Real Life Superhero

Not Your Typical Superhero

When most people think of superheroes, they picture someone like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, the X-Men, or even Wonder Woman. These superheroes wear fantastic costumes comprised of tight spandex, capes, masks, and even fancy belts equipped with futuristic weapons and gadgets. They set out on adventures, from their secret headquarters, with the aid of superpowers to seek revenge, uphold the law, protect the innocent, or fight evil. While these talented crusaders are merely fictional characters in comic books and Hollywood movies, there are plenty of real-life superheroes walking among us. These real-life superheroes do not wear costumes, hide out in secret headquarters, or fly through the air and scale tall buildings. They are ordinary people living ordinary lives. One of them, the best superhero of all time, is my husband Tom.

One of the things that make a superhero a superhero is the ability to put others before themselves. Superheroes are ready and willing to put their own safety and wellbeing on the line in order to protect others. Tom has been doing that most of his life. Coming from a family of Marines, he joined the Marine Corp when he was only seventeen. His father and grandfather were both Marines who served in every war since World War II. They both passed the patriotic spirit of the Marine Corp on down to Tom. Because of this, Tom believes in serving his country in any way that is asked of him. One of those ways was to serve in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. He spent months in the deserts of the Middle East as a Marine Corp sniper. It was his job to go out ahead of his command and make sure the enemy did not get close enough to attack. He saw many horrible things during his tour in the Middle East, but he did not let that bring down his spirit. He stayed in the Marine Corp and continued to serve several more dangerous tours around the world including Somalia, Columbia, and others.

He finally had to give up his military responsibilities in the mid nineties when his wife, and mother to his two sons, decided to leave the marriage and abandon their children. Tom became a full time single father to the two toddlers. His military commitment was no longer important to him; raising his children was. He took over every aspect of their care. He made sure they were healthy, happy, loved, and educated. He did this all on his own for years, until we met in the year 2000.

I knew as soon as we met that there was something special about this man. I myself had recently divorced a very abusive man and was taking care of two very young children all on my own. Tom was the most gentle, loving man I had ever met. He was an incredible father to his boys and immediately bonded with my young daughter and son as well. Eventually we moved in together and he became the father to my children that they had never really had. He loved them like his own, and they too loved him. Tom became their superhero. In their eyes, he was the strongest, bravest, smartest man they had ever known.

Eventually, Tom and I got married and went on to have two more beautiful children. By this time, his sons were grown up and starting to go out on their own. I was amazed at how incredible he was with our first baby, a daughter. He would get up in the middle of the night to take care of her so I could rest. He even changed diapers, which was something my ex-husband would never consider. But, it wasn’t until we had our son, in July of 2005, that I realized just how strong he was. A few days after the birth of our son, I developed multiple organ failure and nearly died. My heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys all went into failure. I was put into the ICU for a few weeks to recover. Tom had to take care of all four children, including our newborn son, all by himself. Not only did he take care of the children, he took care of me. He was my rock. He came to see me every day to make sure I was okay and getting stronger. He brought me pictures of the baby each day because he knew how badly I missed seeing the child I had only just given birth to and the hospital would not allow him to bring the baby into the ICU. He made sure the older children maintained as much of a normal routine as possible and eased their fears about my illness. Tom also kept up on my doctors to make sure they were providing me with the best care possible. He did all this without showing any sign of fear or stress. Not having to worry about my family helped me to focus on getting better so that I could go home.

I eventually got better, and a couple of months after our son was born, Tom showed his bravery and compassion once again. Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast with a vengeance. The area was destroyed and the people who lived there needed help. Tom volunteered to go to New Orleans to help with the rescue and cleanup efforts. He assisted the National Guard in going house to house to check for survivors. He witnessed what was equivalent to, and sometimes worse than, many war torn areas he had been in during his time in the military. He climbed 50 foot trees to cut down branches that were laying over power lines or crushing houses. Tom lived in a tent with no power for nine months while he assisted in the rescue and cleanup of the devastated New Orleans area. He was one of many superheroes in the Gulf Region at that time.

Tom finally returned home the following summer. He began searching for a job. After having no luck in finding a job that paid enough to support our family, he decided to go to CDL School to obtain his commercial drivers license so that he could become a truck driver. There were several trucking companies hiring that paid extremely well. Once he received his CDL, he started driving for a company that had him travelling all over the country and into Canada and Mexico. He missed seeing our family every day but knew sacrifices sometimes had to be made. He wanted us to not have to worry about paying the bills. He also wanted me to be able to go back to school and obtain my Bachelors degree without having to work at the same time.

Tom is still driving a truck, but now gets to come home every night. He still works 70 to 80 hours a week though, driving back and forth to Chicago every day. This leaves him even more exhausted then when he drove over the road, but at least he gets to come home to his family every night and tuck his children into bed. I cannot wait until I am able to graduate so that he does not have to work so hard to provide for our family.

We recently learned that Tom is just beginning the fight of his life. He is going to need to be more brave and strong then he has ever been before. Due to some of the toxic chemicals and gasses he was exposed to in Dessert Storm, Tom has developed esophageal cancer. It is just in the beginning stages and the doctors are hoping, with the right combination of medication, that it will progress slowly. This form of cancer has no cure or promising treatment. All they can do is treat the symptoms and try to keep it from progressing rapidly. There is an option that would require a surgeon to remove his esophagus and replace it with part of his stomach, but this normally only prolongs the disease for a little while and makes it very difficult for the patient to eat.

It is kind of ironic that because of his bravery and selflessness, Tom is now facing possible death. He will now have to summon up those strengths of his that have gotten him through all the hard times in his life. He is going to have to be stronger and more determined than ever. He has an incredible motivation to defeat this evil enemy; his love for his family. Tom has shown throughout his life that it doesn’t take a fancy costume, a cape, high-tech gadgets, or even superhuman powers to be a superhero. It just takes bravery, courage, selflessness, determination, sacrifice, moral character, and the love for fellow humans. Tom has been, and will always be, the best superhero of all time.