Naina turned six today, you know. I was browsing through birthday cards in the shop when one caught my eye- Not all heroes wear capes and not all angels have wings. Something in it hit home. Maybe because it reminded me of you. Of how you have been my hero all these years. And how I never told you so. Never felt the need to do so.
Every year, when the bravery medals were given in the parades they showed on television, Ma would stare at the ceiling, throat bobbing, afraid to cry in front of me. Or maybe no tears came out anymore. When I asked her at first, why you weren't there with those brave men, she told me that your bravery was a secret. That you and everything you had been was a big secret, and being the good girl I was, I had to keep it safe. I would nod numbly and imagine you getting the medal instead, rising up when your name was called, marching proudly to the podium. I would always be the one to clap the loudest and hug you the hardest when you returned. In my dreams, Ma would be laughing once more, too.
Later, she'd tell me among other things, how you were never supposed to be the hero. To her, you were the person she relied on, whose loss shattered her; to the people you knew, you were a travelling salesman; to those who actually knew you, you were the man with the double identity. But for me, you were the reason I waited for the summers, the laugh I heard when I was sad and the pat on the shoulder I felt when I was lonely, the person who made the four walls feel like home.
You never donned the uniform, true, but to me, Pappa, you are as much of a hero as those who did.
You know, I realized you were my hero the day that I had to tell Naina that her treatment wasn't working. Tell me, Pappa, how could you stop those tears from falling? Did you, too, look up and count to ten because you couldn't let the other person see you cry?
Every time I look at your photo, Pappa, I see in you a hero. Also, I miss you. And I am proud of you.
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