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A Hero This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Isn’t it interesting when the actions that prove our humanity can make us heroes? When people succumb to being weak and we see them strong? I think that’s because we don’t realize how much we see those people as heroes until the moments they aren’t. Until the one chance occurrence when their shields are down, when the villain has thwarted them, when victory seems futile. And those are the times when we ourselves rise to that heroic level ourselves to help those heroes we love.

My dad is one such hero. Struggling and overcoming his own emotional issues, particularly anger, most of my early life with him consisted of muffled shouts from downstairs as his anger once again reared its ugly head and took control. That was how life was, I never knew anything was wrong. But then my parents got divorced, and the monster receded into the shadows, and was replaced by other monsters, called depression and bad choices.

Now this hero had a girl. A Lois Lane, a Mary Jane, but she had her own monsters, as all beautiful heroines do. For two years she lived with us, we shared a house, the three of us. Quiet and moody, she was no shining angel, but her monsters were latent, they were slow to stir and quick to slumber again. Unfortunately, my father’s were not. Quick to rise and not willing to leave until they had done enough damage, they consumed him, took control, and left a path fraught with tears and busted doors. But she was there, she calmed his monsters, until she wasn’t.

She ran off with his sidekick, but not before she broke his heart, tore his cape, and evicted him from his lair. She clipped his wings with her own oblivious heart, as flighty as the birds she painted on canvas, canvas he gave her. The hero fled, still taking the higher ground, giving her the house, half of his possessions, his compassion turned traitor and kept breaking him. He found an apartment to stay in until his new home was ready, pictures on the wall that weren’t his, an unfamiliar kitchen and an unwelcoming atmosphere. It was during this time that I saw my hero fall.

Picking me up from school one day, fresh groceries to be stored in stranger cabinets were packed in the backseat. He stared straight ahead, and spoke softly, as if it hurt to make noise. I tried to make small talk, but it fell, like lead in water, so I decided to dive in myself. “Dad, are you ok?”

He stared straight ahead, and mumbled, “yeah, I am.” But then he seemed to change his mind. Resolved, he spoke a little louder, but his voice was still soft, still pained. “Sweetheart, I have a favour to ask you.”

Desperate to help, desperate to feel less helpless, I automatically answered, “yes, of course, anything. What’s up?”

He paused, and then continued, still staring at the road, his left hand on the steering wheel, his right at his side, limp, lifeless. “I - I need you to take care of me tonight. Please, can you take care of me tonight?” Tears rolled down his cheeks, and my heart broke, each piece shattering as the drops fell from his face to his lap. Taking his hand, I nodded, pushing back my own tears, tears at the realization that my dad, my strong, angry, passionate, caring dad was this broken.

We went home, and I acted the mother. I made dinner, got the TV on something cheery, cleaned up after and then just sat there and hugged my dad. He spoke barely a word, lost in his own world, drowned in all the emotions she had left rotting, ready to consume him from the inside out. He went to bed soon after that, and I made my place on the couch. Then, and only then, did I let the long-suppressed tears fall, but silently, without a sound. This was my hero, this was my dad. This was the man who was there for me, always with a hug or words of wisdom, or just a simple smile and energetic idea. And now before my eyes this man was crumbling, like a sandcastle being knocked down by a wave, the gallant flags drooping and falling to the depths.

As I look back on that day now, the onslaught of emotion that affronts me with that memory is bittersweet. It has grief, but it has hope, helplessness, but compassion, fear, but strength. And I believe that the fact that my father, my hero, was able to lay his cape and shield down, and ask for help, is one of the most heroic things anyone can do. For while it takes strength of a great person to withstand hardships, it takes the strength of a hero to admit when help is needed.



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