These are the times of the everyday hero
This is the battlefield of the modern world
There’s a spirit inside that keeps us alive…
Living day to day,
there’s no easy way in this everyday life.
Dolly Parton, “Everyday Hero”
When I was somewhere around eight years old, my family took a vacation down to Tennessee. It was one of my favorite trips, though the memory has somewhat faded with time. I remember being afraid of driving through the Smokey Mountains, but amazed at the height when we paused at a scenic stop; I remember the excitement and entertainment, the colors and chaos of the Dixie Stampede; I remember choosing outfits with my mom as I dressed up for an old-time photograph with my brothers in Dollywood — a photograph that has since faded, like the memory.
I remember, perhaps most of all, our trip back home.
I was tucked in the middle seat with books and toys surrounding me like usual as a blur of green passed the windows. The car was quiet as we immersed ourselves in whatever book or comic we were reading, listening to whatever we had in our walkmans at the time. It was raining out. I remember that the sky was dark and gloomy and gray.
Which is why I was surprised when my dad slowed and pulled over to the side of the road.
I think I was too young to understand what exactly had happened, and the memory has somewhat faded with time, like that photograph, with snippets here and there coming into focus. I remember my brothers and I turned around, leaning on the back of the seats, to watch as he approached a truck way off in the grass that we hadn’t even noticed, the woman slumped against the steering wheel, unconscious.
I remember more cars stopping by to help. I remember my mom telling us to stay where we were in that tone of voice where we knew better than to argue as she grabbed my dad’s green raincoat — I remember that raincoat — and an umbrella and stepped out into the rain herself. I remember someone else directing traffic until the ambulance came.
I remember thinking my dad was a hero.
The other night, I watched as he sat at the kitchen table after the dinner dishes had been cleared, a glass of wine next to him, bills spread out before him. I thought of everything he does, everything he’s been dealing with lately, everything he cares for. I thought how hard it must be to take care of your own mother, your family, your job, your house. I remembered that image of my dad standing in that old green slicker in the rain and how here he was, nearly twenty years later…
And I thought: my dad is still a hero.
There are ordinary people who do extraordinary things and there are extraordinary people who do ordinary things.
Maybe, then, there are both.
Would you choose? Could you choose? Or would you happy with a life led as either?