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A Father's Journal / Heroes and villains, past and present

Published 9:28 am, Tuesday, September 4, 2012
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Like every boy growing up, I had heroes. I had an action heros, some heroes from among my friends and family, and a sports hero. As I grew up, I realized just how human my heroes were.

My action hero was David Carradine (Kung Fu, Kwai Chang Caine, Grasshopper), who you might recall died of accidental asphyxiation in 2009. My older brothers, father and a neighbor were my day-to day-heroes. The neighbor was named Dave Hollist. The sports hero was named O.J Simpson.

Dave Hollist was 10 years older than me, although by the time I was 13, I was as tall as him. I felt he could do anything. He lived in a camper and would play basketball with my brothers and me. He was so much better than us. He was 23 years old. I couldn't figure out how he could he the same height as me but so much stronger. He was a superhero.

I looked up to my older brothers. We were all spaced just a year apart. We were an athletic family, and when we chose up sides in any sport, everyone wanted my brothers on their team.

I was always "Little Lawlor." No one wanted Little Lawlor. In high school the girls loved my brothers.

Once in high school, a very attractive girl named Diane made friends with me. She actually talked to me. I was shocked. I couldn't believe my good luck.

Eventually she got to her point. "Could you say something nice about me to your brother?" she asked.

My brother Tim was the star center of the basketball team. I sat bench. I also was a little slow when it came to girls.

"Why?" I asked.

"So he will like me," she said.

Still not getting it, I asked my new friend, "Why do you care if he likes you?"

"Because I like him," she said.

"I like him too," I replied. "I have to. He's bigger than me. What does that have to do with anything?"

"I like him, like him" she said, giving me a look that said she did not like me, like that.

My whole world came crashing down. I had already picked out our children's names. We were going to live in Colorado, in a camper like my hero Dave Hollist.

All these years later, I remember the look on her face when she said it. I still have not said anything nice about her to my brother, and I never will.

My brothers Mike, John and Tim were my heroes. I yearned to be like them.

Every son has a complex relationship with his dad. At first mine was my hero. Once, when I was little, I fell down and started crying in the snow. He found me, picked me up, put me over his broad shoulders and carried me home. Inwardly, I'm sure he was not happy. He didn't like it when you cried and gave up, but in that instant, he carried me home silently.

When I was about 10 years old, hero worship of my dad began to fade as I realized he was a human being like the rest of us. In my teenage years, he became not only not my hero -- he became my nemesis. I had a derogatory name I called him behind his back. As I grew, his shoulders did not seem so broad. I was 6 inches taller than him and about 75 pounds heavier.

Then, in my 20s I began to realize that maybe he was not the embodiment of evil. It occurred to me that some of our disagreements might have stemmed from things I had done. Then, a funny thing happened. I had children.

My dad once again started to rise in my hero rankings. This time it was more of a genuine respect then when I was very young. To this day, when I hear the name I used to call dad as a teenager, I am flooded with shame.

I remember when he came to my daughter's classroom. This was a week before he would be diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had aged. He was physically smaller than the father of my youth, but then he kneeled on the floor and showed the children at Mill Hill School how to pan for gold. At that point, his shoulders seamed to regain their size and then some.

My brothers are still my heroes. But the list now includes my younger brother Patrick. However, they could all be bumped down a notch on the list.

In 2017, O.J. is eligible for parole

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at: tlawlor@mcommunications.com