I Believe in Heroes

Allison - Broadview Heights, Ohio
Entered on September 14, 2007

I believe that the shape of our lives can change in a moment. If that moment is a tragic one, we can be victims or heroes depending on the role we choose to play.

It was a year ago. There had been a light rain that left the streets shimmering in my headlights. It was very early on Saturday. The streets were deserted and quiet. I turned off the radio. Somehow I found it distracting and irritating. I had a long drive and was nauseous. I had already been sick twice since the call.

“I have bad news,” said my sister Amy. And there it was- the moment when everything shifts. Time stops. Life ceases to move forward on its predictable path. Nothing will ever be the same.

My first reaction was despair. It just couldn’t happen. My dad was indestructible. He could do anything. He could do everything. He built tree houses and A- plus science projects. He baked birthday cakes and taught me to drive. He was always there wherever and whenever I needed him. My handsome, smart, funny, 50 year-old Dad had had a massive stroke.

“Look I am not going to kid you. This is catastrophic,” said the doctor when he came to talk to us. A clot had cut off blood to the middle cerebral artery on the left side of my father’s brain. He was in a coma. His brain was swelling. There was a strong chance he would die. If he lived, his brain would be badly damaged.

A year has past since that moment last September. My father lost the vision in one eye; he can’t use his arm and can only walk with a cane. He is speechless –literally unable to speak because of a condition called aphasia. My father had been successful professionally managing a technical function for a large corporation. He was a great communicator. I remember him traveling to Australia to be a speaker at an international conference sometime before the stroke. Now he can’t even say my name.

In spite of all he has lost he is more amazing than ever. I read an article about stroke ‘survivors’ and realized that the term just didn’t define my Dad. He is funnier than ever. He always has a warm smile and sparkle in his eye. He attacked recovery like the hero that he is. He was relentless in therapy and unflagging in spirit. He is still the great communicator. He has perfected the art of mime and is eloquent with expression and gestures. He has proven he needs no words to convey his love of life and for his family and friends.

Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and the men and women merely players.” Perhaps its true. I believe that even when we have no control of the plot, we each write our own role that defines our own character. We decide what role we play- tragic victim or conquering hero. I believe in heroes.