My take on what courage is has changed over the years, much as my take on life in general. I was the *big sister* growing up, but I never felt like anyone looked to me for courage or support. My two brothers are closest to me in age and, frankly, I think they were always tougher than I was. My two youngest siblings are my sisters. I was way too old to really give them any strength when it was needed. I think I have been strong for my own children, but a mother's courage is a breed of its own. I remember jacking up some kid on a playground when pup #1 was about 1 1/2 years old. After it was all over, I felt a strange combination of feelings. I was almost euphoric that I actually stood up to the kid (even though he was about 12) and yet, I was slightly embarrassed that I had exercised my *adulthood* over him. The other part of this story was that it took place on a playground in Baltimore City and I was dealing with a would-be thug; but that is besides the point. I think mothers, willing or not, brave all sorts of dilemmas for their offspring.
My brother is someone I consider courageous. While he hasn't always handled himself in ways that I thought were courageous, I think when he was truly tested, he showed his true self. Out of nowhere, in the prime of his life, he had the rug pulled out from under him. He was diagnosed with cancer... you know, that word we all say in whispers, but are secretly glad we're talking about someone else. By the time he found out about it, it was fairly well-advanced. Someone with less fortitude would have thrown in the towel. He didn't. He maintained his *normal* life (if there is such a thing when you have the big *C* on your plate) and really never missed a beat. I know The Love of His Life suffered along with him, in all the obvious ways and then some. I went to visit him before his big surgery. He met me at the airport. I remember being shocked at how good he looked. He faced down his cancer with strength and courage and believing. He didn't get through it totally unscathed, but he did get through it. A lesser man wouldn't be here today. I hope if I am ever faced with something of that magnitude, I can be as courageous.
Countrymouse's brother serves in the US Navy. He has been in the Navy for what seems like forever. I don't think any of the pups remember when he was a civilian. In today's climate, it takes courage to stand for your country. I admire every one of our soldiers, regardless of the motivation that got them there. The bottom line is, if they are called upon, they will serve. It takes courage to lay your head on your pillow every night not knowing what will be required of you come morning.
Countrymouse's brother (a countrymouse in his own right, I might add) has two pups of his own. They are wonderful kids. I wish we saw more of them, but they are West Coast mice and we are East Coast mice. Recently, his daughter entered an essay contest. (That alone gets kudos from me. My pups would rather be sold into slavery than write something for *fun*.) The topic was courage. Her essay won in her age group. Countrymouse's brother, being the proud papa mouse that he is, sent a copy to their mother and it eventually made it's way to me. The essay was the heartfelt writing of a little girl. Reading it aloud to Countrymouse, my voice kept cracking because it stirred me. I know I can be sappy, but I was moved at the simple insight she offered. She writes about her father's courage, but in it she displays her own. (Bravo, little one!)
I woke up knowing that something was gone. It was something funny, kind, crazy and brave. That something was my Dad. My Dad is courageous because he is in the Navy and helps protect our country. He has to do all sorts of things in his job like fighting fires on the ship. If a fire starts, he has to put on his heavy gear and mask and go into small spaces that are filled with flames. Another part of his job is protecting the ship when it is in port. He stands guard duty with a gun to make sure that the ship is secure. I think it takes courage to be on a ship that goes into a war zone. It also take courage to fight a war that some people think the United States shouldn't be doing. Most of all it takes courage to be away from your family for a long time. My Dad had to be really brave when he said goodbye to us and so did I.
Facing the unknown, whether it's the dark or some unspoken evil takes courage. Sometimes the simplest display of courage is just taking action. Eleanor Roosevelt, of whom I generally am not a big fan, said "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." Simply put, courage takes place one act at a time.