When I started writing I realized that my stories always had a hero of a certain sort. He would always be willing to lay down his life for someone, of course, it was usually the heroine. I made sure that my hero would be tough, smart and would do anything to save the girl. I thought about that and wondered where the fascination came from. It turns out it’s been a pattern in my life. I’ve known quite a few. It started early. No surprise but my first hero was my dad.
He grew up in a big Italian family in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. He was a bit of a rabble rouser and never backed down from a fight. I grew up listening to the crazy stories of him and his buddies. It’s no wonder I’ve always been attracted to bad boys. He loved the underdog though and always looked out for people he felt were weaker and needed help.
As soon as he turned 18 he signed up to serve in World War II. Back then, the Army and the Air Force were combined into one branch called the Army/AirCorps. He was a radio controller and landed planes in the forgotten part of the war in India, Burma and North Africa. He refused to talk about most of it except a few funny stories but I know stuff went on. He had medals. He didn’t say much but I think just being there made him a hero.
He went on to work for ABC Studios as a stage hand. He helped a lot of people over the years. He got people jobs, helped them keep their jobs and worked with the union to improve employee benefits. He was not intimidated by the big wigs at the studio and honestly, I think there were times he intimidated them. At his funeral men I had never met came up to me and told me how great my dad was and how much he had done for them individually and their union. My dad had been retired for 25 years by then and they still remembered.
Now he never had to lay down his life for me exactly but there were a few situations where he showed his heroic tendencies. Growing up I was a typical Daddy’s girl. He was perfect and could do no wrong. A giant, a magician and a miracle worker. He could fix any situation. I’m not talking about toilets and sinks. That was always a disaster but handle a difficult situation? He was the man.
When I was five we took a trip to the snow. I was thrilled. I’d never seen snow before since we lived in Southern California. When we got there all the kids were going down the hills on sleds. I was always the one in our family that wanted to go fast and sledding looked amazing! My dad borrowed an inner tube from someone nearby. I got in and he pushed me down the hill. It was great at first. I felt like I was flying. Then I realized I was going really fast and there was nothing between me and the very busy street below. I was going to shoot across that street with all those cars whizzing by. There was no way I would have made it across without getting hit.
Now I couldn’t get myself out because I could barely see over the edge. My feet and hands were barely poking out over the top. I was pretty tiny then so I had no way to stop the inner tube. Just when I was starting to get scared, I saw a blur to my right. I didn’t know what it was but I knew the street was coming up fast. Then, from behind a tree, my dad flew straight out like Superman and landed in the snow, face down, in front of the inner tube. He had saved me. I’m not sure what happened next. I don’t remember. All I know was that was the first time I remember thinking he was a hero. There were lots of other times he came to my rescue. Picking me up when my car broke down or just listening to me cry over friend or boy trouble. He always knew what to say.
On my Wedding Day I was a nervous wreck. I was thrilled to be getting married but not a fan of standing up in front of a big group of people. I remember clearly the moment when all of my bridesmaids had gone down the aisle. The doors had closed and we were left standing there waiting for the big moment. I looked at him and said “Dad, I think I’m going to throw up.” He smiled and said “That’s okay. My underwear is too tight.” The doors opened and we laughed our way down the aisle. It had been perfect. He had saved me. Again.
He wasn’t perfect but in many ways he laid down his life over and over. I have lots of stories of people he helped. He defended those who needed it. He taught me to put others first. He was a Hero to me.
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13