My childhood super hero is retiring today.
I can remember as a very little girl when my handsome daddy would be getting ready for work. He would sling on his heavy, wide black belt with the various sized pouches on it just before he left for the evening. When it was off and sitting on the table I would latch and unlatch the "keepers", little black loops for keeping things on the belt, apparently. I would marvel at the weight of the mag light, and couldn't understand why it needed to be so much heavier than our household plastic flashlight. I never could figure out how a night stick could actually be a weapon. And the .357 Magnum was more of a paperweight than anything else to me. Taught with firm discipline that it was not a toy, I was a child who was surrounded by firearms and was never tempted to use them. I still am not.
If I was able to be awake when he left for the midnight shift, I would hug my daddy tight around the neck, kiss his smooth cheek, deeply breathe in his cologne, and think about how handsome he was in his uniform with his dark hair. Even as a young girl I could grasp that in his line of work there was a chance that he wouldn't be coming back home. I told myself that the heavy bullet proof vest he wore, which I would throw on my skinny shoulders and parade around the living room each time I could, was like Captain America's shield, able to protect in all circumstances.
My daddy, in my mind, was 10 feet tall. After all, when your daddy is a cop, he is the one everyone else calls when they are in trouble. He was called on duty, and off duty----to help break up domestic skirmishes among the neighbors, or the time there was a peeping tom in the neighborhood. He had really cool places to take us, like when we got to go to the courthouse and ride in the elevator, or to the county fair when he directed traffic, or for rides in the Crown Vic. It seemed we always had friends with German shepherd dogs, and we had them too. We knew the clerks in the convenience stores by name, and listened to a scanner at home. We had lots of cops that were friends----most good, a few bad, and a few somewhere in between.
As I got older and my dad got more experienced, he moved up to different positions, culminating as a police chief. But no matter where he was working or what he was doing, being a cop continued to touch our lives. There were times the job or the pager interrupted family activities. There were long, long hours that would stretch into nearly days sometimes, whenever a substantial crime was first committed.
Perhaps the most pressing thing is the interruptions I didn't see. Being a cop, or a soldier, or anyone else who deals with the basest of human behaviors, touches places inside that most of us don't have to visit very often. It changes your world view of humanity. It causes a silent, secret tap dance inside between the reality of the workplace and the reality of home.
This is what other families don't see. They don't see Superman coming home after a long day of dealing with sinful shenanigans, only to change out of the cape and into Clark Kent's suit to pretend the job was just another day at the Daily News. They don't see the up close evil in the day to day, the cruel and hard ways in which people deal with one another. Other families can live in relative normalcy, assuming that bad things happen to other people-----when the super hero's experience tells him that in the blink of an eye, we can all be the other people.
So it seems strange that, after being a cop, a detective, a captain, an investigator, working for the coroner, and finally, pasturing out at a bailiff (haha!)----my dad is retiring. For the first time in my lifetime, my dad will have the chance to be like everyone else. And I hope that he enjoys it to the very fullest.
Dad, thank you so very, very much, for the hard work and sacrifice you have made for me. For providing for me through multiple jobs at a time, and for doing it in such a taxing way. I am so very proud of the service you have provided to your community; for helping others in their most despairing moments with little thankfulness, but I thank God for giving you to me. I hope you have a wonderful day today and rather than send you some cheesy gift, I will send you what ends every Superman's career.
Kryptonite. Not in the form of a donut, but in the form of an entirely different cheesy gift---
You can pick up your double anchovy pizza tonight after work from Guido's.