One of the central themes of my book, The Younger Days, is the often unlikely but mostly realized theme of the father as a hero. The main character in The Younger Days, Boy Smyth, initially sees his father as a coward and is embarrassed by him. Sure, his pa is righteous, respectful and kind, but in Boy’s eyes, he pales in comparison to the raucous and loudmouth Border War veterans who brag on their war stories. In the end, Boy discovers his father is much more than he appears to be after he is forced to reveal his past to save his family.
The inspiration for the dad as hero theme in The Younger Days came from two main sources. The first inspiration was my own dad, who was a civil engineer for the state highway department. I always knew he was good at what he did. I just never realized how good he was until I spent a couple summers during college working in a different section of the highway department. Everyone, and I mean everyone, Dad dealt with, from the lowest entry-level worker up to the director, held him in the utmost respect and esteem.
The second inspiration came in the relationship between Jem and Atticus in To Kill A Mockingbird, one of my favorite books. The turning point in their relationship comes when the sheriff defers to Atticus the shot to put down the rabid dog. Jem is thinking what an awful mistake the sheriff made in trusting his father just as the shot rings down the deserted street and Atticus kills the dangerous animal with one shot.
Dads can be heroes whether in literary realms or in real life. I think we all pretty much realize it, but occasionally need a subtle reminder.
Happy Father’s Day 2012.