Grandpa Louie, Superhero
Daniel Boone was a man, and when I was a kid, Fess Parker was my superhero. It was a joke to my classmates that I rushed home from school every day to watch the show and then recounted it to them the next day at show and tell. I don’t know if my love of character-driven stories was born with Daniel Boone books and shows, but the idea that a character could exist across multiple stories was fascinating to me.
Today at the writing practice I attend, one of the prompts—having to do with ice water—called to mind dear old Daniel Boone as well as a grandfather I made up and now oddly miss. Here’s what I wrote:
Grandpa Louie always said he had ice water in his veins. I was a first-year resident at Stanford Medical Hospital before it fully struck me just how hard he’d tried to shield me from the partial truth of his words. When I was five, it all seemed grand. Sitting by grandpa watching Fess Parker pretend to be Daniel Boone on TV while a big machine pumped Grandpa’s blood out of his body and then back in.
I thought Grandpa was a superhero, and now I know that he was. He held on until I was eight, and then he had to go. He left everything to me, the old trailer house in Hot Springs, his ’65 Chevy that I still have, and his “superhero ice water machine.”
I remember wanting to try it once, crying because Grandpa wouldn’t share his ice water powers with me. He said it only worked on the person it was meant for, and I didn’t believe him. I kicked him, kicked my grandpa, and then we both cried. He held me on his skinny lap and said I didn’t need ice water to grow up and become a superhero.
There’s nothing super heroic about staring down at a little girl with sunken eyes and almost no skin on her bones. She’s not afraid of the hospital or doctors, because she practically lives here and has been poked and stitched and emptied and filled so many times she could probably do the surgery herself if she had the strength.
“This is going to hurt a little, so let’s count to three together and then say ouch,” I tell her. She nods solemnly, counts with me in her soft little voice. She starts to cry when the needle goes in and then apologizes.
“You are a superhero,” I tell her. “I’m so proud of you.”
I turn on the television I had brought to her room and stick in the old VHS tape.
“Ready?” I ask her.
She nods, very serious.
The tape has been replayed so many times the images are grainy and shaky on the screen. Fess Parker jumps on a horse and chases after the bad guys. No matter how many times I’ve watched it, I can’t figure out how he always catches them and makes everything all right in the town.
If you loved a certain book or TV character as a kid I’d love to know about it.
XO Laurel Leigh