“My Helpful Hero,” Jan. 10, 2017

There he is, my hero. In front of the TV. Headphones on his head. Controller in his hands. As bug-eyed as a chihuahua at a fireworks extravaganza. And fighting for his life in an Xbox game called “Minecraft.”

I wish you could see him.

Believe or not, I gave him that Xbox. It was the least I could do. Last summer, when I twisted my ankle and spent six weeks in a boot and a wheelchair, Papa Mark (as our grandkids call him) took over all the chores _ cooking, cleaning, laundry and other things we usually shared.

He also became my personal valet. Brought me coffee in bed; served my lunch on a tray (I rolled to the table for dinner); and put me and my chariot into the car if we had to go out. He even pushed me out to the patio for sunsets and stargazing.

He learned to make a fried egg sandwich just the way I like it (fried egg, white bread, a lot of mayo, a little salt.) And I learned to eat them often.

Best of all, he did everything with good nature and cheer. Usually. There were moments, but never mind.

He was and is and will always be my hero. I tell him that often. Several times a day. He laughs, but I think he likes it.

No one in my adult life had ever done those things for me. I had never needed, wanted or accepted being taken care of. Perhaps you can relate. For those of us who pride ourselves on being strong (and we all know who we are) being needy is a hard lesson to learn.

Imagine my surprise, not just to learn it, but to like it. Not the wheelchair. Not the boot. Surely not the pain. But I truly liked feeling so cared for.

We should all feel that cared for once in a while. I liked it so much I decided to do it again.

Just after Thanksgiving _ three months after getting rid of the boot and the wheelchair _ I had surgery to repair my ankle. Many of you read about that and wrote to wish me well. I can’t thank you enough. I read your notes to Papa Mark and we smiled at them together.

Five weeks after surgery, I’m still in a boot and wheelchair, but hoping to be free soon. Once again, Papa Mark is being my hero. That’s why I gave him the Xbox. He needed a little fun, a little escape. From me.

But know this: If I yell loud enough for him to hear me over the headphones, he will drop that game and come running. If I’m hungry, he’ll whip up a fried egg sandwhich. If I need an outing, he’ll pack me up and off we’ll go. And if I just need him to be there, he will stay.

I’ve been married twice. My first marriage lasted 30 years, until the Coach, my children’s father, died with cancer. Two years later, my former editor confessed his affections and asked me to give him a chance. So I did. We’ve been married almost 12 years now.

Both times, my prerequisites for a husband were much the same: Love. Faith. Laughter. Character. A good person, a good husband, a good father … and a really good grandpa.

Both times, I was blessed to find those qualities and more. But I know things now I didn’t know then. I have requirements I didn’t know I required.

If you’re considering marriage, congratulations. You might first want to list your prerequisites, everything you’d ever want or need in a partner. Such as:

Will he/she push your wheelchair? Make your favorite sandwich? Drop anything (even “Minecraft”) if you call? Listen to what you’re saying, but know what you mean? And somehow manage to make you laugh when you feel like hiding under the porch with the dogs?

Finally, answer this: Are you willing, both of you, with no keeping score, to be whatever is required of you _ not just needed, but needy?

Giving or taking, either way, it’s a gift.

But combined as one, like the old song says? It’s a crazy little thing called love.


  1. Ruth Anne Wagner says

    This is my first experience with your writing. I’m so thankful for my second husband. We met at 70 in an ER where I was a patient and he, an EMT in the ER. It was january 2, 2012. Our first date was 1/7/12. We talked regularly on the phone. On 1/27/15 we were married and today his mind has been destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease. We hold hands and smile together with joy and sadness. Touch and eyes give so much connection. I asked God for 5 good years and we loved through them. Now we hold time together with songs we used to sing together, but now I’m sing to him and he smiles and I shed tears. It’s still good to be together.

  2. Adrienne Thomas says

    Thanks Sharon,
    Beautiful column, so very true about marriage and the “give and take” that makes it work. It really is a partnership between two people through thick and thin, hard times and good.
    Hope your ankle heals quickly!

  3. Martha Ann Myers says

    Love your column and particularly this one on caregivers. In my case, I am the caregiver to my husband who has had colon cancer surgery….the hardest job I will ever love. Truly a privilege to wait on him and give him TLC. He is 87. and I am 75. Married 54 years. Thanks for your column, one of the highlights of my week.
    May God bless you with better health and stamina very soon.
    My best tool going forward: searching out Bible verses and clinging to them. Powerful medicine!

  4. Linda Kantowski says

    I have always known your hubby has a heart of gold, but after reading your column, I now know what to get him for his birthday,, a CAPE! as every Superhero needs one. I just hope it doesn’t get in his way when he plays his bass.

  5. Garnett Zamboni says

    Sharon I wish you well SOON! I’ve been the recipient of many surgeries and there is nothing more soothing than a loving hand to help us through the healing. Over the past 20 years of surgeries and illnesses that were beyond my imagination, I have come to realize nothing in life just happens. We learn and grow from every experience, all the while we become a better person. These are the difficult gifts in life. You’re a wonderful conduit for all of us to learn without having to twist our ankles. Your story is a blessing. Thank you.

  6. Portia Davis Waters says

    Sharon, I smile when I read your ‘sharings’ …. lol … my word for your writings ! You are blessed … to have experienced two such loves in your life ! And the real blessing is that you realize the blessings and treasure them ! Thank you for sharing them with us … we all need the reminders to look around our world and ‘see’ what is there for us and do some treasuring ourselves !
    I fell this last Feb. skiing with my hubby .. up on Sugar Mt. here in NC (we live in Winston-Salem – so we have to drive for our skiing … but that’s ok too !) I fell and fractured my shoulder in two places … never had such pain ! Could not move – to even lift my face from the snow … and long story short … my hubby had to do everything for me for the next three months … two months to heal, then the rehab ! three more months ! Fed me, bathed me – washed my hair, which is long – he even learned to style it ! (I did quietly re-part it when he got it uneven – but it was ok !) He was my hero … we have been married 41 years and we appreciate each and every day together ! I’ve nursed him thru open heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic – 4 years ago and he’s nursed me thru two surgeries and now this injury … We laugh together and love … and the history we share is worth every minute !
    After teaching school for 30 years, I packed up the house .. my husband took a job in China and we moved there ! His company then moved us to Thailand for three years ! We discovered something in those years … on matter what or where we were … as long as we were together … we could laugh, cry and be happy – together !
    I am married to my best friend … so I can appreciate your life and writings … keep it up ! Even though I am rite there with you … it is good to hear from a kindred spirit !

  7. Linda Myers says

    Sharon, I look forward to your column every week in our local paper and online. Praying your ankle heals well and fast. I’m so glad you have a husband who cares for you! I have never found it easy to ask for or accept help. Take care and keep writing about the really important things in life.

  8. Barb Fisher says

    You are very blessed, Sharon and so was I. After my bladder cancer surgery my caregiver stepped up to the plate and never quit. When he was diagnosed with the same cancer 3 years ago, he continued with my medical needs after I told him I really need to learn to do this. He would not relent and said, “This is what I signed on to do when we took our vows 52 years ago.” He is gone now and I miss him dearly and that special touch with a smile he always gave me. I know he is looking down and tells me, “You’re doing just fine honey, keep up the good work.”

    • Kate Sciacca says

      Barb, so sad for your loss…. but that last line brought the tears… God’s Peace be with you dear lady.

  9. I have never written to you until now, I love your columns. Hopefully you will better very soon.

  10. Dick Daniel says

    Thank you for writing about the important things in life.

  11. Carol Toothman says

    It is hard to deal with being the one that needs help. I know so well. I am 62 now and up until about 6 years ago I was the one that took care of everything and I loved it. Then 5 surgeries later I am the needy one. I have to depend on my daughter and a friend. You are so lucky to have had these two wonderful husbands! Me I picked badly. I love your columns! Feel better real soon.

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