By Huy Pham

When I was younger, I didn’t need role models and superheroes. I had mom and dad. Dad with his supernatural willpower, working long hours at sea as a commercial fisherman. Mom with her optimistic outlook, raising her three children basically as a single parent. Language and cultural barriers be damned, nothing could stop my mythical parentals.

But, as I grew older, my parents became less mythical and more real. My heroes developed personalities. I began to see quirks and cracks in my idealistic personifications. I began to wonder if I was adopted.

My mother is a hoot. When I told her I was graduating at the top of my class, she hit me upside my head and told me to stop lying. That is my mommy.

She once asked me at dinner what I thought about heart transplants. She wanted to know whether or not she would still love the people she did if she gave her heart away. Cute, I know… but damn. I freaking lost it. My dad and I couldn’t stop laughing through dinner.

My dad is a teaser – I get it from him. He calls my mom “country”. And it’s hard to argue when she’s addicted to pro wrestling. My family dinners aren’t typical. Last Friday we ate our Lenten fish while watching the retirement of Edge from WWF. It was big news for her.

She’s diabetic, so I’ve been trying to get her to eat healthy. She knows I watch her, so sometimes she hides her cookies and eats them alone.

I’ve been trying to get her to exercise. Instead, she buys this new Vietnamese machine that shakes her body while she lays down. I’m pretty sure I could build one of these things at 1/5 the price with a vacuum cleaner and some bolts. I try to explain to her what I think, but unfortunately she believes the Vietnamese advertising more than her own son.

It’s cool though. This thing shakes her body so hard her shoulder hurts. I ask if she has lost any weight. Nope, gained 2lbs, and now my shoulder hurts, she says. I ask if she’s going to stop using it. She says no, I got to keep trying. I see her lay down and turn on the machine again, this time holding an ice pack against her shoulder. I shit you not. Perseverance.

A few months ago, she backed into our neighbor’s car. It was pretty obvious, the car was behind us in the driveway. I hear the doorbell ring. My mom shouts down the stairwell, “they have no proof! Tell them I didn’t do it!” No joke.

My dad? Conspiracy theorist at its best. I can’t even watch a football game without him accusing Vegas of controlling everything.

My father loves watching the Spanish channel. Now I understand why. If you’re not going to understand the TV anyways, you might as well watch pretty women. Genius.

I gave him a Kellogg sweatshirt for Christmas. He thanked me for giving him one of those free shirts you got with cereal. He had no idea where I went to school.

The sweatshirt would go well with my father’s French pumps. They got like 2 inches on the side. I borrowed them once for a debate tournament and got so much shit for wearing my father’s heels.

Yeahh…Mom and Dad? Not so much superheroes any more.

But their love is truly unconditional.

Let me illustrate. I hate going to the doctor’s. We didn’t have insurance growing up, so I always feel like I can walk it off. Plus, I hate constructive criticism. Pay a doctor to tell me what’s wrong? Please. Ignorance is bliss.

I have eczema on my arms that likes to flare up during the winter. My parents tell me to go talk to a doctor. I refuse.

A care package arrives with a bunch of creams. I don’t trust Vietnamese medicine. I grew up taking medication from God knows who, prescribed for God knows what. So, I googled. Turns out one of the creams is for gonorrhea. I called my mom to ask her WTF.

My sister explains to me later that because I refused to go to the doctor, my mom told my dad to go to the dermatologist and ask the dermatologist what he should do if he “theoretically” had eczema that flares up during the winter. I am not sure how that became gonorrhea cream, but alright.

No doubt, my parents are crazy, but in a endearing kind of way.

As they become less mythical, and I’ve become more self-sufficient, I do find that I treat them differently. They’ve become less like parents and more like old friends.

I tend to tease my mom a lot, usually with my father’s help. I like to physically push my mom out of the way. When she complains about me, I threaten to send her to a retirement home. Today, when she was showing me her medical bills, I straight-faced told her that I was tired of her getting sick. That she needed to stop it. I think she knows we’re kidding. I certainly hope so.

I do need to change my behavior a little bit though. I was recently in my best friend’s nursery. I saw Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” on the bookshelf.

Two decades later, I finally got the point.

The tree exists to give to the boy unconditionally. Like a parent, despite getting nothing in return, the tree puts the boy’s needs first. The tree is sad when it feels it has nothing left to give the boy and that the boy might never return.

I understand why my parents still like to help me move, change my oil and do my laundry, despite my (not so serious) protest. Although I am (pretty) self-sufficient, they still want to give.

They still want to be superheroes. Cute.

Well, they got it. I’ll continue to make them feel needed. After all my mythical parentals have done, the least I owe them is a bit of illusion.