The Heroes Amongst Us

The dictionary defines a “hero” as follows:

he·ro

/ˈhirō/

noun

  • A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities:

In the wake of the recent fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, I was reminded by my very modest cousin, Joe Rabito – an actual 9/11 hero – that he has heroes of his own. This got me thinking, one doesn’t necessarily have to run into a burning building to save someone to be a hero. Certainly a person, who selflessly puts themselves at risk for the sole purpose of saving another, is undeniably a hero; but there are other acts of selflessness that people perform daily, making them unsung heroes to those they help, and I am sure, in the eyes of God.

As I pondered the thought, I realized that I didn’t have to look any further than my own back yard to find some of my biggest heroes. I wish everyone in the world could have had an opportunity to have known my mother. What can I say about a woman who literally spent half of her life suffering from one horrible disease after another, with hardly ever a complaint? For the sake of her family, she fought off breast cancer, cervical cancer, heart attacks, triple bypass surgery, total renal failure, steroid poisoning… well the list goes on and on, but I’m sure you get my point.

My mom did all this, with grace, dignity, a positive outlook, and of course her beautiful smile. She would somehow put her pain behind her, managing to hide it from most, while remaining funny, interesting, intriguing, witty, smart, kind, caring, gentle, and loving. She lived a life that inspired me to be a better person. Even in death, I can feel her guiding me every day. It is because of her, that I too can put my woes behind me and smile as if nothing is wrong. She taught me that behind every face was a story. There is no one exempt from pain and suffering. I learned that there is no such thing as an old person; every senior is a life lived, filled with a youth of their own, battles they’ve conquered, loves they’ve had, families they’ve raised, and wisdom that we will never be privy to, if we don’t take the time to get to know these people.

Mom taught me to be myself, no matter how different I may be, that I will never please everyone. I learned that your friends are not really those who “like you,” your friends should “love you,” and that we should love them back, just as passionately.

Through her lessons I have been rewarded with a partner who is truly my soul mate, dear and true friends, and a peace, happiness and contentment in my life as it is. Everyone I love and everything I have, I consider a blessing.

Shortly after she was diagnosed with a rear disease, my mother fell into a coma. We sat at her bedside waiting for the inevitable. Then just before she drew her final breath, mom suddenly awakened from the coma to utter the words “I love you” as she gently slipped away from this world. My mom was indeed one-of-a-kind and without dispute, SHE WAS A HERO.

Then there is my Father. Still a bachelor at age thirty-one, my dad was holding out for “just the right woman.” Realizing that life was too precious to waste, he was determined not to settle on just any woman, but to hold out for his version of “Miss Right.”  He had a clear image in his mind of the type of woman he wanted to spend his life with. It was definitely not the stereotypical Brooklyn born, Italian/American, hard edged women he had grown up with. He was focused on finding a lady who, in his own words, “was much more refined, in keeping with those, playing wives and mothers on screen in the movies and television.”

On paper at least, my mother, fit the bill, and then some. There were however a few snafus that had probably never even entered the equation when dad was planning for his perfect wife. You see, my mother was not only a widow, but she was seven years his senior… with three children!

Clearly it would be an awful lot for any man to take on, let alone a young bachelor. Still, my father went with his intuition, feeling that my mom was indeed the woman he had waited for, he married her and not only became our father, he became our “dad.”

He has broken his back over the years to provide us with the best that he possibly could, putting our needs above his at all times. He has taught me to be a man who is kind, loving, caring, and to have respect for the world that God created for us and respect for myself. He has been a source of inspiration and encouragement for me from day one. He has always been there in my corner, and he remains so today, still believing in me more than I could in myself. HE IS A HERO

I happened to be blessed with not only two, but three parents. My biological father was a very hard working man who did all he could to provide for his wife and three children. After suffering a heart attack at age thirty-nine, he was told that it left him with a blood clot. Back in 1961, before by-pass and blood thinners, it was pretty much a death sentence. He was told by his doctors that when the clot reached his heart, which would happen in a couple of months at best, he would have another heart attack, very massive, and die.

I can’t imagine what it was like for a young man, husband, and father to receive such news. I don’t know for sure how I would handle it, but my father decided to keep it a secret and work on a plan that would take care of his family.

Caring for his family was nothing new to him, as he had been taking care of family since he was a young boy in the fourth grade of grammar school! That was during the Great Depression and as a child; he would sneak out a window to run away from home. He would then hop freight trains to get to the Midwest, where he would find farm work. Once he amassed what he felt was, a sufficient amount of money, he would return home to give it to his parents, helping them with the expenses’ it took to raise their nine children. Each time he returned, he would promise his crying mother that he would never do it again, but of course he did. It was the kind of boy he was, and the kind of man he became. So when he learned that he was going to die, he knew he couldn’t leave this world without knowing that his beautiful wife and his three children would be okay without him.

Ironically, my biological father (Mario) and my dad (John) were friends. John had a huge crush on my mother and my father knew it. Although John thought that he was being very cool about it, everyone who knew them was well aware of his infatuation with my mom. She was the standard that he had set for his own wife.

One day when John came to visit my father in the hospital, my father told John (and swore him to secrecy) exactly what his grim diagnosis was. Of course John was stunned, but he was sent into a tailspin when my father gave him the green light to become my mother’s husband! My father knew that a man with John’s integrity and exceptional morals would take good care of his wife and his children.

He may not have had a lot of schooling, but my father was a wise man nonetheless. As the weeks passed, he would ask John to drive him to his doctors’ visits. Once there, he would always be very insistent that my mother and John go to the diner down the street to wait, while he saw the doctor alone. This not only kept my mother in the dark, it also gave her and John an opportunity to get to know one another better.

Of course everyone knows that John did indeed marry my mom and become my dad, but what an incredible biological father I had who, during his final days, kept focused on his family’s future. HE WAS A HERO.

I find heroes everywhere I look around. The nuns in my church, who have become my friends, started the only organization in Palm Beach County to not only feed the homeless, but also provide them with a shower and a place to wash their clothing, a simple human dignity we take for granted. These nuns; THEY ARE HEROES.

My sister Janice; who sat outside in the rain for hours, just to watch one of her students play in his little league baseball game, simply because she promised him that she would do so. I remember her telling me that the smile on the boy’s face made it all worthwhile. SHE IS A HERO

The more I began to think about my family and friends, the more I began to see everyday people, who by their deeds, things done without any thought of self-gain, are heroes in their own right. I know without a doubt that if you take a look at your own family and friends, you’ll find yourself surrounded by heroes as well. You are most likely a hero to them.

Every day there are men and women, boys and girls, who are preforming selfless acts of kindness for their family, friends, strangers, and even animals. In a world where the news media constantly bombards us with stories of evil doings, I am happy to know that one quick appraisal of the people in my life, has me surrounded by true and honest heroes. I know that you are too.

heros-2

Until next time,

Don

2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Heroes Amongst Us

  1. Andrea

    I love this. So true. Miss you xoxox

  2. Sherri Fuchs

    Your words are so true and beautifully written. We often times dismiss the special people in our lives.. Your Mom and Dads were and are very special; you are fortunate to have had excellent role models! Love you!

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