasement, I sent him some music that I thought he'd like. In the midst of the ravages of cancer that was disassembling him, he and I talked. It turns out he LOVED the music I sent him. In the middle of our conversation he said, "You're a good old boy, do you know that?"

    I knew then and I know now that when he went to his final rest, he didn't go to bed mad. As the years progress, and I am witness to the things that he can only look down and see, in particular his only grandchild, my niece, who I love dearly, I can only say this to you:

    Try as best as you can to get back in touch with your dad. Considering that he just lost a good friend in Ray Bradbury, it would be a comfort to him.

    As I said previously, I am a highly uninformed stranger to you, but do what you can to make sure your father doesn't go to bed mad at you. If you try and fail, at least you know that you did try.

    I mean this last thought quite sincerely and without malice:

    I wish you a Happy Father's Day.

    - Brian Phillips

  7. your blog is excellent....I really liked your blog, appreciate the great information you have provided. Locksmith Falcon.

  8. You are so incredible so talented in so many ways. I feel as though your father had a tiny place in my life because we were the first family on the street to have a TV when they were new.I felt so proud when I saw the TV Antenna on our roof . The first Television program I ever saw was Time For Beanie and it was then I knew the name Satn Freberg.I was a little girl living in Hollywood. Iknew movie stars father worked at Warner Bros..My father knew your father and loved him

  9. A while back, a friend of ours' father died. She wondered, idly, why isn't in on the radio? Why isn't it on TV?

    And then, my own father died. And it was on the radio. And it was on TV.

    Yeah, it's never easy. The grass grows shortest in the shade.

    But it still grows.