One of the coolest things about being a parent , besides having these wonderful, annoying, miraculous little people in your life, is that your kids will bring other people into your life that touch your heart and make your world a brighter place. I know how mushy I sound, but with my baby graduating elementary school and my middle son graduating Jr. High this week, I am a virtual leaking faucet ready to turn into a full blast downpour of tears at any second. This morning was the end of year award ceremony for my youngest son. I sat there trying not to fall apart over this being the last elementary school award assembly I’ll attend as a mom. My son received an award for a science project he was part of. Then the P.E. teacher chose two athletes to represent good sportsmanship, ability and all around athlete. I saw a few of my son’s friends look at him but the name called was one of his close friends. As soon as I heard it I thought “yep, that makes sense. Good choice”. Then I thought about all he has been through the last few months and what I have slowly learned about his family.
My son and *Justin are new friends this year. They both share a passion for sports, football in particular. Justin has been over several times, is always a polite and cheerful kid. His dad is a friendly guy my husband and I liked immediately. My husband is working on a truck with my daughter, so the garage is usually open and they chat over the progress of the truck and other guy stuff. My husband learned through their talks that he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident. Despite the fact he wears shorts, I didn’t notice this until the day he had to talk to me about his son chipping the bone on his collarbone at my son’s birthday party, playing football. Let’s just say a tall, broad-shouldered, one-legged man letting you know his son got hurt on your watch, is pretty intimidating. For the record, he was way cooler and understanding than I think I would have been and just asked that speak with parents of the kid involved. He also shared with my husband that his wife is not home, so he is a single parent at the moment. Recently, my son asked if he could visit Justin’s dads house in the desert. “They have another house?” I asked. “No, that’s Justin’s step dad he lives with.” When I asked if Justin mentions his mom, my son said no, just that she left when he was in third grade. This man is raising three kids, a teenager, Justin and his little brother. I am so impressed by his love and dedication to his family. His boys are well-mannered, good-natured, always fun to have over, a true testament to the kind of parent he is.
A couple of weeks ago, Justin called and asked me for a ride to school. I said “sure”. He said he would start walking and I left to pick him up. I was a little surprised, but I like knowing my kids friends know they can trust and call me when they need something. On my way to get him, the dad calls and says ” thanks, never mind I got him.” I say “ no problem , anytime.” He says they had a busy morning, I make a joke about understanding that and he proceeds to tell me that his teenage daughter tried to commit suicide the night before and he was at the hospital all night. My heart sinks, I ask what I can do to help. I offer to have Justin and his brother over, whatever we can do to help. I let my son know what has happened and ask him to be a good friend and to be extra gentle with him. After school, I talk to Justin’s dad, he gives me an update and shares they need to get her counseling and medication on track because in two weeks he is having surgery on his spine in his neck. All I can think is what else can this poor man go through and I try not to cry in front of him. The boys come spend a couple of afternoons at our house skateboarding and hanging out. As usual, they are both always cheerful and in a good mood when they are over. Since the surgery, they have to go home after school because the dad does not want his daughter home alone and the neighbor is keeping an eye on things. I have been driving them home everyday, so I get to hear how their day was and how things are going. His coach is picking him up for games, so life is as close to normal as can be expected.
Seeing firsthand how positive and committed this boy is, I knew he was an excellent choice for 6th grade athlete. Then, each class picked their academic scholars. My son received a certificate, which I am very proud of. Then two students were chosen for the PRIDE award and once again I heard Justin’s name called. As he stood on stage with his medal and his trophy , I thought of the hurdles he has overcome. The loving brother I have seen him be, the great friend, hardworking athlete and student. By his side, a loving committed father who has set an amazing example. I am so proud to know someone so special and be a small part of his life. My son is truly blessed to have such extraordinary friends. I took a picture and texted it to his dad and today it will be my honor to drive him home and hear how the rest of the day went. Heroes are where you least expect them and make the biggest impact, by just being themselves. No worries of what is lost or left behind, they charge forward, do what needs to be done, all with compassion, love and dedication.
*name has been changed