Once Upon a Time...

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Once upon a time, there was a man. This man was not a prince or a king. He was not a celebrity or a professional athlete. He was not known for his charm or good looks, but to me, Harold Parker was a hero.

Harold was born in the summer of 1945 in Boise, Idaho. He had what most consider a rough childhood. With eight other children, his parents had little money to spare. Many members of his family used and sold drugs, stole items, got in fights on a regular basis, and abused alcohol. Harold was no exception, and was particularly infamous for starting (and violently ending) fights.

Harold was 22 when he met Jane. Jane was a 16-year-old, straight-A student with good looks, money, and a supportive family on her side. How she ended up dating a substance-abusing, greasy-haired, fight-starting rebel like Harold will probably always remain a mystery (she claims that his mother paid her), but it is a decision she would re-do over and over again.

In 1974, Harold Jr. was born, and Jane and Harold became "Mom" and "Dad". Six years later came a second son. A son usually tends to follow in the habits of his father. Far too often does a son who grew up with an abusive father become an abusive father himself, or a boy who watches his father drink his life away becomes an alcoholic later in life. Fortunately, Harold strayed from typical pattern, and used his childhood experiences to motivate him. He was a beloved father and husband, working to support his family, and showing them the love that he had never recieved.

In 1992, a granddaughter is born, and "Mom" and "Dad" become "Nana" and "Papa". That granddaughter is me. At this point, all remains of the Harold who abused alcohol and drugs and instigated fights was gone. A loving man with a vivid sense of humor replaced him, and stole the hearts of everyone in his life. Papa taught me how to fish, bought me my first horse, made me laugh when I wanted to cry, and supported me in everything I did. He was the fatherly figure in my life, the person who spoiled me rotten and defended me even when I didn't deserve it. I find it ironic that the man who grew up not knowing love was the one who gave the gift of love to me.

In 2002, Papa was diagnosed with terminal cancer. One habit that had carried over from his childhood was smoking, and in the end, it killed him. Cancer encircled his lungs and kidneys, and the pain he dealt with every day was absolutely horrifying. Upon diagnosis, the doctor told Papa that he would probably live for a couple of months, at the most. Papa fought for over a year, and only his physical condition revealed the struggle. His personality never changed. Even in his most painful moments, his sense of humor and love of life never escaped him. He never complained, never felt sorry for himself, never laid blame on anyone, or asked why. His acceptance of life's hardships was truly inspiring.

On November 21, 2003, Papa finally succumbed to the cancer. He had been in the hospital for a few days without being able to talk or move. Hoping that he could hear her, Nana had held his hand and told him, "Harold, we all love you so much, and none of us would blame you if you let go. If this is your time, don't keep hanging on for our sake." Moments later, he passed away.

Although my Papa's physical being is no longer with us, his spirit lives everywhere. Every smile, every laugh, every struggle fought without complaint, is a reminder of the tremendous attitude my Papa demonstrated. You see, it doesn't take money, intellegence, or movie-star good looks to be considered a hero. A smile is a demonstration of appreciation, and to the people who love and appreciate you, you are a hero.





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This article has 5 comments. Post your own now!

ms.practicallyintellectual said...
Oct. 9, 2011 at 3:58 am
beautiful... i agree... in d drkst of momnts ol u nd 2 do iz kp ur soul intact... dose who fite d inr nd outr ghosts r truly heroes... ;D...
 
ksaurus200 said...
Aug. 26, 2011 at 8:06 pm
omg umade me cry. so so so sad. but amazing though and though
 
David A said...
Aug. 4, 2011 at 10:16 am
This is very beautiful story and the detail is so vivid we can all tell what an awesome person he was.
 
Anna L. said...
Jan. 8, 2009 at 12:51 am
How beautiful! I've enjoyed reading it.
Great job.
 
Sheila_F said...
Jan. 3, 2009 at 7:58 pm
This is a beautiful and heart warming story! The descriptions of your grandfather definitely define him as a hero.
 
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