58: A Hidden Hero

58: A Hidden Hero

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

A Hidden Hero

I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.

~Maya Angelou

My grandma placed a comforting hand over mine but it did little to calm the quivering of my chin or the tears spilling down my cheeks. “I don’t think you chose this, honey.”

My grandmother is rough around the edges, brash, and painfully honest. She curses more than most teenagers and can outdrink a twenty-one-year-old. When I was five years old, she backed up the car at a fast food drive-thru to scream at the worker behind the glass because he didn’t give her a napkin.

Grandma is loud, happy, and always laughing, but she can worry herself into a full-on panic in a matter of seconds and is never calm about anything. A long running joke in our family has always been “don’t tell Grandma” whenever something bad happens for fear of her being worried into an early grave.

This woman loves harder and deeper than anyone I know. She has more pride in her kids and grandkids than anything else in her life (even when we don’t deserve it). She has worked hard her whole life to earn everything she has. Nothing was ever handed to her, as she grew up with a lot of siblings and not much money. I respect my grandmother more than nearly anyone else in my life, which made this confession that much harder. I didn’t want to disappoint her.

“I met her, didn’t I?” asked Grandma. “The other day when you were here. The girl you had with you… I thought I noticed something between you.”

I shifted on the barstool and attempted to sit higher as I picked at an invisible spot on the counter between us. “Yeah, she was with me.”

Grandma hummed. I watched as her eyes glazed over and she tried to recall the girl I had brought to meet her the week before. I waited for the same questions I had from others. Is it a phase? What about when you had all those boyfriends? Were you faking it before? What about God? It’s in the Bible. You might go to hell. Aren’t you scared of that? Even in the 21st century, I had been bombarded with animosity and ignorance from people I loved. I had lost friends along the way, but I didn’t want to lose any of my family. This was me. It was a piece of me I couldn’t change.

“Well,” she gave me a half smile, “like I said, I don’t think you chose this. Nobody chooses to make their life more difficult.”

I nodded along with her. She was right. I wish it was as easy as falling in love with Prince Charming and having two or three perfect children with him, but that’s not the hand I was dealt.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner,” I mumbled pathetically as my tears started to dry. “Not everyone has been accepting of it.”

“Listen, honey,” she leaned closer to ensure I was really hearing her this time. “It is nobody’s business what you do in your own bedroom. Nobody’s. I will always love you. I accept you, and I would love to meet her again.”

My shoulders relaxed. She was the first person in my family to ask to meet the girl who would one day be my wife. She was the first person to give me unconditional acceptance. She never once questioned my relationship or sexuality. She never brought up religion, politics, or “family values” in regards to my relationship. Grandma helped me take the first real step toward loving and accepting myself.

In the weeks and months to come, the rest of the family followed suit. If Grandma was okay with it, so were they. More importantly, I grew more and more secure with myself as I realized I wouldn’t want a different hand dealt to me, anyway. I never wanted a Prince Charming to begin with. I no longer felt guilty for being who I am.

There are a lot of things I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll live a long life or die young. I don’t know if we should guide our lives by science or by faith. I don’t know if the world will ever find peace.

But… I do know one thing without a doubt: heroes exist in the most unlikely of places. I went to my grandma’s house that day expecting to be rejected. Expecting to have to explain myself. Expecting to come out on the other side feeling worse than I already did. Heroes don’t always wear capes or uniforms. They don’t always make their presence known. Sometimes the best heroes hide in the corners of our hearts and only come forward when we need them the most.

My grandma is a hero.

She accepted me without question and without judgment.

Someday, hopefully a long time from now, she’ll be gone and I’ll continue to tell this story to anybody who will listen. The story of my grandma and how the world is a little flatter without her but better because she was here.

~Allisa Bahney

More stories from our partners