My daughter Bella, now a legal adult, was writing a paper for a college class. She sat on the upstairs couch, legs crossed as if she were sitting around a campfire at summer camp. She wore a a long, comfortable T-shirt, I had purchased for her at one of her many favorite Broadway shows. She loves Broadway, and this shirt was purchased at the show “Les Miserables.”
Victor Hugo, a nineteenth century French novelist, wrote a work of what we now label historical fiction entitled, “Les Miserables.” “Les Mis,” as the show is commonly known, is set in Paris in the early 1830’s after the French Revolution. The show basically presents the interactions between various archetypes of people and their survival in Paris after the Revolution.
One of a number of themes concerns a “criminal,” Jean Valjean. Valjean spent time in the French penal colonies for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. His nemesis is Javert. Javert is the Law. Through the years and aging process, Javert chases Valjean and eventually, encounters him in the midst of their physical aging processes. In other words, they are both getting old.
Valjean and Javert have a brawl in the hospitawl, a stumble into a rumble, a thrilla with out a pilla, shit talk with an onslaught. The entire time they’re punching each other with bare knuckles and whacking each other with belts and chains, they sing. Valjean specifically sings the following lines:
“I am warning you Javert
I’m a stronger man by far
There is power in me yet
My race is not yet run”
One might think that singing and fighting don’t really go together but as we learn in West Side Story, they do!!! “West Side Story” takes place in the 1950’s before “whacking” people or drive-bys, except perhaps when Jessie James or others like him pulled their horses next to a “rah rah” supporter of the Union and “blew him away.” (Not to be construed as non PC, I dislike all drive-bys whether performed by people from cars or on horseback.)
Anyhow, The Sharks, a rough Puerto Rican Gang and The Jets, a tough White Gang, rumble on the school playground. The rumble is complete with choreographed leap frogging over the opponents backs while singing and fighting. I firmly believe that my failure to leapfrog and my lousy singing voice effectively cost me many beatings in my life.
Bella was wearing a navy blue T- shirt with a print of a youthful blonde haired Cosette across the chest. Cosette was the heroine of “Les Mis.” On the shirt, she appears hardened, thin and hungry from difficult times and much suffering, but flying behind her are the tattered red, white and blue stripes, of a French flag suggesting the ultimate victory of the French people over the clergy, the nobility and the bourgeoisie. Cosette appears as the white portion of the flag which might signify the nobility of the poor.
Bella sat on the couch, legs folded with her computer on her lap writing her essay for college. She asked me to proof her paper when she was finished writing it, as she always does. In one of the initial paragraphs, she describes the members of her family. I read, “My dad is a big, strong man.”
I’m going to focus on the “big, strong man” since clearly I must not be a big, strong, intelligent man. Essentially, Bella tells her class and instructor that her dad is closer to a cave man or Popeye the Sailor Man, “strong to the finish cause I eats my spinach” than I am Albert Einstein or Sir Isaac Newton. Certainly, despite all my childhood dreams, Superman is out of the question.
Nonetheless, this is an important non-observation on her part. I have always been able to look out for and protect my children. Some of you may think this is immature, but I have threatened to ” fucking beat the shit” out of someone in order to protect each of my children at some point or other in their lives.
Let’s visit the “Land of make Believe” for a little while. Let’s pretend two bad guys break into my house without weapons and threaten me through my children while my children are sitting upstairs watching TV. Suddenly, one of the bad guys yells, “Give me all the gold, or I’ll kill your father!” Mylo, practical as she always is yells, “We don’t have any gold!” She is correct, of course, unless the bad guys are discussing melting down our household earring collection. This possible intention becomes a needless worry when they don’t demand the earrings.
Bella, a true believer in magic or perhaps Tinker Belle claps her hands. “If you think our daddy is strong, then clap your hands. If you think our daddy is strong then clap you’re hands. Our daddy is strong; he’ll punch you cause your wrong. So we clap our hands.”
As I crossed the threshold from the stairs into the loft, I heard my daughters singing and clapping their hands. The words were not the same as those screaming from the TV unless they were watching some version of Peter Pan’s old dad kicking Hook’s ass without a sword, using only his Tai Kwon Do moves and a couple of highyas.
I suddenly espied the two bad guys. They immediately challenged me directly in a very mean, threatening tone of voice, “Come on, Daddy; let’s see what you got!!!” (I put three exclamation points at the end of that sentence because their tones of voice were, in fact, very mean). Their voices were also intimidating.
I asked them nicely to please wait a moment. I took off my glasses and realized I couldn’t see them. “Okay, flailing blindly was the call of the day,” I surmised. “Guys, can you give me a few minutes to stretch; my joints are stiff?” They just stared as I sat down and stretched ten reps of head maybe half way to my knee and my fingers only about ten inches from my toes. I stood up from the floor, made a fist and pretended to throw short punches with the “don’t make me do it face.” Truth: My arms don’t extend very much anymore. I ran in place for 1 minute. I didn’t want to pant. I did knee touches rather than toe touches. Then I started dancing around the room, dukes in the air humming “When You Wish Upon A Star.”
The bad guys stared at me as if I were insane. Insanity in these situations is a great defense.
Meanwhile my girls were shouting in unison in melodic voices as if I were participating in a sporting event, “Get the bad guys, Daddy!” clap, clap, clap. “Get the bad guys, Daddy!” clap, clap, clap, continuously.
The bad guys laughed aloud in mockery. One of them said, “You’re kidding, right, old man!” More laughter.
“What are they laughing about, Daddy?”
“They’re laughing because they think your Daddy is too old to kick their asses! Isn’t that correct, fellas.”
“Yep, but we enjoyed the show!”
“Oh, thanks, but you’re missing something in your analysis.”
“What’s that, old man?”
“I am in my 60’s, but I still have Daddy strength. I’m not afraid of your lame asses, and Daddy strength makes up for many deficiencies. I am becoming a physical mess, it’s true! I am likely to lose the fight; it’s true, but if I get the chance, I will kill you both. I care about those girls more than you two dumb fucks care about anything in your lives. My head is in the fucking game.”
Let me bring it around: Like Valjean, my race is not yet run. Like the cave man; I will be raw and brutal; like Popeye; I ams what I am; like Peter Pan’s dad, I would go after Hook with anything I had. The Sharks and Jets still a problem; I can’t sing, leapfrog or fight. Yet, the bad guys are correct; I am insane; I’m a dad protecting my kids.