Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores
Photographer Patricia Gulick

Saturday, June 29, 2013

5-1-13 RMB My Hero Ali

5-1-13 RMB My Hero Ali

Dear Rita Mae Brown,
As we go through our lives, it is difficult to grasp how we affect each other, how some moments leave a lasting impression upon us more so than others. Just as I apparently have a different definition of the word love than most, my definition of hero is a bit less grand than most but equally important…in my humble opinion that is.
I have alluded to you being heroic in these letters. I will state it clearly here. I count you among my heroes, for all you have done, for all you have written…for your contribution to the greater good.
I think there is a hero in each of us and it depends on how we live our life, how we apply our energy, that the extent of our heroism is revealed. A heroic act is one that lends support, protection, love, encouragement, hope and the likes, when it is needed most, when it is least expected, when the giving of it is above and beyond what the moment would normally call for.
In my early teens, I had the privilege of babysitting a little boy and girl three doors down, Alicyn and Ryan. I watched them often from the time the girl was a baby until she was about four. Then I got a real job, the fast food place mentioned in previous letters. This little girl and I connected. She was alert to being able to “talk” with her mind. She would chat with me. As she grew, whenever I saw her, she always gave me a smile of my own to carry. She cheered the sullen teen I was like no one else could at the time.
After I was gainfully employed elsewhere, my mom would watch the siblings sometimes during the day. I rarely saw them at all. One day I came home unexpectedly early. It was my seventeenth year, the year of the walking corpse, when I was barely a person at all. I got out of my Mustang and stood at the edge of the garage as Ali and her brother zoomed by. It brought a smile to my face just to see them, it had been too long. They both shouted out a “hello” as they ran.
Ali suddenly skidded to a stop. She did a double take from a foot away. Instantly she knew the depth I had sunk to. She took a step back towards me, opening her arms wide for a hug, as she had done in her toddler years. I sank to my knees and fell into the embrace of my five year old hero.
I felt her smile as her cheek pressed firmly against mine. I fought back tears. She held me tight, then parted us slowly holding me by the shoulders to look into my eyes and said “I wanted to tell you to have a nice day.” They were the only words her five year old self knew to convey ‘I care about you, I see you hurting, does this help?’
All I could do was nod. Silenced by emotion, adult words eluded me. Finally I choked out “Thank you, you too.”
She nodded, her work there complete, and took off after her older brother. I stood, composing myself. I wiped away the tears threatening to spill, working to pull myself back into a more presentable state, the ‘I’m okay, don’t worry about me’ look, before I walked in the house to greet my mother.
That hug in that moment was above and beyond what is normally expected. Later in the midst of my pain, I could conjure up the feel of her arms tightly wrapped around me, her caring, her kindness, her hope that she could make something better for me, make me better. Ali has been among my heroes ever since that day.
Yours truly,

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