My Father, The Mensch

this is a portrait of my step-dad, Don. he is the inspiration for the name of my upcoming portrait show at secret headquarters: Secret Identity. i've been fascinated for a long time by the idea that everyone is more than what we perceive them to be. every person in a crowd has hope, passion, tragedy, love, or lack of love. we see those qualities so easily in ourselves and we want other people to see them in us. it takes effort though to seek them out in other people. i wonder sometimes if i met a real clark kent or a peter parker, would i give them the attention and the respect that they deserve?

before he was my dad, don was my third grade teacher. he was more reserved than the rest of the faculty. he was the teacher who called the school in from recess. for that reason especially, the students grumbled about him. i vividly remember an afternoon when he called us to the classroom and accepted no nonsense. "there is more to him than this," i thought as i passed him. i didn't know what it was, but i knew it. maybe i've been pestering him ever since.

it was worthwhile though. don became my friend. he came over on saturdays to draw with me. he took care of my siblings and me for years before we knew about it. he married my mom. choosing to become a father to a trio of teenagers is a heroic act in my opinion. and he did it. he stuck around. he helped in a hundred ways that we didn't fully appreciate at the time. he seemed to take pleasure in simple things: mowing the lawn, reading the paper, mastering my mom's favorite dessert. he remains a focused, sensible voice when the rest of our emotions run high.

throughout our years together, he has told portions of his life to us. bits and pieces of honest to goodness adventures. they only came up in snippets when something about his experiences might apply to ours. but two christmases ago, he pieced them together. he told a life story that was surprising and brave and weird (in a great way). it led ultimately to the don that i have always known: a very good man who truly appreciates his life. someone who i admire.

© 2006 rama hughes