The Heroes That We All Are


I got beat up at the bus stop when I was in second grade. The incident would change my outlook for the world.  I became unmanageable and prone to rage attacks.  I lashed out at everyone!  My cousin Roger came to my rescue one Passover.  We were at my aunt’s house in Larchmont, and I had gotten into another fight with my sister (14 months older than me).  I got screamed at and was told to go into my aunt’s basement to cool off.  I cried so hard that I hurt my ribs.  My cousin Roger, a giant of a teenager standing at 6’4”, came downstairs and talked to me.

Then he took out his old comic collection.  He had a box of comics from the 50’s and 60’s, I stopped crying that second.  He pulled out an Incredible Hulk comic and had me look at it.  I was a weak reader, but I found it easy to follow the dialog and story.  The Hulk was kind, but when he was mistreated or attacked, he “Smashed!”  His rage gave him power and make the bad guys fear him.  Roger gave me all the comics and told me that things would be alright, I believed him.  I returned upstairs and behaved, but I sensed a change inside.  Roger had given me something I never experienced, the complete and unadulterated love of reading!  He also introduced me to my spirit guide, The Incredible Hulk, and he would be there to defend me from evil for the rest of my life.

My sister broke my nose when I was 11 during the ice storm that gripped Long Island in 1977.  A tree fell over my parents’ car and my sister and I were playing on top of it.  My sister pulled a branch back and let it go.  The branch whipped across my face, shattering my nose.  The drive to the hospital was dangerous and scary with the ice-covered roads.  They did their best to set my nose and deal with the impact.  The damage was so severe that I was required to stay in the hospital for several days.  I was terrified!  Breathing was difficult and the crying made my condition life threatening. 

My mother never left my side, she even slept in the chair next to my hospital bed.  By the time I was released and allowed to return home, my mother was a wreck.  Naomi Schwartz, my mother, was many things, none of them were kind or loving.  Somehow in that moment, she became a superhero. She endured so much to allow me the feeling of safety.  She became more in that moment, she became “Super Mom!”  I would only see that person a few more times before her death, but I cling to the moments where my angry vicious mother became more, she was my hero.

The heroic spirit can be there, but needed a situation to allow it to come out.  My home was damaged by the flood after Hurricane Sandy, and the flood insurance company was fighting with us, so my home was in a state of post-flood.  Enter my old friend and cannabis enthusiast, Ed. He had heart surgery and other medical problems, but he showed up at my house one day with his giant crowbar.  For hours we did demolition and he did everything possible to cheer me up.  Even with no feeling in his feet and being 15 years my senior, he stayed for the whole day, and he kept working.  Like “The Thing” from the Fantastic Four, he clobbered one wall after another.  He still is my hero!

My favorite hero was my Grandmother.  She was a gym teacher when she was younger and worked with the slower kids.  Ida May was five feet tall and the classiest woman you would ever meet.  My sister and cousins were all very smart and did well in school and life.  Then there was me, the slow kid with emotional difficulties and a love of sports.  To punish me, my parents would take away privileges, like allowing me to play little league.  I loved baseball as a kid, and not being able to play little league with my friends was a massive blow to my young mind.  My Grandmother would not hear of it!  She came out to my house one weekday, surprising my mother, and she took me to get a ball, bat, and glove. 

She signed me up for Little League and practiced baseball with me, teaching my the correct way to throw, hit, and play baseball.  My grandmother was the greatest hero I ever knew, she always did the right thing for me, no matter what the consequences.  The baseball situation took weeks to resolve, and I started attending practices without my parents knowledge.  The fights between my parents and grandmother were epic, but it was my change in behavior that convinced my parents that baseball was benefiting me.  The Superhero inside my grandmother needed a situation and a loved one in danger, but when needed, “Captain Grandmother” to the rescue! 

Thor, Captain America, Superman, and the countless others are fictional embodiments of the finest qualities in humans.  Courage, Valor, Honor, Defending the Weak, and other noble qualities are shown on a daily basis, but not by costumed heroes, by normal folks doing the extraordinary.   Movies are setting new attendance records, lifting the humble superhero serial into a high art form and making ungodly amounts of money.  Maybe this can be a catalyst to transform a society of victims into empowered heroes ready to save the day!  I’m ready!