Although I grew up watching heroes such as Superman, Batman, and the Lone Ranger on television, my very first heroes were my dad, Carl Williams, and my grand-father, Tom Williams. My grandfather lived next door to my parents and was of Lebanese descent. In Lebanese, a grandfather is referred to as “Jidu.” That’s what all his grandchildren called him: “Jidu.”
My dad was a natural “Leader” who always did the right thing. He was the perfect foundation for our large family and always insisted that his children live life with integrity. Jidu was a “Warrior” who had a heart of gold and an iron will. He was a fierce defender of his family and friends. He wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything.
During the summer of 1964, when I was 7 years old, it was Jidu who dropped me off and picked me up every day from my summer school reading class. It was the summer after my first year in grade school, when I had trouble learning how to read. At that time, my mom had 10 children. Jidu was 66 years old and semi-retired. When he found out that my mom was enrolling me in summer school, he offered to take on the responsibility of dropping me off and picking me up.
Jidu was like a second father to me. During my formative years, I spent more time in his house than in my parents’ house. Every afternoon when the school bus dropped me and my brothers and sisters off near our house, instead of going home, I walked straight over to Jidu’s house. During the 1960s and early 1970s, I was his “right-hand man” when he worked on his car, on his house, or in his Laundromat.
In addition to my dad and my grandfather, I had other heroes who treated me as though I were their own son. They were the other men in my life who cared enough to teach me some of the life lessons that I still rely upon today. These men, all of whom were father figures to me, were my dad’s and mom’s brothers:
• Uncle Bill Williams, the “Hunter” in the family, who never gave up on (or gave into) anything. When you needed a creative and industrious way to get something accomplished, it was Uncle Bill who was able to figure it out for you.
• Uncle Tom (Tommy) Williams, the “Enforcer,” who was known for his generosity and his willingness to come to the defense of his family and friends. He was a champion boxer and the man you wanted by your side if you were ever threatened by anyone.
• Uncle Harry LaHood, the “Magician,” who took off several weeks from work every summer so he could spend time with his daughter and eight sons. He had a way of making every experience exciting, entertaining, and magical.
• Uncle Ed LaHood, the “Genius,” who was always three steps ahead of everyone else. He always teased his nieces and nephews and challenged us to think in ways that were unusual and “outside of the box.”
• Uncle Dick LaHood, the creative “Wizard,” who had the ability to turn any negative into a positive. He was known as the man who could start or walk into any business and turn garbage into gold.
My dad, my grandfather, and my uncles taught me what a true father is – a hero. All of them were heroes to their children. If you were to ask any of my brothers, sisters, or cousins who their first hero was, they would all tell you it was their father.
The dictionary defines a “hero” as:
1. (a) a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability; (b) an illustrious warrior; (c) a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; (d) one who shows great courage.
2. (a) the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work; (b) the central figure in an event, period, or movement.
3. an object of extreme admiration and devotion.
This definition of a hero accurately describes my dad, my grandfather, and my uncles. To me, they were all legendary figures endowed with great courage, strength, and ability; illustrious warriors who were admired for their achievements and noble qualities; central figures who were devoted to their wives and children and admired by everyone around them.
Father’s Day is a day on which we’re given the opportunity to honor our first heroes – our fathers. But we shouldn’t stop there. We should also use Father’s Day as a reminder that we are all called to be heroes to our own children, spouses, and other family members.
For all the fathers and grandfathers who are reading this, it’s time for you to step up your game. You were called to be a hero to your children and grandchildren. It’s time to (again) go out and answer your calling.
Happy Father’s Day!