Everyday Hero

Are there heroes anymore?

On a small porch, in front of small house, there is a small bench. I never paid too much attention to it before. It faded into the background of life’s canvas like so many things do. It’s quiet today. It’s quiet every day.
My neighbor Bill lives here. Of course his name is Bill. Perfect really; a simple name for a simple man. Bill is almost 80. He speaks with a southern drawl that’s as thick as his glasses. He has thinning, snow-white hair.

His leathery skin suggests that he has spent his share of time on the golf course. Like that old small bench, he’s a bit weathered but still strong. His laugh is contagious. I liked him right away. He’s the neighbor everyone should have. Need a wrench, an extension cord, a screwdriver? Check with Bill.

For years I have watched Bill and his wife Jackie’s routine. They are that cute old couple you’ve seen in the park or at the restaurant. They have raised their kids. They have made their living. The twilight years have arrived. Each and every day, their garage door opens and the Cadillac slowly backs out. Bill carefully navigates the narrow driveway. Jackie is dressed in a simple white sweater, her grey, curly hair neatly in place. She waves to my little girls as the car slowly pulls away.

Countless times I have come home from work and Bill and Jackie are on that bench. It’s hot. The lawn is half mowed. There’s Bill wiping his forehead and sipping lemonade with his bride of more than 50 years. Talking. Always talking.

Only now, it’s quiet. It’s quiet every day.

Jackie’s body is failing. First came the walker, then the wheelchair. She suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. We watched it progress rapidly. She’s often confused and doesn’t remember who my daughters are. Bill takes care of her, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. He helps bathe and dress her. He cuts and combs her hair. One day, she couldn’t stop crying. She kept repeating over and over again, “I want to go home, where I grew up. I want to go home.” Bill thought for a moment, smiled, helped her into the car and drove to Kentucky. He probably could have driven her around the block. He drove her to Kentucky.

After suffering a mild stroke and heart attack, Jackie is now in a care facility. One day, after Bill returned home alone, he and I were talking in his driveway. He looked at me with glassy eyes, his voice cracking. “She’s never coming home,” he said and he looked off in the distance. He leaves the house at 7am and returns at 9pm every day. He’s with her every minute in between. She has her moments of awakening. I hear she even sang “Amazing Grace” to the nurses last week.

Tonight, after mowing Bill’s lawn, I’m sitting on that small bench, on a small porch, in front of a small house. I’m thinking about the countless conversations the two of them had right here. I’m thinking about his promise to her; his commitment, his love. I’m thinking about an everyday hero—one we don’t often notice because he, like that ol’ bench, fades into the background of life’s canvas.

  • Jodi

    Are there any “young” men like that in the world??

    Seems to me that the traditional role of husband and wife–and the responsibility and commitment that go along with those roles–have gone the route of our nation’s moral conscience. Noone seems to know what their supposed to do anymore….Or they just don’t care.

    The answer is in God’s word.

  • Loved the story. You’ve got your own version of the “Notebook” living right next door. So sad to watch the decline and the toll that Alzheimer’s takes on a family. Thanks for sharing the story of a “till death do us part” kind of love. That is rare these days.

  • Mom

    Beautiful Curt!!!!

  • Sitting here with tears in my eyes. Bill’s my kind of guy. I guess I haven’t grown up enough yet, because I still want to be a super hero. If I could pick my super powers, it would be his. Kindness, devotion, and closeness.

  • Tracey Beckman

    I wish the whole world could have that kind of relationship with their spouse. I feel like Jeff and I have that and we feel very fortunate to have found each another. It is not always easy but, we got married “for better or for worse”. I wish everyone considered the vows they took on their marriage day before they did wrong or said wrong to the person they promised to “love, honor and cherish. The world would be a much better place if everyone honored the vows they made on their wedding days.

    Thanks for another great blog entry!!

  • Thank you all for commenting on my blogs. It means a lot to me and encourages me to keep writing.

  • Charles and Janiece

    We live behind Mr Bill. We also think he is a hero!!!

  • Teresa Kibbe-Riddle

    OK, got tears here. My parents were married from 1957 until Dad died in 2007. Dad took care of Mom as her Alzheimer’s progressed, right up til the day he died. “Til death do us part.” They believed that, and so do I. Love isn’t like a light switch, it doesn’t have on and off. Commitment comes with love, as does trust and respect. They weren’t perfect, but they were wonderful, real role models and I am blessed to call them “mine”.

    Thanks, Curt. Your blogs, as always, move me.