Last week I dished out my thoughts and opinions on Mother’s Day, most notably the fact that I unequivocally believe that it is the single most important holiday we celebrate. That line of thought led me quickly into the subject of heroes and how we choose them, which naturally led right back to a discussion on moms. Sadly I’ve noticed lately that it seems that by and large the meaning of the word hero has become a bit diluted. I believe that many of us (particularly our youth) are looking in all the wrong places to find their heroes. They’re looking to musicians (and I use that word loosely), Hollywood nitwits, sports figures, and fictional characters. When all they really need do is look at the unsung heroes that surround them. I am willing to wager that they would soon find that they are surrounded by legitimate heroes each and every day.

They’d find genuine heroes in soldiers, firefighters, teachers, police officers, and nurses just to name a few. I don’t much care that you can run a 4.2 forty unless you’re running out of a burning building with one of my loved ones on your shoulder, or chasing down the jerk who just robbed me. I’m much more impressed with a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize than an Oscar, a Grammy, or a Heisman…but that’s just me.

I truly believe that I have not just a hero, but a super hero living under my very own roof. A few years back, my wife and I began making some decisions and plans for our future. This was all new to me, because prior to meeting her, my long term plans were generally limited to one goal – wake up tomorrow. Among the newly formed plans were expanding our family and the possibility of career changes. The alternative would be a 60 something bartender and a 50 something bartender asking off on a Friday night to go to our kid’s high school graduation. Nothing about that last sentence sounds appealing to me.

I immediately came to grips with the fact that other than bartending I have no other marketable skills. So we decided to work on her career change first because even with all of the necessary schooling she would subsequently have to go through, the odds of her feeding our family with her paycheck as an R.N. were exponentially greater than my writing prowess paying the bills.

So with that in mind she enrolled in nursing school while I continued to sling drinks and tried to hone my skills at peddling “Swill”. Before we knew it, she was a full time nursing student completely (and admirably) committed to her studies. Her successes as a student were rivaled only by her successes in our other endeavor, which was expanding our family.

Twice during her tenure as a nursing student we were blessed with beautiful little girls. Though we wouldn’t trade that for anything, it did substantially lengthen her schooling. The thing about nursing school is that it doesn’t just restart every 6 or 8 weeks. If you need to take a leave, like maternity for example, you have to wait a whole year for it to loop back around.

The first of these 2 little beauties required taking a semester off. We quickly realized that our baby was due the same week that my wife would be taking her final exams. In this program, you’re only allowed to miss so many class hours, which basically equated to 2 school days or you would be kicked out of the program. So if there were any difficulties with the baby’s delivery that required an extra day in the hospital she would have to start the entire program over again, nullifying the 3 semesters she had already completed while carrying a 4.0 GPA. After careful consideration, she reticently took the semester off to avoid the risk, continued to study on her own, and worked her cute little pregnant butt off as a bartender.

She started back to school the following semester as the mother of a newborn. The semester that followed would be when my wife would start doing her clinicals. This would entail on-the-scene, practical work at various medical facilities. Before she could be permitted to start this (which also happened to be the most important and difficult portion of her training) she would be required to get a medical screening and several vaccinations.

This posed a problem, primarily because she could not get the necessary shots she needed to continue on in the program. The reason being, if you haven’t already guessed, that she was pregnant. So we bump it back yet another year and were blessed with another beautiful little girl. Again, we wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Throughout the course of her schooling, she endured several hardships, blessings and bumps in the road and yet she remained steadfast, determined and completely undaunted. During her schooling she planned a wedding, got married, and had 2 children while raising the one she already had. There were deaths in the family, illnesses in the family, and the scarping of financial rock bottom. Through all of this her grades never slipped and her demeanor never changed. As a mere spectator I walked away with medications for reflux and anxiety while she thrived with an unparalleled level of calm. I long to one day exhibit even a fraction of her steadfast coolness. This is the same woman who in the span of 5 hours aced 2 midterms, got a root canal and took care of 3 little girls. I couldn’t do all of those things in a month let alone one afternoon.

While I have mentioned in the column several times over the past few years that my wife was attending nursing school, I’ve steered clear of discussing her progress and accolades. This is by no means because of my lack of pride in her, but simply a byproduct of my superstitious nature. I didn’t want to say or do anything that could possibly jinx her, but I couldn’t wait for her to finish so that I could shout from the rooftop how proud I am of her and how much I admire her.

Well here I am on the rooftop! Two Wednesdays ago she had a ceremony in which she was presented an award for excellence and achievement. That Friday she walked across stage again for her pinning ceremony. Last Wednesday she walked across the stage for the final time as a graduate of the RN program. The entire time she was in the program she was a Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society member; she also graduated with high honors. Last Thursday morning she had her first job interview during which she was hired on the spot for a full-time position in the same hospital our 2 youngest girls were delivered in. This week she will be taking her boards which are the final step to her being an RN.

Currently my biggest challenge is my feeble attempt to express the pride and admiration that I have for this amazing women in mere words. Many of you pay top dollar for tickets to a concert or sporting event to secure the honor of seeing your hero in person. My hero is the first thing I see every morning when I open my eyes and the last thing I see every night as I drift off to sleep. That makes me a very, very lucky man.

Thanks for playing along.

Until next week, Syd Nichols