Superhero Landing Comin’ Up
*I wrote this back in January, I finally think I’m ready to post.
Last night I was re-watching “Deadpool 2,” and I was reminded of some words of wisdom (according to me) that I have shared with my daughter, on more than one occasion. There’s a character, Domino, who claims that her super power is luck. Just luck. She can’t fly, she wasn’t hit by a radioactive domino tile and she wasn’t born on planet Domino. She’s just lucky. When someone chases her, they slip on a gun which results in her finding a gun. Someone pulls a gun on her, and it just happens to jam. Luck is her super power. Now my daughter, unfortunately, has had a different experience with luck. But her power, according to me, is actually her anxiety. And I tell her this, because I’m kind of an authority when it comes to anxiety. I mean, it’s not always a power, but this is probably true more often than we realize.
Sure, it can suck the fun out of a party and it’s often a huge downer, but it’s helpful from time to time. Basically, I’m hardly ever surprised by life. That sounds depressing, and it is, but not always. I was pretty sure that I’ve run through almost any plausible situation, and even more that are unlikely to highly unlikely, that life will throw at me. *Warning, second comic book movie reference ahead* In Avengers: Infinity War, when Doctor Strange says he went forward in time and saw 14 million alternate future (14,000,605 to be exact), with only one favorable outcome. Yeah, anxiety is a lot like that.
While it forces me to spend too much time on the awful and scary, it also can push me towards obsessing over a potential situation that excites me. Like, if a job interview went well. I’ll go over every detail of what my life might look like, if I happen to get the job. The financial impact on my family, the commute, setting up my new cube, how I’ll organize my laptop more efficiently and what restaurants are nearby for lunch (I.E: closest McDonalds).
I hate that my daughter has to deal with anxiety. If I could, I’d literally take every ounce (it might not be measured in ounces) of it from her and carry it all on my shoulders. Because I know how it forces me to think about the worst scenarios, and imagine every aspect that they bring. See, I’ve thought about almost every devastating event that awaits. It isn’t new, but as I’ve gotten older and as I’ve seen more friends and family deal with it, I find myself thinking more and more about the loss of my parents. A big thing is worrying about how they’d each do in the event that the other went first. And as morbid and depressing as it is, it’s equally true, that I’ve thought about how gut wrenching it would be if I lost my better half. Or if she lost me. This is the crap that can keep me up all night, or enters my brain as I’m driving or at any other random moment.
But here’s something I hadn’t thought about, not until about a month ago. The idea of losing my uncle, and all the awful aspects that would accompany that loss. It wasn’t an oversight, something anxiety just mixed because of a glitch in the matrix. It was because I had never seen a scenario in which he didn’t live to be at least 100. You have to understand, the guy is closing in on 80, but looks maybe 65. He is, or until recently, was in better shape than me. In fact, through the lens of anxiety, my mind’s eye had often shown him attending my funeral. Never the other way around. Yet, over the holiday, that very scene was replayed in my mind more times than “A Christmas Story” was replayed on basic cable.
Then a month ago, I received a call that changed everything. He had suffered a seizure, called his son by my name and his wife by the name of my grandmother. And just like that, the terrorist we call Cancer, had taken up residency in his beautiful and brilliant brain. I spoke with my older cousins, who despite gaps in distance and years, were often like older brothers to me. And both played a large role in any writing I’ve done, or will do. And I heard cracks in both their voices, which I had never imagined existed. They’re hugely successful men, who seem to be able to make the world bend around them. It’s the sort of thing that alters how you see the world.
But nothing has rocked my world like seeing (mostly hearing, really) from afar how devastating all of this is for my father. It isn’t like I come from some ultra-old school family, where the men aren’t allowed to show emotion. It’s just that, in spite of so much of life happening, I’ve never really seen/heard my father so scared and so sad. And while he always apologizes for it, and I’m sure he’ll apologize again after reading this (and each apology is completely unnecessary), the truth is, I’ve never felt closer to him. As my heart breaks and I lose hours while searching for words to comfort him and my cousins, my anxiety plays out the rest of this story in 14 million different ways. I have found some comfort, and some significant discomfort, in the fact that I’ve realized that life still has surprises in store for me. I was surprised, a couple of weeks ago, after finally speaking with my uncle, when I realized that was the first time we had ever told each other, “I love you.”
It didn’t go unsaid, because we’re some cold family, void of affection. It was unsaid, because it never needed to be said. His love for me was there when he encouraged my drawing, when he gave me a tour of Nissan Design, when he embraced my new family at our wedding, when he gave my daughter swim lessons, when he drew me as a comic book character named “Gregg-a-Tron’ and the thousands of times he called me “wad” as if my first name was Richard. And hearing the words when I did, how I did, didn’t make it weird that I hadn’t heard or said it in the previous 42 years. It made for a moment I’ll always remember. Mostly fondly, but also tragically. So, wet eyes.
But today, as I remember telling my daughter about the power she can wield, I’m angry that there was a blind spot all along, and I never saw my father’s pain coming.