Those who know me personally are keenly aware that, at my core, I am nothing more than an overgrown child who refuses to let go of the fantasies and hopes that most people jettison long before adulthood. It is not an uncommon site in my home to see me watching a cartoon while simultaneously reading a scientific article about Quantum mechanics or the latest developments in genetic engineering. Even today, at the age of 38, I would rather take a trip to Toy’s R Us than to Home Depot. I can just as easily recite the entire rosters of the Justice League of America and the Avengers (including part timers!) as I can the structural differences between the 20 amino acids that make up all of our proteins. I am a man of science whose major thought processes are structured around the precepts of reason and logic who can still stare at my remote control with my hand outstretched vainly hoping that my latent Jedi powers will allow me to levitate it to my hand. I am a walking dichotomy of fantasy and fact, reason and ridiculousness – and I make no apologies for it.
My father used to often remind me that “you are only young once, but you can be immature forever”. Although his child-like side manifested differently than mine; my Dad, a big kid himself, rarely acquitted himself of this statement. He taught me the importance of being true to yourself, regardless of what others may think. My father passed on to me a zest for life sprinkled with a bit of child-like wonder that I always hoped I would be able to pass on to my children in the same way. I believe my daughters (yes they can name all the avengers and members of the justice league) are testament to this, and it was my hope that Rees would be too.
It is not a coincidence that the costume Rees wore the night before he died was a Superman costume. As a child growing up Superman represented the greatest of all the heroes to me. His combination of strength, honor, wisdom, indomitability and restraint touched a part of me, and continues to do so. Superman represents the very best of what humanity can be. Superman is the personification of humanity’s hopes and dreams. His powers, though not collectively possible biologically, are all within each of our individual reaches in one way or another. Wilber and Orville Wright showed us that a person can fly. Newton and Einstein demonstrated to us the powers our minds are capable of unleashing. Technology allows us to perform physical acts of strength well beyond the limits of our muscles. Courageous men and women like Martin Luther King Jr. and Anne Frank embody the indomitable nature of the human spirit. Who better to dress your son up as for Halloween than someone who is the culmination of all of these things and more?
I remember getting Rees ready that night for his big night of trick or treating dressed as Superman. I held him up and flew him around the house, his giggles an affirmation of his total joy. When we arrived that night at the safe Halloween venue, he sat upon my shoulders and he stuck his arms out straight in front of him, mimicking the classic Superman pose. I am sure in that one moment of time, he felt like he really was Superman, soaring above all the other adults and their children. My last, positive memory, of Rees is of him dressed and acting like my ultimate hero. That moment will forever be an indelible memory of my last time playing with my little boy. If I had to script a final playtime with Rees I wouldn’t have written it any other way.
I do not believe it was a coincidence that Rees’ last picture was of him dressed as Superman. Perhaps it is my inner-child that refuses to accept reality, but I truly believe that Rees, just like Kal-El, was sent here to do something special. My good friend, and former college roommate, Rob Edwards (an author whose first published novel, “An Image of Us”, was just recently published) told me that he believes that some souls are put here on Earth not for themselves, but to change others. He believes that Rees’ sole (or perhaps soul?) job was to change me; to help bring out something in me that had been lying dormant. Before Rees died I had always been a dreamer, but rarely acted on those dreams. I believed in the power of the good of humanity, but did not engage with the collective. His death did stir something in my soul and it has awakened me to the Super powers we all have inside us, but often leave behind as a vestige of our inner child.
My little Superboy may have left this world physically, but his spirit remains perched upon my shoulders – though now it is he lifting me up. Thanks to Rees, I believe that we can all be Super ; we just have to find it within ourselves and awaken it from its dormancy. I have seen the super power of compassion that my little boy’s message has begun to spread through ReesSpecht Life. Just as one, fictional, Superman made a difference in my life, it is my sincerest hope that one, real, Superboy can make a difference in other’s lives and help make this world a better place one piece at a time…