Caleb and I have watched "Red Dwarf," a British sci-fi comedy, since he was a baby. It is safe to say that together we have watched each episode at least thirty times, and that the show is more quoted than any other in our home (even Elizabeth is a fan). In one particular episode, the inter-stellar travelers happen upon a dimension jumper from an alternative version of Earth. "Ace" is an inter-dimensional (and better) version of "Rimmer," a somewhat miserable member of the crew. Handsome, daring, intelligent, lovable, and well-dressed in a gold jumpsuit, the blonde-haired Ace is loathed by the lesser, more cowardly version of himself. Confronted by everything he wishes he were but knows he isn't, Rimmer becomes even more pitiful, intent on making Ace the butt of comments and practical jokes. All of this backfires, leaving Rimmer even less likable than he was to begin with.
I am Rimmer, and my son Caleb is my Ace.
But I don't loathe him. I admire him.
In a later episode Ace returns to visit the crew. He is wounded, having been shot while saving a beautiful Princess named Bonjela from the Nazis in yet another dimension. As he is dying, he confesses to Rimmer that he is merely the latest in a long line of "Ace" heros; countless Rimmers from countless dimensions have gone before him, traversing countless dimensions as a brave and beautiful hero. Ace wants Rimmer to take up the mantle and keep the "Ace Rimmer, Space Adventurer" legend alive. He says that "the universe needs a chap to look up to, someone to right wrongs, and just generally be brave, handsome, and all around magnificent." Rimmer laughs at the suggestion that he can become a hero, then scoffs and mocks Ace even further.
"You're just afraid old son, afraid that you're not good enough. You've always wanted to play the hero," replies Ace.
And he is right.
In the end, Rimmer relents, donning the signature gold jumpsuit and a ridiculous blonde wig. He is far from a perfect Ace; his voice isn't deep enough, he doesn't walk with enough swagger, and his personality jumps between the man he wants to be and the man he is trying to leave behind. But he is trying, and he is determined.
Many times I have marveled at the dimensional mix-up that brought Caleb into my life. Seventeen years ago today there was a warping of the veil that divides two dimensional plains. Caleb's spirit, certainly destined for a different sphere (or at least a better father), instead fell to Earth, just north of Seattle. He is a better version of me, more handsome, intelligent, capable, loving, and charming than I ever was or will be. His birth and subsequent example have brought confidence, determination, and adventure to my life. I almost feel like an Ace, rather than an Acehole because of him. No, I don't wear a gold jumpsuit or a blonde wig, my voice is not as deep as I sometimes wish it were, and I sometimes jump between the man I wish to be and the man I am trying to leave behind. (Can we just forget about the swagger altogether?)
But more often than not, I feel like a Space Adventurer.
Smoke me a clipper, I'll be back for breakfast!