I grew up on Saturday morning superheroes. No matter what the crisis, no matter how evil the villain, there was always someone in tights and a cape that would swoop in to save the day. Nobody wanted to see Clark Kent unless he was ripping open his shirt to reveal Superman. I really connected with that image of knowing what to do and how to act under pressure.
In a large, neurotic family, I had plenty of opportunities to act in the midst of chaos. For a long time I thought crisis was the norm and a cape and tights were the uniform of the day. Its one of the reasons I became a lifeguard and then a lifeguard and first aid and CPR instructor. Protocols beat paralysis all to pieces.
Gradually calm replaced chaos and I came to the realization that the only people who thrive in that environment are police and fire fighters and there’s a reason they retire at age 55. I grew to appreciate the peace and quiet of a relatively normal life.
Last year the chaos returned. My aged father’s body began to fail him and over the course of eight months he went from an independent octogenarian to a regular visitor to the critical care ward of his local hospital. It was a two hundred mile commute to his bedside and every visit was an emotional roller coaster. He would get better and talk of going home, he would get worse and not talk at all. When he finally became stable it was a different kind of hell, because he was only healthy enough to be moved to a nursing home. He died on Thanksgiving in 2008.
There was little time to feel guilty about the peace his death brought as I discovered a personal health issue that required immediate surgery and a two-month recuperation. Between the grief and the infections sometimes it took a superhuman effort just to get through the day.
A year has passed and it has been nice to leave my cape and tights in the closet. I’ve had a Clark Kent kind of autumn and loved every minute of it.