(Part 1 of 3)

Heroes

Don't Give Up

March 26, 2020

This chapter is dedicated to everyone helping to keep us safe and alive at this incredible moment in history, the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m discussing the meaning of the word “hero”, becuase it's being used so much these days, and I'm also sharing a few serendipitous moments that all seem to tie into the "hero theme". The chapter features the songs “Heroes” by David Bowie and “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. Enjoy.

I’ve noticed that the term “hero” gets thrown around a lot these days, especially during this pandemic - and rightly so I should add. However, it seems to me that its use has broadened and loosened over the past 20 years or so. There are many different kinds of heroes of course, with the most archetypal one probably being the War Hero. I wonder what measuring stick is used in the qualifying of one’s actions to label them a hero? I think it’s all quite relative actually; a matter of personal opinion as to what one deems as being “heroic”, although I’m sure the military must have some definitive criteria. With the COVID-19 epidemic ravaging the world, I have heard the word “hero” used countless times to describe both first-line emergency care workers as well as patients who have died from the virus. Sadly, in this 2nd instance of its use, one has to die to be labeled a hero. Most recently, in an interview with Bill Maher, Mayor Bill de Blasio described the entire world’s population, those specifically observing social distancing, as being “heroes”. Just the other night I was reading a piece called “3 More Days of Inpatient Care in New York” that a nurse submitted on Reddit. In it, the words “Heroes” and “heroic” are cited as she shares her experience with us. I believe, based on the last sentence I’ve quoted below, that she is pushing back on being labeled a “hero”. 

NURSE:

"Spotted a new homemade sign right below the hospital's entrance marker as you drive in. Block letters on white plywood:

YOU ALL
R
HEROES

Overhead on the hospital PA: “As you know, today is National Doctor’s Day. Let’s conclude this quiet moment by standing where you are and applauding our heroic physicians.”

"I open up my email and the first one is titled "Heroes." Overhead PA propaganda announcements play Here Comes the Sun and say "Not all superheroes wear capes, some wear scrubs and gowns" and I want to pound my desk and go for a walk anywhere outside of these walls without a goddamn mask on my face.”

- Reddit Author Name: u/madfrogurt

My jaw just about dropped when I read it. In 2012, before I became ill, I began working on a blog about Elvis Presley. I called it “Elvis Rocks - Superheroes sometimes wear capes”. Our catchphrases are strikingly similar. In mine, I’m inferring that Elvis was a hero because of his incredible achievement and world-changing contribution to music and popular culture. He is widely considered the single most important figure in American 20th-century music. And, I’m also comparing him to a superhero because he sometimes wore capes as part of his late seventies jumpsuit costumes - which BTW were awesome! I don’t care what anyone says, those outfits were crazy cool man. The famous eagle cape is the most iconic of course. (Unfortunately, I only wrote 4 chapters before my health forced me to shelve the project for lack of time.)

And…

…as you know, I listen to music every day to escape from my daily health grind and bring joy into my life. Well, it just so happened that I listened to Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles around the same time that the nurse’s article was published. It’s a song that my son, when he was still a young boy, sang to my sister and her husband when they got married on March 29th, 2009. I had not heard that song in years. How crazy is that? I just noticed that Reddit has added a “Healthcare Hero Award” that can be attributed to an author, among several others, like Platinum, Gold, and Silver. The author has received 6 Healthcare Hero Awards.


...I cringe every time I hear it or read it - and I certainly don’t see a hero when I look in the mirror - I see a tired, worn out, and debilitated human being. I don’t see myself as a hero. I do see myself as a fighter and a survivor though...

So where am I going with this? Well, in the last 5 years, with my health declining so severely and forcing me to face things like being unable to work or provide for my family, live with chronic debilitating pain, undergo joint replacement and fusion surgeries, some of which were not successful, I’ve been called a hero by several people close to me. People seemingly are impressed with my perseverance and see me as their “hero”. They clearly know what I’ve been through and what my daily life challenges are like, so I can understand that they are paying me an extremely kind compliment by calling me a hero. With My Story being as incredible as it is, and not in a good way, and with the amount of adversity I have faced as well as the resilience I’m forced to draw upon each day, I can see how some people might see me that way. However, I cringe every time I hear it or read it -  and I certainly don’t see a hero when I look in the mirror - I see a tired, worn out, and debilitated human being. I don’t see myself as a hero. I do see myself as a fighter and a survivor though, and I’ve also been referred to as an inspiration or warrior. Those compliments sit better with me than "hero". Below is the general definition of “hero”, as taken from the Myriam-Webster website:

Definition of hero

a: a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability

b: an illustrious warrior

c: a person admired for achievements and noble qualities

d: one who shows great courage

e: the principal character in a literary or dramatic work —used specifically of a principal male character especially when contrasted with the heroine

f: the central figure in an event, period, or movement

g: an object of extreme admiration and devotion: IDOL

If I had to choose, I think definitions “c” and “d” are probably the ones I feel I most closely resemble. In definition “b”, they use the word “warrior”,  although I don’t think I’m necessarily illustrious

A montage of various "Hero" related COVID-19 pandemic stories

While on the subject of "heroes", about two months ago, my son came out to visit with me and we made plans to go see the matinee viewing of the new Star Wars movie - which is all about heroes and villains. We had not been to the movies together in over 2 years. I had a near-perfect day - well as close to perfect as I can get. When we left the house (we left in separate cars), I tuned into Sirius XM Satellite radio to find my all-time favorite song ever, “Where The Streets Have No Name” by U2 just beginning to play. The sun was out, and I was feeling fairly well all things considered. I was feeling human. At the movies, Sascha and I enjoyed some overly priced cinema food while the two of us sat alone in an empty theatre and watched Star Wars! That’s right. It was just him and me in the theatre - that was a first for me. We had a great time. We really get along, which is such a blessing. When I got back into my car to drive home, I tuned into the radio again and stumbled upon “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. Well now. If ever there was a song that could pull at heartstrings, this is it. I felt like I was being asked not to give up on myself, or my son. I was reminded that I had this wonderful young man in my life that brought me joy and happiness every time I saw him. I had become quite hopeless last year, (you can refer to chapters 7, 8 and 9 for my experience with depression and hospitalization), and have many times felt like giving up. 

"Where The Streets Have No Name" screen from the Joshua Tree Tour 2017

I felt like I was being asked not to give up on myself, or my son. I was reminded that I had this wonderful young man in my life that brought me joy and happiness every time I saw him.

During some moments of intense suffering and crisis, I’ve been asked by people close to me, my wife and best friend Paul specifically, not to give up, not to lose hope. I’ve had to draw upon a grit that lives deep inside of me to push through those moments of lost hope. It’s not been easy. I have to think about people who’s lives are even worse than mine to stay motivated and keep my will to live alive. With the Coronavirus literally suffocating people to death, with most patients sadly dying alone, these deaths are undeniably painful and tragic. Being immunocompromised, I’m in the “at high risk” group as far as susceptibility to contracting the virus. I have not left the house, other than to take socially distant walks outside in over three weeks. And despite how hard my life is, day in and day out, I’m still one of the lucky ones. I have a home to stay safe in. I have food. I have electricity and running water. I have entertainment at my fingertips. I have all the medications that I need delivered right to my door. I have a loving, loyal, devoted wife who keeps me motivated, keeps me company, and does our errands to keep me as safe as possible. I have a wonderful loving son who is happy and healthy and who has been there to help us with the chores that I can no longer manage, like staining our deck, shoveling snow, and lifting bags of salt in and out of our car, just to name a few. I have loving, extremely generous, and doting in-laws. I have a family. I have the most amazing sister anyone could ever have. She’s kind, loving, helpful, dedicated, hard-working, tenacious, is generous beyond generous, and has helped see me through some of my darkest times. And she’s married to a great guy who is kind, empathetic, thoughtful, attentive, and highly intuitive. I also have incredibly kind and generous neighbors who have become like family - I can’t say enough about how special our relationship has become. I have friends. I have a best friend from childhood, Paul, whom I rarely get to see due to geographical distance, who has also stuck by me through thick and thin and who continues to support me and challenge me with his wisdom, empathy, and intellect, making sure I keep up the good fight. I have two other police officer friends, Tony and Patrick, who have, each in their unique way, uplifted me and helped me make it to the next moment. And, I have a friend and working colleague, Brent, without whom this website would never have been possible. He generously offered to design, build, and support this BLOG for me at no charge. None of this would have been possible without his talent and willingness to invest his time and energy. So, despite my misfortune when it comes to my health, I am still very lucky, and that’s what keeps me going, knowing that millions and millions of people aren’t as lucky and that I am surrounded by people who inspire me to keep on truckin'.

David Bowie's 1987 Glass Spider tour

In closing, I’d like to thank my friend Stef, who is no longer with us, for taking me to see David Bowie in his Glass Spider tour at the Olympic Stadium in 1987. We had floor tickets and managed to push our way through to the center of the stage - we were literally in the first row and right in the middle, just 2 or 3 meters away from Bowie on stage. It was surreal. That is where I heard the song “Heroes” for the first time. I remember the crowd was so tightly packed, that at times, I was literally lifted off the ground and carried away, landing a few feet away from where I had taken off. It was like being in an ocean of people, packed like sardines. A girl in the crowd who haphazardly ended up beside me grabbed onto my hand and held on for dear life! She looked into my eyes and I could see she was scared, she was looking for a “hero” in the crowd to save her, and that ended up being me. Oh, those teenage years!

And, with the song "Don't Give Up", I’m tipping my hat off to Kate Bush who was a huge influence on my wife in terms of her becoming a singer as she was growing up. And thank you, Sherrie, for not letting me give up.

- Patrick Franc

a.k.a.: Your Friendly Neighbourhood Bionic Man

SONG FACT: HEROES

This song tells the story of a German couple who are so determined to be together that they meet every day under a gun turret on The Berlin Wall. Bowie, who was living in Berlin at the time, was inspired by an affair between his producer Tony Visconti and backup singer Antonia Maass, who would kiss "by the wall" in front of Bowie as he looked out of the Hansa Studio window. Bowie didn't mention Visconti's role in inspiring this song until 2003, when he told Performing Songwriter magazine: "I'm allowed to talk about it now. I wasn't at the time. I always said it was a couple of lovers by the Berlin Wall that prompted the idea. Actually, it was Tony Visconti and his girlfriend. Tony was married at the time. And I could never say who it was (laughs). But I can now say that the lovers were Tony and a German girl that he'd met whilst we were in Berlin. I did ask his permission if I could say that. I think possibly the marriage was in the last few months, and it was very touching because I could see that Tony was very much in love with this girl, and it was that relationship which sort of motivated the song."

By Source, Fair Use - link to source

Heroes – David Bowie

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be Heroes, just for one day

And you, you can be mean
And I, I'll drink all the time
'Cause we're lovers, and that is a fact
Yes we're lovers, and that is that
Though nothing will keep us together
We could steal time, just for one day
We can be Heroes, for ever and ever
What d'you say?

I, I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing, nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, for ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes, just for one day

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be Heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day

I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns shot above our heads (over our heads)
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (nothing could fall)
And the shame was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, for ever and ever
Then we could be Heroes, just for one day

We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
Just for one day
We can be Heroes

We're nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we're lying, then you better not stay
But we could be safer, just for one day

Oh-oh-oh-ohh, oh-oh-oh-ohh
Just for one day

Don't GIve Up – Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush

in this proud land we grew up strong
we were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail

no fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
I've changed my face, I've changed my name
but no one wants you when you lose

don't give up
'cos you have friends
don't give up
you're not beaten yet
don't give up
I know you can make it good

though I saw it all around
never thought I could be affected
thought that we'd be the last to go
it is so strange the way things turn

drove the night toward my home
the place that I was born, on the lakeside
as daylight broke, I saw the earth
the trees had burned down to the ground

don't give up
you still have us
don't give up
we don't need much of anything
don't give up
'cause somewhere there's a place
where we belong

rest your head
you worry too much
it's going to be alright
when times get rough
you can fall back on us
don't give up
please don't give up

'got to walk out of here
I can't take anymore
going to stand on that bridge
keep my eyes down below
whatever may come
and whatever may go
that river's flowing
that river's flowing

moved on to another town
tried hard to settle down
for every job, so many men
so many men no-one needs

don't give up
'cause you have friends
don't give up
you're not the only one
don't give up
no reason to be ashamed
don't give up
you still have us
don't give up now
we're proud of who you are
don't give up
you know it's never been easy
don't give up
'cause I believe there's a place
there's a place where we belong

Comments


  • Monique

    Beautifully written! Thank you.

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