FATHER'S DAY ESSAY SECOND PLACE: My personal Superman

I would love to take this opportunity to introduce you to my personal superman, AKA D-Dad (to his grand kids), AKA Jerry Lynn Russell to the rest of the world.
As a child, my dad really appeared to be Superman through my little eyes. There was nothing he couldn’t do, didn’t do, fix, rig or make better. But as an adult, I have realized exactly to what extent he really was, is, and continues to be my superhero.
When my sister and I were young, I remember vividly and so fondly each day he drove up from a long days work. He never got a foot in the back door before we bombarded him (OK, maybe this was mostly me). He taught my sister to play basketball and played one-on-ones with her many an afternoon. I really wasn’t the
athlete, she was … I was the gymnast! So before taking off his work boots, showering, or even thinking of sitting down in his recliner he was spotting me on back-handsprings and aerials in the front yard until mom called us all in for supper.
He taught us to fish, took us camping, took us on wonderful memorable family vacations each year. He taught me to hunt (took me with him for as long as I remember and I was not a quiet little girl!) He taught me to drive a four-wheeler. He pulled my sister and me around the block in the snow on sleds after helping us build the best snowman in the neighborhood. He took care of all the dogs I “had to have” but never took care of. He taught us to drive, although he may not want to take credit for this now! He also played the best tricks on the neighborhood trick or treaters each Halloween whether he was perched in a tree with a water hose or pretending to be a leaf-stuffed monster that came alive once they got a handful of candy from his lap.
As a fireman for over 30 years, he took me to rescue calls, fires, wrecks and actually sealed the deal for me at the age of 6 to become a registered nurse because I loved the urgency of each emergency.
With all he did WITH us, he managed to do everything FOR us we could have ever imagined by working at least two jobs most of our life at home until he had us both through four years of college with bachelor’s degrees. But I never once heard him complain, not one time. And I never heard him say “I’m too tired right now” to me, my sister or my mom. To boot, all his hard work and time spent on his girls, he still had the most beautiful yard in the neighborhood with 35 rose bushes and an impeccable landscape that was all his own (my mom’s good at a lot of things, but she definitely does not have a green thumb).
Other than his family, his loves were motorcycles, hunting, riding horses and water skiing. And he literally sold his ski boat to pay for his baby girl when I came along in 1979. A truly invincible man who put his family first and sacrificed anything needed for his family.
My daddy is a man of unbending faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ. We were in church each and every Sunday. If you could go out on Saturday night, then you could go to church Sunday morning – no excuses (trust me, I tried them all). Oh, and EVERY Friday night when my sister or I weren’t cheering at football games, we were at Malone’s Fish and Steak House – by 5:30 p.m., I might add.
Last year, however, we almost lost our superman. Daddy was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in January 2009. After a month in the hospital and major surgery followed by grueling chemotherapy and radiation, our superhero went quickly from the 220-pound man he was to the 150-pound man he is today.
But he is here with us and we thank God for that each and every day. While losing most of his stomach, his ability to eat and his superhuman strength, he presses on each and every day and still amazes me to no end. He refuses to give up or give in. He is still trying to work each day he can get out of bed. He makes every baseball and T-ball game he can muster the energy to get to. And still tries to keep those roses blooming. And, of course, he is still there for his girls, as if nothing has happened to him.
As of two weeks ago he left work and went to my house to dig ditches in my yard during a flash flood while I was working because my house very easily floods. He, of course, was thinking of me before himself. A few months ago, as water was coming in my house at 9:30 p.m. I called to ask him what I needed to do. Of course, he didn’t tell me – he got out of bed, put on his boots and raincoat, grabbed his shovel and came to my house. We worked in the dark in torrential rains digging ditches while my boys played in the puddles – an exhausting but wonderful memory.
Daddy worries that his four grandchildren don’t understand why he’s not in the floor wrestling with them anymore, why he’s not riding them around on one of the horses or motorcycle or pitching baseballs to them in the front yard as he always used to be. But they do understand, even my 5-year-old, the youngest, understands. I’ve heard it from their mouths. The have an amazing comprehension of his love and what he wishes he was doing with them. They fully understand what a wonderful D-dad he was to them, is to them and will continue to be to them.
Daddy has taught me so many things and continues to do so every day. Little things, technical things, mechanical things and very important things – like how to be the best mother I can be to my two boys, how to be an active parent, how to stand your ground and stand in your faith, and always trust in the Lord and His will.
Your heart, your faith and your love have made us who we are today. We are so blessed to have you as a father. Thank you for being the greatest dad any little girls – and now big girls – could have ever imagined. We love you so much. Happy Father’s Day!

Allison Armstrong