My grandfather the superhero

Photo By Larry Dalton

Elizabeth Del Real is thrilled about venturing to the East Coast to attend Boston College in the fall. She is thankful for all the love and support she has received from the many heroes in her life, including family, friends and teachers.

My grandfather can’t lift a bus and heave it across a football stadium or fly way up in the sky like an eagle. He doesn’t have X-ray vision or the ability to read minds. He owns no sweet ride that transforms into a crime-fighting mobile, because, to tell you the truth, he’s not allowed to drive. My grandfather is not extraordinary by any means; he is actually what most would consider to be an “average Joe.” But, in my eyes, my grandfather is the greatest superhero that ever lived.

Not long ago, I stood at the kitchen counter as my grandfather’s 82nd birthday bubbled around me with joy and celebration. I watched him sitting on the couch, and I remembered the times he would sit me on his lap and bounce me while singing “pony girl” or let me stand on his feet while he walked up and down the hallway chanting, “Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Here comes the two-headed monster.” He showed me how to plant flowers, fix a toilet and make a squirrel circus right in my very own backyard. I was called “Grandpa’s little helper,” and I followed him everywhere he went!

Looking at my grandfather, I realized how many years had passed since we had last played hide and seek together. He is much older now, and his body is bent and frail. For a moment, our eyes met. I smiled, and in his eyes I saw the vivacious soul that will forever remain youthful, graceful, witty and strong.

Born and raised in Irish Harlem, my grandfather was a first-generation American. He was the second of three and by far the cutest (he won the blue ribbon in a “most beautiful baby” contest). Later in life, he joined the Marines and served our country during World War II and the Caribbean War. His buddies all called him “Big Red” because he seemed invincible. He returned to these shores to become a loving husband, caring father of six and admirable friend to many.

When asked to define a hero, the common response is someone who has acquired fame or made a significant impact on society: Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa. In contrast with these heroes, my grandfather has never made any inspirational speeches to millions of people, never served the homeless and hungry in far off countries and never started a national movement. Instead, he picked me up when I fell and scraped my knee, and he tucked me into bed with a good-night story and a gentle kiss. It is this worthy, simple, genuine love and consistent care that makes my grandfather a mighty hero.

So, you won’t see my grandfather fighting evildoers and saving the universe, but that doesn’t mean that he’s any less of a superhero, because he has forever changed my life for the better. The world is filled with people just like my grandfather: common and simple yet filled with glorious wisdom. These are the people who truly make a difference. I believe life’s “average Joes” often can be the grandest superheroes of all.