BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — I don’t know whether it’s society-inflicted inhibitions or my general inability to string together a coherent sentence at 6 a.m., but as I go through the morning motions of sharing a bowl of flakes with my dad, I can’t seem to say, “You’re the best person I know. I look up to you more than anyone. Please pass the orange juice.”
Day after day I leave the breakfast table with things unsaid and terribly thirsty.
At age seven, between the slits in my tie-tent walls, I watched my father interact with his own and came to a disturbing conclusion: they despised each other.
What other explanation could there be for the cold, unfamiliar handshake that conspicuously took the place of an appropriate welcoming embrace?
In a home where you could not only expect a bedtime hug but also an after-school, mid-evening, and you-were-walking-by-and-my-arms-were-right-here-anyway hug, I took any absence of in-your-face affection to be poorly masked hatred.
I, of course, undertook the task of reconciling the father and son the only way I knew how: demanding they hug at every turn.
But no level of foot stamping, squealing, or ridiculous attempts at shoving them towards each other produced the sort of display that would prove their love for each other to me.
When I was 10, my Grandpy moved in with us. With the same straight-from-the-board-room hand grasping, my Dad greeted his father and ushered him to what was, up until that point, my father’s office.
Keeping the walls of his personal space intact, I watched over the years as my Dad listened to my Grandpy’s countless stories, allowed him to win every debate and always made sure there was tap, not spring water in his glass; no lettuce on his burger and decaf coffee in his cup.
I slowly came to recognize each act of love, and was in a state of shock that Grandpy was receiving as many daily squeezes as I was.
Having never read a comic book, I feel too uninformed to compare my father to Superman or any other cartoon hero.
Is there one who never tires? One who is omnipresent, always there when you need him? One who will read lines with you at 10 at night, using a full range of expressions and accents, then get up at five in the morning and ask if you need to run it through again?
If I had to create a superhuman persona for my dad, it would be Hugman.
It wouldn’t be because he gives so many, but because his secret is, however many hugs you think he gives you, you’re actually getting twice that much.
Molly Horan is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.