Roger really was so cool, but we don’t talk about it much. What we mention is how sweet he was, how he changed diapers, and how he played with the boys.
At work, though, whether it was with the fire department, the Army, or the USMC, he was truly cool with lots of swag. Like the legit kind, the humble kind.
We were watching something on TV yesterday and close combat was mentioned.
“Dad was a brown belt. He did close combat in the Marines,” I said.
I don’t tell them stories about how heroic he was because they already, unfortunately, fully know he was heroic.
Also yesterday, Baylee and I were driving around Wilmington and in my rear-view mirror I saw a desert Humvee, not a civilian one, but a real, wide, metal, dusty one. I thought about not mentioning it, but then pushed through my need to protect him and became honest.
“I wasn’t going to say anything, but that Humvee behind me gives me the creeps.”
He turned to look then became solemn, maybe for my sake, and said, “Me, too.”
“But how cool is it that Dad got to drive those and that he took rides in all the helicopters and planes? He’s been in tanks and was afraid of nothing.”
That’s almost true. He was afraid of leaving us. It’s all he wanted to do was to spend time with his family. He would rather swim in our pool until sunset than spar other marines. He’d rather crawl around the living room floor making monster sounds to make the little ones squeal than go to the bar with his marine buddies. He’d also rather spend a Saturday afternoon mowing the lawn and enjoying a crisp, cold Busch Lite than visit places like England, Germany, or even Malta.
He’d also rather drive the beater vehicle and let us take the reliable, newer one, and there were many times when he wore Kmart sneakers so his boys could have Nike.
Maybe that’s why I don’t share how cool he was, because he didn’t want it. He didn’t care or brag about it. I remember one day he came home with a bright red face and bloodshot eyes from being pepper sprayed. He didn’t complain or need special attention, but showered, got into his gray flannel pj’s, and savored his family time.
That’s what makes him a hero.