Background: Although I preferred Marvel comics (Spidey, Thor, etc.), I didn’t totally shun DC comics. One of the many differences between the two was DC’s use of “parallel universes”. It was when something big transpired, like Superman getting caught in a super-nova sun explosion. When he’d get back to earth, everything seemed completely the same, but then he’d spot Lois……. married to Jimmy Olson! Almost everything was the same, but with some huge weird stuff going on.
The super nova: My wife’s family was unlike any I had ever met before. Back in the day, they would have pretty much intellectual debates rather than arguments. I used to marvel at the contrast between them and practically any family, certainly my own. No way could we Sommer children (and parents) could remain so, I don’t know….. intellectual. So it was no surprise when Claude had a slight disagreement/debate with one of his daughters (age about forty). Things never got noisy, although they were in disagreement with each other. Suddenly, she had to rush out of the house, late for something, and I was alone with Claude. I made my “uh oh, I hope I don’t get in trouble for saying this” noise, followed by my honest, though in retrospect perhaps the tiniest bit rude question. Paraphrasing the conversation, I asked Claude, “At what age do one’s children have to be before the parent no longer tells them what to do?”
Claude responded: “I wouldn’t assume to tell my adult child what to do. However, it is not a parent’s right, but their duty to continue to try to provide guidance to their child, no matter what the age.”
It was one of those bizarre radical moments that I felt everything shift ever so slightly. It was as though I had been blown into a parallel universe where everything looked exactly the same, but something was permanently different. Instantly, I was shown my possible future: rather than just being needed as the father of my children, I could be an important contributor to them as grownups. Always important. Always their father. Years later, I still happily inhabit this wonderful parallel universe, and I will always be grateful to my father-in-law for taking me here.
Dedicated to Claude Nolen who died March 2, 2015.