My Heroes … My Dad and Cris De Niro
There’s a difference between heroes and superheroes.
I was a boy in the 1960’s, which means as a child I was inundated with scores of superheroes, mostly from comic books. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Captain America … the list goes on and on. They each had two things in common – some type of super-abilities and they did something ‘righteous’ and usually on a grand scale - i.e. protected Metropolis or Gotham City, America … or the world.
I was always more impressed with less stupendous characters - ordinary people that did extraordinary things, not by superpowers but by valiant traits - traits like drive … perseverance … selflessness … and ‘a need to succeed!’
My Dad was a humble man but he was my hero. To me, what made my Dad a hero wasn’t some superhero quality, it was the way he lived his life. I grew up in a mostly Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. I used to see how many of the Italian Dad’s would do things that they thought were macho, but I thought were vain. Most of them sat in the first pews in Catholic Church just because the first pew was considered the place of honor during mass. These were the same men that, every Wednesday, would take their ‘gumadas’ (mistresses) out to restaurants and clubs in our neighborhood.
Their values weren’t my Dad’s values or mine. They considered vendettas honorable, but God considers forgiveness honorable. They considered the people that had the most were the most powerful; God considers the people that sacrifice the most to be the most powerful … and on and on.
My Dad wasn’t Italian. He was French and Spanish, but honestly, I describe him more of a “John Wayne” American. He didn’t act like most of the Italian men did. For instance, when he went to church he would sit in the back pew. The problem with that was that he had a hard time hearing – but that was okay – my Dad wasn’t an overly religious man. He believed in God but he was more a man to ‘live his faith’ than to be able to spout Biblical verse. When these men would invite him out on Wednesday’s, their day to take their mistresses out, my Dad would always refuse. He told me when I was older that he thought it was “… despicable for a man to take a vow and then not to live up to that vow.
My Dad had no mistresses. He placed my Italian Mom on a pedestal. He worked hard, never missed a day of work, had almost no vices (except for his cigarette smoking – Camel cigarettes – a habit he picked up in the Marine Corps), and had no hobbies to speak of – his work was his hobby. His virtues were selflessness, consideration and humility; his demeanor was quiet, affable and gentlemanly; and his achievements were more about reliability and loyalty then they were about saving the world.
I know … my Dad doesn’t sound like much of a hero, so why was he my hero? He was my hero because of his humility. He was the man to always give his seat to strangers (a lesson he taught my brother and me). He was a man to take the last seat in a movie theater or church … even though he couldn’t hear very well. He was a man who would talk about others as if they were geniuses. “That man is so smart …” and “That lady is amazing …” I have never known or met another human being more humble.
My Dad was the type of person that made you feel good about yourself. He was the type to bring the best out in you, by offering tons of praise along with some tactful constructive criticism, when necessary.
My Dad could ALWAYS be counted on – no matter what was needed – money – time – or action … and those things weren’t just afforded to family. Friends and even strangers could rely on my Dad … and they did.
My Dad wasn’t a talkative man, but people loved to talk to him. He wasn’t a comedian, but he could always make you laugh with his dry wit and he was the type that would make people smile when they saw him. He wasn’t a loud man, but he could get your attention with what he said, not how loud he said it. He wasn’t a flashy man, mostly living his life in one pair of dirty shoes, the same jacket and driving the same, old van but people still perceived him as being as debonair as Cary Grant. He used to joke about looking like Cary Grant. He didn’t look like the classy star but he certainly had the same charm.
My Dad died in 1998. He was more than just a Dad to me. He was the Best Man at my wedding … he was the most reliable man – the person that took me for my radiation treatments (I had cancer in 1996) … he was my best friend … and he was the humblest human being I ever knew. That’s what made him my hero and he remains my hero, to this day.
When I set out to create a fictional hero, I wanted to create one that emulated my Dad in certain ways … primarily his humility. Not exactly a heroic quality, especially by today’s standards. Heroes nowadays seem to border on cold-blooded killers and sociopaths. In fact, I can hardly distinguish the qualities of heroes and villains in too many of today’s modern thrillers.
I wanted to create a hero that cherishes his faith, family and friends. I wanted to create an ordinary person who was driven to do extraordinary things – not a super-human. I wanted to create a person whom you or I would be honored to know.
I’ve told you about my Dad, now let me introduce you to another hero of mine. His name is Cris De Niro.
Gerard de Marigny is the author of the geopolitical thriller, _The Watchman of Ephraim_, Book 1 of THE Cris De Niro series. The sequel, _Signs of War_ is scheduled for release in September 2011.
Gerard de Marigny resides in the beautiful foothills of Las Vegas, NV with his wife Lisa and his four sons. When not bending an arm with friends at the local pub, he's putting to paper the stories and characters that are alive in his mind.
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