Virtue & Mischief: Not too Lame


Daniel reminded me approximately 20,000 times throughout last week that the new Avengers movie was coming out on Friday. Then, in his softest, meekest tones he consistently added, “Ummm. Maybe…we could…go see it?”

Employing the linguistic technique of firm noncommittal that parents across all cultures and epochs have used since Cain and Abel roamed the earth, I replied “We’ll see, Daniel. Maybe. We’ll see.”

Early Saturday morning I drove to the UD Arena to assist with the School of Law commencement exercise, then attended the reception held afterward at the law school building. It was 1:15 in the afternoon by the time I waltzed through the backdoor of the Swensen homestead. Like a family pet who’s been pining the absence of his master, Daniel greeted me at the door, running and panting slightly. If the poor fellow had possessed a tail it would have been wagging like a metronome gone berserk.

“So…hi dad!!”

“Hi Daniel. How are you?”

“Great. So…maybe…we can see ‘Captain America: Civil War’ today? Maybe? Is it maybe? Or is it yes?”

“Okay, okay. Let me check on the times and ask mom what she thinks. If she says it’s okay then I’ll ask who else wants to go and we’ll figure it out. Give me a few minutes to change clothes and find out what’s going on before I commit.”

After chatting with mama amigo, we determined that (1) she couldn’t go because there were too many “to do” items on her list that required immediate attention; and (2) we should perhaps green-light the outing on Daniel’s behalf because, among other considerations, the boy asks for so little compared to his more demanding siblings, and usually gets precisely that. I delivered the good news to Daniel, looked up screen times, and asked his fellow amigos if they wanted to go as well. They demurred and an hour and a half later Daniel and I were off to the movies.

I am not a fan of action movies in general or Marvel hero movies in particular, and this movie was about what I expected. Some dude whose name I didn’t catch flies around thanks to his funky, retractable wings. Bullets ricochet off of high-tech armor. Skyscrapers blow up. Captain America displays mad skills with his shield. There is utterly fatuous, high minded talk about making the Avengers more accountable to humankind via a multi-national “accord”. It is the very definition of “damning with faint praise” to say that this flick was better than “Batman v Superman”, but it was pretty close.

I am, however, an enormous fan of my sweet, autistic son who asks for very little, and when he asks does so with deference and humility, and almost always receives “No” with grace. I watched him watching the movie almost as much as I watched the movie myself. He was engrossed, totally transported to the time and place and events depicted on the screen. Indeed, he was not “watching” the movie as much as he was participating in it. He moved his head and body and mouthed words as if he was a part of the action taking place on the screen 20 yards in front of us.

When the final credits (the REALLY final credits—I was faked out by the first set of credits; there was a concluding scene embedded between the initial round of credits and the FINAL round. Not surprisingly, Daniel was not fooled at all) began to roll we exited and enjoyed a rare dinner out together. Over chicken strips and macaroni we discussed a wide range of topics—Mother’s Day, the imminent conclusion of the school year, occupations, the nature of friendships.

Toward the end of our meal, he inquired “Dad, if you could have one super hero power, what would it be?”

“Hmmm. Good question. I think maybe I’d like to be invisible. That way I could approach people and listen to what they’re saying without them knowing it. I guess that makes me kinda sneaky. What about you? What one super power would you want to have?”

“I would want to fly. And have super strength. And x-ray vision for sure. And be invisible—yeah—that’s a good one, too.”

I looked into Daniel’s serious brown eyes, framed by his mildly askew glasses, and reflexively grinned at his mathematically challenged response. “You know, Daniel, even without those superpowers you’re pretty doggone awesome.”

“Thanks, dad. You’re not too lame, either.”

By Tim Swensen

Virtue & Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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