Tom Hamel: Action Hero

Firstly, clearly this is not a week from my last post. I promise to improve henceforth.

How can you possibly give credit to your hero? It is an impossible task, but I will attempt it.

Cheesy as it may be, but my hero undoubtedly is my Dad. He is everything you can imagine a hero to be. Strong, Independent, Intelligent, Kind, Caring, and Selfless. He is a bulldog when he needs to be, a shoulder to weep into, an imaginative man with the ability to make dolls and blankets come to life when boo boos are a plenty, and he’s even occasionally a rock star.

My dad is awesome. Consider this little ditty:

How many RPC students does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
(You pause to consider what Catholic joke may be coming).
Zero, Tom Hamel’s already done it.

And isn’t that the truth. My Dad is a man of action. Oh my goodness, things are about to get even better!! My Dad is an action hero. Perhaps that’s what RPC should give to all its grads. The Tom Hamel action figure: a Saint in the making.®

But I know he’s not perfect. He has his little faults. He eats ice cream when he knows he’s not supposed to. He is a big tease like all the men in my life. He loves ABBA (sorry Padre).

….I think this is an appropriate time to end this list.

I still like to think he’s perfect though.

So now to let you in on a not so secret family secret. It goes like this. I was a newborn and my parents were out after mass one Sunday with all of us four kids. Some family friends were sitting nearby eating their lunch as well. The Father of the other family said to my Dad “So is this your last kid?” To which my Father replied by gesturing towards Jeffrey my older brother by two and a half years “He was our last kid!” When Mom tells the story she makes sure we know that the other Father was asking something a little to personal.

But alas it is true. I am the classic Catholic surprise baby.

I came into my parent’s life in a time of great prosperity for them. I think they were quite shocked by the fact that another ‘blessing’ was coming into their lives. I’ve known about my origins since I was about 12 when I asked my Mom “How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant with me?” (Inquisitive much?) When she told she was quite surprised and the implications set in it changed how I looked at things. I was no longer the final precious planned Hamel baby, but instead I was a tragic mistake, an interruption in their already busy lives. I began to think that that was why I was born bald, with a V on my forehead, and not nearly as classically cute as the other kids. Now I know this seems ridiculous, but I’ve spoken to many other youngest children and this type of active imagination coupled with a sense of inferiority to their siblings is quite commonplace.

Of course I began to mature and realize that you can’t always trust your 12-year-old self and the dramatic musings of your heart. God does indeed work in mysterious ways and surprise us all the time with many wonderful things. But something still remained in me, egging me on year after year that I was inferior.

And so returns Tom Hamel to the story. I believe that my coming into the world changed my Dad in a way he didn’t see coming. You’d have to ask him about the exact details as it is just a notion on my behalf. I have always had a special connection with him as a result. That has always worked its way into our relationship. I can look strait into his eyes for song after song while he sings to me and plays the guitar. It is like nothing else I have experienced in my life.

My first memory is of me sitting next to Dad wrapped in zhuzhin (my baby blanket) on the downstairs stairs in the Killarney house holding on to his arm, while he played the guitar and sang the folk song ‘Lost John Riley.’ I can transport myself back to that moment in an instant. I know exactly how I felt. Safe. I felt like I would always be happy if my Daddy was around. I could look at him forever. He was perfect.

It is perhaps a memory that happened more than once through all my stages of life. Bald, blond, scrawny, even throughout puberty again and again he was there for me. We may have disagreed between these stages on everything from the mysterious disappearance of my chocolate covered pretzels from Purdy’s to why I wasn’t ever allowed to go on any dates to why he must ask me even as an adult when I leave the house where I am going and when I will be back. I still remained spellbound.

And his heart responded to mine in a similar fashion. My Mom recalled a story to me about the last time I played with my worship team at TWU, a crowning accomplishment in my life. During one of my solos he turned to her and said “Diane, she’s my favorite mistake.”

The happiest day of my life was not so long ago. I got to marry my best friend in the world, tied with Dad for the best man I know. In the back of the church right before I walked down the aisle Dad kept affirming me telling me how good this was and how he felt so secure giving me to Robbie. He told me He loved me. I tried to hold back tears failing miserably but smiling through them I told him I loved him too. And then came the affirmation I needed to know that I am loved and was planned for this world. It came at a perfect moment. He said to me something to the effect of “I’m so glad we had you Laura. I wouldn’t trade you for the world.” Those words are truth. They tell me I can conquer anything for I am truly loved and cherished. I am invincible. I am in fact the second generation Tom Hamel action figure: The Laura de Fleuriator®.

To top things off Dad wrote me a song for my wedding. It was perfect. I was so surprised. He sneakily wrote it in the basement in the months leading up to the big day. He had been playing it for months for friends and family alike when they would come to visit trying it out on them like a true artist. The name of it is ‘The girl at the top of the stairs’ commemorating his own memory of his little Laura waiting for him at the top of the stairs every day when he got home from work. The morning of the wedding he took a photo of me all ready to go to the church, veil and makeup intact standing excited looking for approval from my Daddy and Mommy at the top of the stairs. He showed that photo at the reception while he played the song. You see, my Daddy is a very thoughtful one.

The picture I’ve included below is of that very moment. Note that all three of his beautiful girls, plus little Cate are totally entranced by Tom Hamel, their hero. In that moment he was his real self removed of all the glitz and glamour that I sometimes ascribe to him of action and heroics. He was showing me what could logically be called a nearly perfect love, only because it is earthly. But as far as I’m concerned its perfect.

Aren’t I lucky?

A perfect moment

I love you Dad

I love you Dad.

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