My dad is actually a superhero. His existence is shrouded in mystery, his real name is known only to him, his superhero name, Richard Williams, is an uncommonly common one, but better than “The MusicMan” or “SuperConductor”, which are both also taken. He is modeled on the greatest of the superheroes, the Greek superheroes, drawn to the dark side and riddled with myth surrounding his origin and his adventures. But, y’know, that’s what makes him a superhero.
One aspect to being a superhero is having an alter-ego. My dad’s alter-ego is found only when it’s just you and he, sitting in a car or having a glass of wine, and there is mostly silence around you. This is when Clark Kent comes out. In music, the two most important things are melody and silence, and my father is appreciating the latter in these moments. He sometimes shuts down and responds to what you ask him with shy grunts and muttered asides. I like the alter-ego, as much or more than the superhero.
But the superhero side of my dad is the part that most people know. That’s the part of him that is the party-host, the symphony-conductor, the executive-producer. I have a thousand stories about my dad, but my favorite is being in the car with him on the way to a performance and a train is delaying our arrival by twenty minutes. We were already late and I pointed this out to my dad and he looked at me and smiled and said, ‘they can’t start without me…’
Where some flighty superheroes have a cape and tights, my dad has a tie and tails. Sure, he can’t fly, but when he stands in a doorway and smiles in your general direction, every single person at that end of the room thinks he has smiled at only them. He can’t leap over tall buildings, he can’t deflect bullets, but he does seem to have a thousand lives and no matter what is done to him, it doesn’t seem to kill him.
He is a natural leader of men, the kind of person who, even when being given orders, will only follow them out of an active acquiescence. He’ll do what you say, but only because it’s what he would have decided to do anyway. When he is given the reins, suddenly everything starts magically happening. He is a man of a thousand ideas, and the right way that these ideas should be implemented. When you consider where he came from and where he is now, it is laughable to think that this is anything other than a superpower.
Some others have a fortress of solitude or a batcave, but not Richard Williams. He has a spanish style villa that affords him both solitude, should he need it, and a temperature controlled wine cellar, which is his only use for a cave. Otherwise, the house is designed for maximum celebrations, should they be necessary. Sure, he has a studio, far removed from the house, but there is also a pool, a bocce ball court, a full wine list, gourmet dinners, and a constant parade of lovely fascinating artistic people.
His flaws have cost him dearly, just like all real heroes. He doesn’t get Christmas with his family, he doesn’t get daily emails from his kids, he has struggled with all of us, often having to put up with years of silence. But he has done what so few heroes have the guts to do. He has looked in the face of the man he used to be, he has decided to stop being that man, he has asked me to forgive him for that, and he has done all of this without ever losing his heroism.
He is an epic man, a man who makes wide sweeping continental mistakes and huge gorgeous gestures of charity. He is a man who wants to buy you a car, but doesn’t want to lend you a hundred dollars. What the hell is heroic about a hundred dollars? Have a car! He is a man who has found a devotion to his family that exceeds a thousand fold his past apathy, and he has found love where once he was incapable.
I feel my dad in me, always. Every time people look to me to solve a problem, every time I jump in and say, ‘How about this, this’ll work’ and people follow, every time someone makes fun of my chest hair, I feel his blood in my blood. As I look down the shotgun barrel of marriage and children, knowing that I have failed in the past, I hope that I can learn from who my father is now, and pass some of that heroism on to my kids.