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The untold story of my hero

I want to tell you this story. It is the evolving story of a hero, who through the process of me growing up, had to be seen, by me, as human, before he could be my hero, for real-for real. He was my first and biological father, Tomáš Mrnka. He was born in the country formerly known as Czechoslovakia on October 24th 1935, and died, under extremely curious circumstances, in a mine shaft in Stewart BC, on July 7th, 1971. It was 12 days before my 10th birthday. He was 36 years old, and when he died, everything I ever hoped for, and dreamed of, died with him. For a while, a long while.

For too many years after his death, I held him on a topple-worthy-pedestal of my own making, and only ever thought about him, told stories about him, in terms of heroic actions: his undeserved imprisonment in the old country for a democratic cause, his valiant battle to get us, his beloved children and wife, out of the clutches of communism following the Soviet Invasion of our beloved land, and into the country that he wanted more than anything, to provide us a life in. I knew this story so well I could recite it at the hint of his name, and expound at great length on his virtues and sacrifices; for his beloved country, for his beloved family. The parts I left out of the story, the human bits, are as important a contributor to the true nature of his hero-status as his me-created perfection.

He was the first man of too many, to hit me and tell me he loves me in the same moment. He did not do this because he was evil, he did it because that is how children were disciplined; it is what he learned in the environment and culture he grew up in. He was unfaithful to his beloved wife, my beloved mother, and considered somewhat of a Casanova. He was a catch: he had one of the few motorcycles in the country at the time, and a full set of leathers, a rebel with a chip on his shoulder, but he had a cause. He had the inimitable grin, wit and charm of Rhett Butler, and all the girls wanted him. My mother got him, and forgave him, over and over, to keep him. She had endless discord and conflict with her beloved mother because of him. He was not only imprisoned for voicing his political beliefs against the status quo, he was imprisoned for shooting at a law officer. I tell you all of this not to mar his memory or to diminish his heroic nature; I tell you this to illustrate the full context of his humanity, he was so imperfect, so human but still a hero. He worked very hard to redeem himself when he brought us here, to make it right, to atone, to take responsibility.

I tell you this because we all have a dark side, a side that requires constant work and effort to keep in check, to make certain that it is not given more priority than the hero, in all of us. The dark side makes poor decisions based on fear rather than the belief that we will get what we need if we act accordingly; that side is driven by the external, all the world’s influences, as they are marketed to us, rather than the internal, the core of our humanness, our hearts and souls. The darkness ignores our innate intuition, even when the warning bells scream like the sirens in a big city, ignores, the hero in all of us. That piece, which knows love and abuse cannot co-exist, do not, cannot by nature, live in the same environment. The piece that informs every act of kindness and compassion we have ever given freely, without expectation of reward or need for recognition, because that is what gives us the most true happiness. The piece that would die for the people we love, and sometimes for those we don’t even know, but feel true human empathy for. That piece is the one we must nurture, nourish, and encourage to grow and empower.

I could not see my father, Tomáš Mrnka, as the authentic hero he was and is, until I could see the full extent of his humanity, without judgment, or the childish notions I carried about the perfection of a hero. I tell you this story because I have experience with imperfection and humanity, and because I miss my hero today. Rest in peace dad, and know that the lessons of your life, your perfectly imperfect humanity, and your true heroism, have watched over me, followed me, taught me, led me, sometimes astray, but always back, to the hero in me.  More than four decades ago on July 7th, my life and world changed in a way that I spent too many years trying to numb, to feel, to figure out, to forget, to remember; and more than four decades later I come full circle to face my own imperfection and humanity, again. Thank you, dad, for the lessons. You did well; and although my dark side comes out to wreak havoc periodically, I believe that my hero always triumphs in the end. I miss your person every day, but I feel your presence, every second.

M.Y.F.M. July 05, 2012