Monday, February 17, 2014

Better heroes

The last time there was a championship parade in this area of the country was in June of 1979, three months before I was born.  No, I don't remember Lenny Wilkens, Dennis Johnson and the Seattle SuperSonics famous run of the late 70's, but Seattle does.  The whole Pacific Northwest does.

And everyone around here talks about the good ol' days when for just a brief moment in history, the rest of the country and world looked past their everyday responsibilities and glanced in the direction of this oft-forgotten corner of the US.  It happened after Lewis and Clark, the World's Fair, the WTO meetings (though not in a positive way), for the Sonics and last Wednesday.

No one loves the Northwest more than I do.  Call me domestic, pastoral.  Even call me provincial.  When the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl last week, I knew this was my chance to do one of those father/son things I've always only heard people talk about.


"Hey, Bryan.  If the Seahawks win the Super Bowl can I have some time off to take my son downtown to see the victory parade?"

To be clear: I am not really a Seahawks fan.  I mean they're great, but this isn't my hometown.  The whole NFL thing is a rather new concept to me.  My interest was just as much in the interest of history and patrilineal posterity (look it up) as a love of sport.  So when I asked this question of my boss it was based in naivete and some variation of this same sentence was probably spoken from the mouths of tens of thousands of dads in the Puget Sound area.

Sunday night, after the Seahawks won, details started coming out about a midweek victory parade and I asked Elisha if he wanted to go.  The media said it had the potential to be huge.

I had a plan, though.  Instead of being one of those dummies that drove into the center of downtown thinking I'd find a parking space next to the parade route, I decided to take mass transit.  The Sounder commuter train runs every morning from the Tacoma Dome to downtown Seattle: how much simpler could it get?

We got up early just to be sure we could get on the train.  Two blocks from the station Buddy asked, "Is this the parade?"  As we dodged through traffic and rounded the corner in front of the station I saw one thousand people in line to by tickets to get on the train.

"Bud, I don't know if this gonna work."
"Are we gonna ride the train?"
"See all those people?  They want to ride the train too.  We might just need to go back home."
"Awww. But I really wanna go to the parade."

Every parent knows that feeling you get when your child is disappointed.  It always hurts, but in a way you get used to it.  So common.  So easily dismissed.  Yet--if you're like me--there are times when your kid finds that break in the armor that almost forces you to say "yes."

I decided to park near a warehouse blocks away from the station just to see if maybe we could find a way downtown.  A man that worked at the warehouse stopped me and said that I shouldn't try riding the train because there were too many people.  He said that a block away is a bus stop for the express bus to Seattle.  And that's how we found ourselves an hour later headed north on a bus to Stadium Station.


The bus fought through the crazy traffic and got us to the parade route in the late morning hours.  We found our spot at Third and Washington and set up there.  It was 23 degrees.  The Snickers bar we brought for a snack was frozen.

And Elisha cried and whined.  Said he was hungry.  Said he was cold.  Said he wanted to go home.

My little boy said a lot of things on the corner of Third and Washington because we had more time together than we'd had in months.  One-on-one time.  Father/son time.

The parade route wouldn't work its way down to us for a couple of hours still and so he took his time to ask--as kids that age do--his dad a bunch of questions.  I only really remember one of them and that's the reason I'm writing this post.

"Yeah, Bud."
"Are the Seahawks gonna see us?"
"What do you mean?"
"When they come and they see my hat and my shirt will they see it and come and say 'Hi'?"

That's when the feeling from the train station returned.  Childhood innocence cut through the cold, the crowds and the cheers and just for a second made me think about it all in a way I hadn't before.

I tried to explain to him how there were just so many people that we couldn't actually talk to a Seahawk, but when the parade came he cheered as loud as he could, just in case.  Confetti was thrown.  Flags waved.  Horns blew.  Buddy enjoyed every minute of it until the last streamer fell from the sky.

Coach Pete Carroll holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy

On the crowded bus ride home I couldn't stop thinking about what Elisha said.  How absurd is it that our world has heroes that it can't talk to?  I know it's always been that way to a certain degree, but somehow I had to believe that His question was a reasonable one.

I bought the shirt.

I bought the hat.

I'm screaming your name.

Don't you have the time to come talk to me?

Most of this society's heroes don't and never will, but that doesn't mean all heroes are untouchable.  Although it hurt me think that I couldn't introduce my son to a real, live Seahawk, I realized that I still had plenty of heroes he could meet.

The soldier in our neighborhood--still recovering from his injuries in battle--is one.  The firefighter that responded to our 9-1-1 call is another.  The minister that gives everything he has in reaching for others.  The doctor.  The teacher.  They're heroes.  Real heroes.  Better heroes.


Before this turns into the script for a bad public service announcement, let me say I have nothing against the concept of celebrities.  I know they'll always be around.  I like sports and I hope the Pacific Northwest has a dozen more parades.  And I hope we all can put it in it's particular slot of importance and move on to the next thing, because the world certainly will move on to the next thing.

If you're a hero, please stop and say "hi" to my son.  You'd never believe how much it would mean to him.

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