Of superheroes and promises

There’s a point in everyone’s life when they realize their hero is just a wo/man.  A moment when reality catches up and overtakes fantasy.  When cognition switches from concrete to abstract.  There also seems to be a moment when ultimate mortality becomes a real and pressing problem.  Not just when we understand what it means, but when we really have to face it square in the eye.

I think most children when very young believe their parents can do anything.  They are Superman, Wonder Woman, maybe even the Hulk.  Parents have supernatural powers that heal wounds, and save us from peril, that protect and shield us from corruption and harm.  They’re like Macgyver and Santa Claus all rolled into one.  We get older, though, and start to question, some even rebel against the idea and the person they used to idolize.  We see failures and short-comings, and begin to understand that our parents are only human.

When I was about nine I’d had enough of the realities of life.  I had already experienced too much loss, sorrow, and suffering, and I knew I was on the verge of having to experience so much more.  I broke down for days sobbing and railing against time.  I could not be consoled with logic or bribed with sweets.  So, finally, in desperation, my mother promised me that I would never have to pass that year up–that I would never have to grow up–that I would always get to be 9.  I knew it wasn’t true even then, but for some reason it was very comforting.  And it made the future less scary.

I prayed every night for about two years straight that my parents wouldn’t die while I was asleep.  That my family would still be there in the morning.  I feared additional loss.  But physical presence does not a relationship make, and over time we all grow up and move apart.  We suffer more loss, but we also find joy.  We learn and grow and get older.  Like all humans I could not escape time, no matter what my superhero said.  But some parts of me must still be stuck back at 9.  Still trying to delay the inevitable, still railing against time……and loss.

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