There are times when we all need to understand that our father’s can be bad asses. We need to see that their manliness can be summoned for righteous purposes. We need to see that they are not snoring corpses who don’t know anything about anything, but we all need to know our father’s are strong and still have a bit of the caveman DNA that protects us from lions, tigers, and goats that got set loose in a marijuana field.
I got to see my dad in all out John Wayne one night. “Williamsburg was humid that evening,” my friends. Come to think of it, Williamsburg is always humid in summer. My friend’s mom dropped us off at Blow Gym on William and Mary’s campus. We were there to play racquetball. Coincidently, my father had just finished playing and was hanging out on the stone wall that separated the inside of the campus from Richmond Road. He looked tired and worn out. To a thirteen year old kid, he looked old. Given that I was in junior high school and therefore knew everything, I was pretty sure that I could outrun my father without a problem.
He sat there in cut off jeans and a white T-shirt wiping the sweat away from his graying hair and rubbing knees beaten up by a blue collar life. The other guys there were also policemen and one was on-duty, but dressed in plain clothes. Again, I thought that there was no chance these guys could stop a small caper and forget about running down a major criminal.
Through the heavy air came a young dude striding in typical William and Mary preppy clothes from the time. His Polo shirt with the turned up collar gave him an air of prosperity, but the three police amigos saw something different. They saw a drug dealer who had been ordered to stay off campus, yet there he was carrying a satchel and walking towards a dormitory.
What happened next may have been the most important part of my childhood. My dad turned into a linebacker with the speed of Usain Bolt and the hops of a champion high jumper. He and the other policemen jumped the five-foot fence and went after the Nike wearing preppy drug deliveryman. Before they were out of sight the trespasser was on the ground and being cuffed. My old, tired father was the first to make it to the dealer. He took him down quickly and with the help of his mates arrested the criminal. His bag had a some hash, some acid, and plenty of weed to raise the dopiness in the dorm by more than a little. Oh, and there were no guns needed in the arrest.
Through the hazy night air, I got to see that my dad, while not someone who would use that kind of discipline at home, was capable of putting a hurt on me if necessary. Some might think that kind of observation is sad since it’s based in a bit of fear. I kind of like it because my father was never one to be tough or physical at home. I knew, though, that he could do whatever was necessary to restore order, even in that advanced age of late thirty, early forty something.
As my birthday comes around and I’ve long since passed the age that my father was when he was tackling drug dealers, I’m having two thoughts. The first is that my son, who is twenty, better think twice about jumping on my back in Staples because I’ve still got enough left in the tank to take him down. The other thought is that I don’t want any part of my dad. I’m not sure if I could win that one.