As I write this, Hurricane Irene is approaching us, and it started me thinking about all the everyday men and women who do extraordinary things in times of crisis, the heroes who seem to emerge from every terrible situation.
That got me wondering: who was my favorite hero?
I know that a lot of people have heroes they carried with them from childhood: sports stars, TV or movie characters, and so many more. Other folks discover their heroes later in life, many of whom are amazing people by any measure, and have done extraordinary things.
But for me, the answer to the question landed a lot closer to home. And I don’t have one favorite hero, I have two: my mom and dad.
You see, even though I never really appreciated it until I had kids myself, my parents have always been there for me, a solid presence in my life. When I was young, rare were the times that at least one of them couldn’t be at an event that was important to me, like a band concert, and most of the time both were there. When one of them couldn’t attend, I often felt hurt by it, wondering what could be so important that they couldn’t come, or wondering if they didn’t really care.
It’s easy to draw those conclusions when you’re young. There are also some parents who don’t hold their kids up as their top priority, and who blow a lot of things off because it’s not convenient or they have other “commitments.” Looking back, and knowing now what I didn’t know then, my parents weren’t like that: the few times they weren’t there, it was because they really couldn’t be. I just wish I could have appreciated that a long time ago.
So, why are they my heroes?
Well, let’s start with my dad. He’s the man I would have liked to be. He’s fun, smart, humble, and works hard at everything he does. He’s also an extraordinarily loving and compassionate man who also has the spirit and courage of a warrior. I watched him save a man’s life, and have seen him risk his own on more than one occasion. And we also had loads of fun when he took me camping and fishing (Mom wisely staying home!). Some of the best memories of my life are from some of those trips and the crazy things that happened. A lot of those things probably would have made most men angry or upset, but Dad almost always just laughed and somehow turned potential minor disasters into a great time.
As for my mom, she probably won’t win the “touchy-feely” award, but she certainly gets the one for patience! For one thing, I went to the elementary school where she taught, so she had to deal with my shenanigans and probably wore a track in the concrete on the way down to the principal’s office for her miscreant son. However, she got a bit of revenge in eighth grade when I was in her class for algebra, where she had the joy of giving me the only math test I ever failed, before or after!
But Mom was also always there when I needed help with something, and didn’t dodge any bullets: if I was having a rough time with something she didn’t know about, she went and learned enough about whatever it was to help me out. She spent a LOT of time on things like that, again that I took for granted at the time, but that in the end helped me out tremendously.
Did I get everything I wanted? Heck no! My parents weren’t rich, by any stretch, and even if they’d been rolling in money, they weren’t the spoiling type. But I never wanted for anything that really meant something to me, and I can say without hesitation that I had an awesome childhood, as nutty and crazy as our lives were sometimes.
As a young man, I no doubt viewed my parents with the disdain that seems to so often go with the newfound freedom and invincibility of youth. But even after I left home to seek my fortune, they never interfered with the path I chose to follow (and I took some turns that led me to places I’d rather not have gone), and were always there when I needed them. Even as a grown man, I was still their number one priority.
More importantly, as I grew older, they became more than just parents: they became great friends. I know that we don’t talk as much as we probably should, but the line’s always open and we never fail to have a blast when we talk and get together, and I love them like crazy.
So, my mom and dad. They’re my favorite heroes. Who are yours?