Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Unsung Hero

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a true believer in the power of perspective.  A new one is circling around us all the time…. just waiting for us to take it in.  We just have to be willing to see it.  I believe a person’s many perspectives come from their own experiences that mold their view of all things in life.  They can be static and they can be evolving.  They can be life-long and they can be momentary.  Each one is individual and unique.  I believe that most Mothers share some common perspectives and I am no different than most Mothers.  

For example, as a Mother, the moment we are blessed with a child, there is a new perspective waiting.  Like the one where we are sharing a hospital room with another Mom who, perhaps, has a child that will not stop crying.  We gaze down at our own peaceful newborn and feel a pang of guilt over our own sense of calm, if only for a moment.  Our perspective in that moment might be that we are glad we are not her. Another example is that not-so-rare visit to a grocery store where we observe another Mother with a screaming child (or perhaps it is our own screaming child), and we are momentarily thankful that it is not happening to us (or we are envious of the other Mom with calm, well-behaved children).  These are momentary and fleeting.

As a Mother, I find myself tearing up over a news story about a child with cancer that still finds the strength to smile and do something good for someone else as his or her own Mother gazes at them with adoring pride.  I inhale enough perspective to go on another day; another day as the Mother of a special needs child. Some days, smiling does not come easy.  Some days, finding the time or energy to even observe what is around me takes the patience of Job.  I need perspective every single day to keep me sane.  Knowing that my own child will never marry, never offer me my own grandchildren and never experience many of the joys, I myself have experienced.  I am a weak human, and I need something to grab onto for dear life.  Perspective gives me that power.  Somehow I can muster more and more courage from this perspective to put one foot in front of another and move forward. 

Some life-long perspectives are familiar to any human being.  The lifelong ones are harder to keep ‘hold of as we get mixed up in the busy business of daily life.  We find ourselves complaining about the gridlock of traffic, but as we finally arrive upon the accident, we discover that an entire family suffered a horrible accident.  These things supply that lifelong, deeply-ingrained taste of gratefulness we often need.  I know I do.

Perspective often comes at the cost of someone else’s pain or suffering.  This I cannot change.  It is life in all its varied and often grueling glory.  Perspective is often difficult to see when we are in the midst of a crisis or feeling alone.  We are only human, after all.  But opportunities are there.

I had never asked him, but I often wondered where my husband got his perspective.  He is so hard-working, so honest and so caring (can you tell I adore him even after 30 years of marriage?).  He cares about what others think of the work he takes such pride in.  He cares dearly about his sons and their well-being….and me.  He takes great care of his family and almost never complains.  He takes pride in his life and its effect on others.  He has never once even outwardly contemplated giving up.  As his wife, I can say that he is not perfect…..neither am I.  I wondered about how he came to be such a good man.  What gives him the daily strength that he possesses?  This question turned around and around in my mind.  That is, until I met another man that I discovered was the driving force behind his perspective.

My husband, Chris, came home one day and was telling me about this guy whom he had worked with for some years, although I had never met him.  He also owns his own subcontracting business just like we do.  His involves the dirt work to prepare a commercial site prior to foundation, and the parking lot after construction.  As Chris is telling me about this man, his voice becomes softer and more compassionate.  I even see a tear welling up in his eyes.  Chris is such a tough guy that this takes me aback. 

I listen closely as he details a life that I can only imagine.  He runs a crew of 20 men, several trucks, and multiple pieces of large equipment like backhoes, front loaders and dump trucks.  He drives 100 miles round-trip Monday through Friday to take his son to a private school, after his own wife passed away from a long illness.  He then drives all over our huge metropolis checking up on numerous jobs and making sure his business is running smoothly.  Over the years that Chris has known him, he has graciously pre-dug numerous jobs for us to prepare for our plumbing pipe, never charging us a dime.  He does all of this while suffering from the wrath of Multiple Sclerosis; MS so bad that he cannot independently exit his pickup truck to care for his own needs.  Despite this, every single person around him exudes a respect worthy of Mother Theresa.  But this man is not famous.  He is incredibly humble.  As Chris spoke, I could tell my own husband felt that same sense of respect for him, too.  I looked forward to the opportunity to meet this man who had brought my own husband to tears and provided him a clear and unbreachable perspective.

When I finally had the pleasure of meeting this man, I could sense his love of life and his heart as big as the moon.  I walked to his pickup and he greeted me with a smile and kind regard, asking how our sons were doing.  He was humble and serene in his expression.  I also had the pleasure of meeting his son, who was off for the summer, and often accompanied him around town.  His son was polite, engaging and kind as well.  Looking back at the owner, I thanked him for his ongoing and generous help over the years.  He brushed it off as if it were nothing, in his own obvious modesty, asking only how he could help us. Help us, I thought?   

Earlier this year, Chris came home with some disturbing news.  This man had fallen on a job site and broken his left femur.  I knew that it was quite unusual for him to even get out of his truck due to his limited mobility.   It seems there was a problem at a job site. He grabbed his crutches, determined to take a look, falling as he attempted to step over a curb.  The doctors performed a lengthy surgery to pin his femur and he was now confined to his bed for six weeks, which for him would be grueling.  Not being able to independently maneuver his world or keep some semblance of his routine would be difficult, to say the least.

I did the one thing I knew how to do…I prepared a casserole to deliver to him and his son.  We loaded the car on a cold winter’s day with the kids and the casserole and we drove the 50 miles to his home.  His son answered the door and led us to the chair where he was sitting.  Again, there was that smile.  There was no need for pity.  We offered the casserole, for which they were both appreciative, thanking us profusely.  They briefly spoke about the daily PT therapy sessions and work-related duties they were doing, both of them smiling.  Moments wasted on regret were none.  Seconds wasted on the past were nonexistent.  Only moving forward.  Only continued doses of perspective served up for Chris and for me to drink from.  He is the unsung hero providing my own hero of a husband with the daily dose of perspective that feeds his soul.  Now, I am also the happy recipient of his strong and powerful perspective.  How can we ever properly portray the kind of thanks worthy of this man? I do not know, but I am immensely thankful. I shall cling to this inspirational example each and every day. I now know my husband does, too.

I wonder where the unsung hero gets his own daily dose of perspective?

Check out the Rogers Neighborhood and learn more about fragile X syndrome.