Just One Question

September 11, 2008
By
What is a hero? ‘A man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities?’ ‘A being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity?’ ‘A person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal?’ The dictionary gives us all these different definitions. However, a hero does not necessarily need to be one who has conquered the immortals, such as Odysseus from the Odyssey. A hero is whatever you make them out to be. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. All they need to be is looked upon fondly and admired by others. Someone who has acted the role of a hero to me is my grandmother.
Of the many traits that typically describe a hero, one often used is strength. Odysseus himself uses his strength on many occasions. But this trait does not have to be physical. It can be mental too. Mental strength and perseverance: both can be said to have shown up in heroes from all ages. One of the toughest things in life is love. And with love, there is sorrow. At the age of 56, after 33 years of marriage to her husband, my grandma, Jan, also known affectionately by all her grandchildren as Gaga (a tradition started by me, no less) got a divorce. She had three children, and now, she was a single mother who hadn’t worked in a number of years. She had to find the strength to remain steadfast and help support her children. “[The toughest thing that ever happened in my life was] getting a divorce from your grandfather,” she told me. But she had the mental strength to carry on.
After getting divorced from her husband, she had to find a way to support herself. So, she went back to work. She had been a stay at home mom for 28 years, yet she found the courage to reenter the working world and help support her family as an administrative assistant. She took classes to train herself to become more marketable. She ended up greatly enjoying going back to work. “It was wonderful.” She explained, “I gained self-confidence which I had lost due to the divorce.” She continued working for several years: all because she had the courage to start. Though he faced many adversities in his adventures, Odysseus never gave up, because he had the courage to go on. Courage can help in many aspects of your life.
In addition to her divorce problems, she also had suffered a number of medical problems. It started as a rupture in her colon. There was emergency surgery to correct it. More major surgery in that same year was necessary and also subsequent surgeries in later years. A buildup of scar tissue from previous surgeries then caused an intestinal blockage, leading to more surgeries. Then, time passed, and what was to happen again but more scar tissue buildup, which, of course, required more surgeries. This continued to go on for many years. In total, there were eleven major surgeries. Through it all, she remained optimistic. She refused to pity herself and mope about. She also retained her sense of humor, which can be rather hard to do in a situation like that. Though these may not seem like the most heroic qualities, they are among the traits I have come to admire in a person..
Lastly, I asked her what the most rewarding aspect of her life was. “Having three wonderful loving children and six wonderful loving grandchildren,” was what she replied. That is greatly her doing. With all her hardships, she still managed to raise three loving children, two of whom now have three kids of their own. The sun may be hidden by the clouds, but it always comes out to shine again. Though she had many hardships in her life, it never stopped my grandmother from raising a happy family. This shows her compassion and love.
Strength, courage, optimism, a sense of humor, compassion, and love. These are all traits I admire. This is why my grandmother is heroic to me. While other people each have their own qualities they admire, these are mine. Even someone who doesn’t seem like an obvious hero to some, can be to others. This leaves just one question. What is a hero to you?





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