Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Farewell Superman

When I was growing up I enjoyed reading comics. It is great to be able to lose yourself in a good story of good versus evil. Costumed characters would save the city from villainy, not for fame and fortune, but because it was the right thing to do.

Television and movies have kept up the tradition by moving the two dimensional comic book heroes onto live action representations of our favorite defenders of justice.

Very few super heroes achieve more status then Superman. He was faster then a speeding bullet, more powerful then a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. There is probably not a man alive who at one point in time did not pretend to be Superman.

Christopher Reeve got the opportunity to be Superman for a brief moment in his portrayal of the man of steel in several movies. As you watched Mr. Reeve on the silver screen he seemed to embody the very soul of who Superman should be. The casting for the lead was perfect.

The movies were fun, but when Christopher Reeve became paralyzed from falling from a horse the real test of his metal was at hand.

Christopher went through the typical emotions of someone in his condition from depression to even wanting to commit suicide. In the end, his super human qualities broke free and he not only chose to go on living, but to do so with the will even the real Superman would be proud of.

Like the comic book hero, Christopher did not give up. He began to fight for his life, and continued to do so for many years to come. He would not accept that he would never walk again, and maintained a physical therapy regiment that would ensure his muscles would be ready when the day came that he would once again stand.

I’m not going to pretend I knew Christopher Reeve past anything that you have no doubt heard about him already. I will say that every time I have seen Mr. Reeve on television I would be pulling for him. My insides would yearn for the day he would once again stand and prove the doctors wrong. After all, he was Superman!

In the end, it turns out that Christopher Reeve was just a man physically. What his accident did do was to prove to the world that in his spirit Christopher Reeve was truly Superman. Not only did he fight his injuries head on, but he championed the cause for research so that perhaps one day others would not have to go through what he had to endure.

My daughters always ask me to tell them my own personal Superman story, and I guess this is as good as time as any to share my day as a super hero.

I worked for a pet shop, Wildwood Pets, while I was in high school. During one of my work days I was in the store and I heard the squeal of car brakes. I looked out the window to see that a car had just missed running into another car in the parking lot right out front of the store.

As I watched one of the cars continued spinning in circles backwards, and I thought that maybe there was some lunatic at the wheel trying to ram another car or something.

Then I saw him.

Standing on the seat of the car careening backwards was about a three year old little boy, and nobody else was in the car!

There were people watching along the sidewalk, but nobody was doing anything.

To be honest, I have no idea what went through my mind, or if I had a rational thought at all, as I literally burst through both glass doors, pushing them open with such a force that the little cowbells crashed into them and added to the affect.

I ran out into the parking lot and right along side the driver side door. I paced myself with the car while hanging onto the door handle. I finally got the door opened, jumped in and hit the brake.

Looking at the kid I asked, “Are you alright?”

The mother ran up to me saying, “Thank you, thank you for saving my son”.

All I did was give her a look that said, “What the heck were you thinking!”

I’m still amazed that the car never actually hit anything in that parking lot, or ran over me. If I tripped I would have gone right under the wheel. Luckily my brain was not engaged and I just reacted instead of thought about it.

For a while after that the mother would bring me cakes and cookies.

There was no story about me in the paper; I didn’t really share it much with anyone unless for some weird reason I would think about it. I did tell my kids once because I was explaining how dangerous cars were, and now they want to hear about it every once in a while. I guess it’s the whole “Dad is a hero” thing.

The point is I did not actively seek recognition because I did a good deed. I did it, and went on with my life. Granted it isn’t three purple hearts, but I’m sure I could have gleaned five minutes of fame with a local news station if I wanted to toot my own horn.

Superman may have crossed over, but his spirit lives on in all of us. Christopher Reeve was not only Superman in the movies, but in real life as well. He has left his mark on this Earth as only a true super hero can.

Farewell Superman, you will be missed.

Christopher Reeve
September 25, 1952 - October 10, 2004

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