HERO: noun, a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
We all have heroes. Whether we know it or not, there’s always someone to look up to, whose actions leave you in awe.
Kids look up to the caped citizens fighting crime on TV. Teenagers believe their celebrity crush can do no wrong. And then all of a sudden, you’re an adult. An adult who realizes that the real heroes made sure the world kept spinning while you were living carefree and playing in the backyard. Our Military, Policemen, Firemen, Teachers, and…yes, our Parents.
Luckily, it didn’t take until adulthood to know I hit the hero jackpot. Don’t get me wrong, I had that teenage attitude, but not very often. I’ve really always known just how much my parents did for me. I distinctly remember understanding the daunting cost of dinner for a family of 4 when I was in college and could barely afford meals for just me. I would then get a couple of pizzas and drive to my parents’ house and surprise them with dinner. It wasn’t fancy, but I wanted them to know I appreciated the 18 (and counting) years of care they gave to me.
But this summer took the meaning of hero to a whole new level…
Long story short, kidney failure brought us to this summer. Dad had been on dialysis and rocking it for 2 years. 4 exchanges a day just became the norm for all of us. Nobody minded that we’d schedule dinner and a movie after the 7pm exchange. As Dad always said “you gotta do what you gotta do”. And we did. We really did.
April came, we had a wonderful Easter dinner of smoked steaks prepared by Adam and Dad on his new smoker. Dad realized that week that he had a blister on his foot that wasn’t healing very well from his cardiac rehab workouts. He was admitted to the hospital to see what they could save. The kidney disease had gotten to him first though, caclifying his veins and preventing blood flow in his legs. It all happened so fast. Dad went through THREE amputation surgeries. Why, you ask? For us. For my mom, for my sister, for me. His love for us was what was going to get him home. His girls. Every decision, every painful move and PT session, every medicine that made him sick and set us back…that was for more time with us. He was so worried about me and if I’d have a good birthday, but never for himself entering a new way of life. He fought hard to get discharged and come home in July. Being entirely dependent on his family was a new normal, but we were all up for the challenge. Dad endured so much, but Mom did also. As the caretaker, that’s a whole other ball game. And I’ve never seen someone do it so selflessly, so flawlessly, and so fiercely all at once. Working from home and taking care of Dad, then when Dad went to bed, she’d catch up on more work. Two heroes in their own right are always better than one. They were the A-team.
Little by little, Dad’s health deteriorated as we moved into autumn. We all hated to see it, no one wanted it to be true. His sense of humor never wavered. College football was a never-ending countdown to get him through the week of oxygen chambers and dialysis treatments. He kept fighting and then he would fight some more with what he had left to give. Dad ended up in the ER on September 27th with the decision to be made of surgery #4 to the hip….or hospice. And my hero faced that decision head on. He faced it courageously and steadily. Again, he did the hard work for us. He declined surgery and further dialysis treatments. He had fought until it was clear that he couldn’t anymore. I watched him for 6 days effortlessly say goodbye to friends and to us, it was just the next step in his journey. And then I was there when he won his fight to get to Heaven. He left this Earth on October 3rd and I believe he ran through the pearly gates, because he could again. And since October 3rd, I’m selfishly sad, and often heartbroken, but I have mainly felt gratitude. I am so grateful now and forever for Dad’s gift to us of time. I’m grateful that I know he’s no longer in pain or suffering. I’m grateful for the example he set of what a good man is and should be. I’m grateful for every laugh, every text, every fiber of his being in my life.
I challenge you all to find the hero in your life and learn from them. What is it about them that you are most grateful for?
I’m grateful for my new guardian angel. For my Dad, my hero. ❤