I awoke way too early this morning. It was still dark. This morning, I was missing my late bloodhound.
Last year around this time, she was still alive, and she would sit beside me while I fiddled with the coffee pot. But she’s not here. Pancreatitis took her.
I’ll never forget it, last year we checked her into the pet hospital, they put her in one of those cones. They locked her in a cage. They shoved needles in her.
I was able to wedge my hand through the kennel door to pet her nose. It was the last time I ever saw her.
My mother always told me, “Don’t just tell someone you love them, write it down for them, then they can remember it always.”
Too bad dogs can’t read.
But then, Mama was full of country wisdom. I think she was a little like your Mama, Clark.
She’s the one who told me: “A bumblebee is faster than a John Deere.”
And: “Never judge a family tree by the nuts falling off it.”
And: “If you ever start to think you’re somebody, try telling a house cat what to do.”
Anyway, the reason I am writing you is because yesterday afternoon I opened the mailbox to find several bills, junk mail, real estate advertisements, and one manila envelope with no return address. Inside was an Action Comics comic book.
“Great Ceasar’s Ghost!” I thought to myself.
It took me back in time. I used to subscribe to Action Comics when I was a boy. I kept my subscription until I was 27 years old.
You were my childhood obsession. This began in earnest the week after my father’s funeral. My friend brought me a stack of your comics he’d gotten at a flea market for a few bucks.
There must’ve been a hundred of them. They dated back to June, 1938. God, the smell of those wonderful books. They were the greatest. You were not just a hero to me, you were an escape from my real life.
During that hellish year of grief, I read those comics a hundred times over. I knew every picture, every word-bubble, and I could get lost in the colors.
There’s one particular drawing I remember. You were swooping from the sky to save a dog from an explosion at a gas station. You were just in the nick of time.
And that’s what gets me about you, Clark—or do you prefer Superman? How does a man who can fly, who sees through walls, who can bench press a middle school, decide to help dogs? You didn’t have to do that.
You don’t HAVE to do a lot of things. You don’t have to dress in street clothes, or be so humble. You don’t have to act like a meek reporter, or wear eyeglasses, or work a nine-to-five job, or watch your cholesterol. You’re Superman.
You could be king of the universe, you could be rich, political, all-powerful, or you could appear on this season of The Voice and blow the competition away—literally, I mean you could use your heat vision.
But here you are, caring about dogs. What a guy.
I was 12 years old when I sent off for a subscription to Action Comics. I filled out a little postcard and sent my money via U.S. Postal Service. The cost was 9 bucks for 24 issues in the mail.
Batman didn’t do it for me. Spiderman was nothing special. But you. You were worth 9 bucks.
I can still remember one night, years before my father died, when my mother hosted a bunco tournament at our house. She’d outfitted the den with card tables and invited a hundred million church ladies over to eat finger food and play cards.
That night, my father and I stayed out of her way. We sat in his shed with a radio on his bench.
I remember this evening very clearly because it was a leap year, your birthday, February 29th. The local radio station played Superman serial shows back-to-back until midnight.
When it was all said and done, my father fuzzed my hair and said, “Old Superman was something, wasn’t he? All that power, and he always helps the little guy.”
Then he hugged me and said, “You always be sure to help the little guy, you hear me?”
I wish you could’ve met him. He liked you, too.
So right now I am reading a comic book, sent to me anonymously, sipping coffee, thinking about little jewels in life that have meant a lot to me. Like the way my dog loved me. And the memories of my father.
I just wanted to say that I’m grateful for you. People might not thank you enough for all the times you’ve saved the world.
You probably don’t get many letters from adults, but my mother told me that if I loved someone, I ought to write it down. And well, I guess that’s what this is.
Happy 81st birthday, Superman.