Who Is Your Hero?

Who is your hero? I’ve had a pile of heros in my life. Women with "I can do anything" attitudes and men that were invincible -- Michelle Akers. Mia Hamm. Brandi Chastain. Runners. Eric Liddell. Paula Radcliff.  

I can’t ice skate. It’s ugly and no one should ever see that happen ever, but Debbie Thomas -- I think she was every child’s hero during the 1988 olympics and we all wanted to ice skate.

There are others. John Steinbeck. His character and story development suck me into another world. Corrie ten Boom - she survived concentration camps with joy! They are my heroes. Heros are people that are not afraid and if they are they stare it down until it breaks to pieces. People that overcome hardship and rise above the world beating them down are heroes. People that seek truth and don’t stop till they have it. My hero.

 I recently watched the documentary on Alex Honnold. He solo, free climbed El Capitan. A tremendous feat of will power, strength and mental focus. I sort of think he is crazy, and I don’t want to solo free climb a 3,000 foot cliff, but I did try to do pull ups over and over again at the park with the kids a few days later, and the jungle gym climbing wall became a giant sheer mountain face to summit -- which I did and I felt like Alex.

I have another hero. She’s always been my hero. My dearest Aunt Marti. Over twenty years ago she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. From the very beginning she was determined to be stronger than the disease. She was determined to fight back. She took voice lessons to keep her vocal cords strong. She worked her hands. She worked her legs. She travelled all over and took the world in. She sewed. She never stopped sewing. Quilting mainly. 

Now, in her mid 70s, everyday throws her a battle that she wakes up and fights. She pushes to rise. To dress. To eat. Even though every single thing she does is focused work to communicate between brain and activity. Between food and fork and mouth, between hand and pencil, between foot and floor. 

This summer, I flew to visit with her. She looked at me straight away and asked how I felt when I saw her. Who asks that? Who is strong enough and bold enough to work together words to ask hard questions and seek real answers. I was expecting her to be unable to communicate at all, so I was able to say, “You are doing amazing!” My Aunt Marti lives in an assisted living facility. The people there are dear and are fighting their own battles and working to wake each day and go. And she greets them. She invites them to eat with her, she asks how they are and knows about their families. I went with her to a music and movement class. It is slow. It is old music collected by a young man willing to take time to put together music ages old and slowly walk through simple movements for an hour of a Tuesday. She wants to go. She participates. She moves. Slow movements. Awkward movements. But always willing and never saying, “I can’t” or “This hurts”. Never embarrassed that nothing works right. 

So, right now. My hero, is my Aunt Marti. While I was with her, her sweet friend came by to visit. As we sat there in a small room chatting, this dear lady explained how they had become friends. Apparently she noticed my aunt’s gorgeous quilting. My aunt said, you can do this. She said, "No way." Aunt Marti said. “Come to my house, I’ll teach you.” With shaking hands and feet and legs and head. With an unstable body -- an unwilling body -- she taught someone how to quilt. Her sweet friend -- quilts all the time. She carries on what my aunt can’t do anymore. 

We talked slowly. We walked slowly. We ate slowly. But we took on the day. She even took us to Happy Hour. I have to admit that when I have a neck ache, I am not about Happy Hour. I am about worry and frustration and sorrow. When my hair is falling out every day more and more, I don't have nice things to say. When my knees hurt, I think the world is ending. She is in a wheelchair and wobbly and inviting others into a world to chat and be together and eat and drink and enjoy the weather.

While I was there, we went for a drive. I held onto my Aunt’s bag for her. A bag she had quilted when her fingers still heard her brain. And I knew right then how strong she is. How brave she is. How determined and unafraid she is.  

My hero is my Aunt Marti.


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