STORIES
Family Heroes

Jerry M.

by Angela Meek - Adult Contributor - from Helena, Alabama in United States

“Receiving far less attention are the working class heroes, who go about their solitary work routines with quiet dignity, come home from another grueling day, yet still find time to interact with their children.”

— Armstrong Williams

"He's a little bit scary," my friend whispers.

I squint and look at the man sitting in the nearby dusty blue recliner. I try to see the him through her eyes, but all I can see is the slightly thinning black hair, the lines around his eyes that come from years of his quirky, almost smile. He doesn't say much. I suppose that could be scary, maybe?

"Yeah, I suppose so," I offer. "But he's really not. I mean not really. He's nice when you get to know him. He's just poking fun at you to see if you have a sense of humor. If he didn't like you, he wouldn't pick on you."

"Hmpf. If you say so."

We climb up the stairs to the second floor to my room. When we sneak back downstairs at midnight for a snack, the chair is empty.

My dad was like that -- quiet and moved about rather stealthily. He had an impassive face that, to most, was a bit intimidating. I knew better though. The slight twinkle in his eyes, the occasional drum of his fingers, the little upward twist to the corner of his mouth -- all the telltale signs of his good mood.

At work, they described him as stoic, dedicated, and dependable. Even there, his chuckles were not given out lightly. He dutifully went in day in and day out -- never late, never breaking rules, always striving for perfection in his work. As a civil engineer, avoiding errors was of utmost importance. Most of his work went unnoticed. I told my friends that my dad designed the new oversized public pool in our small town. I'd point out the mall in the nearby city he cleverly designed to appear level on the ground even though part of it was built underground. I cited the merits of a proper wastewater treatment plant. At best, I received obligatory polite nods. It didn't matter. I was proud of him. 

In our house, I would characterize him as dutiful, methodical, and reliable. He always came home at lunch, always came home in time for dinner. He took us to the beach each summer for vacation, patiently worked on math homework with each of the kids, and made sure we all had takeout when mother had a migraine. He was the resident blood, guts, and gore manager for any of the normal childhood mishaps. (Having served as a medic in the Korean war, his bedside manner wasn't the gentlest, but he was quick and used humor to distract from pain and fear.) He wasn't stingy with his knowledge, help, or belongings -- sharing his interests in computers, electronics, and games with us. I particularly excelled in these areas, so I was given permission to use his "man cave" computer room before he got home from work or after he went to bed. 

With his friends, he was giving and helpful. They knew they could count on him for a beer and a chat, as a hunting buddy, and to fix their computer malfunctions. 

Most people would consider this man, my dad, rather boring and nondescript. He wasn't remarkable. He didn't solve a large humanitarian problem, become a famous entertainer, or lead a life of notoriety and crime. He led a life of routine. He was steady. He could be trusted. He was a hero.

No, he didn't dive into burning buildings, save a busload of people from imminent peril, or take a bullet for the President. His heroism was his ability to face daily life challenges with a servant's heart and courage. He had a quiet inner strength and he gave of himself -- not just on one spectacularly notable occasion that is the hallmark of heroes we hail, but day in and day out. He was tirelessly dedicated to doing the right thing for those around him. 

Just like his living, his passing was quiet. He chose to have no funeral, no plot. His ashes are in a sedately handsome, small wooden box. The blue chair is still there a few feet away from the box, but the chair remains empty. There's a certain stillness about it that can't be filled. Like all true heroes, he is irreplaceable.

Page created on 6/19/2021 10:10:05 AM

Last edited 6/21/2021 4:47:37 AM

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