“Life is a dream. Death...an awakening.”
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy

You are sitting with your oldest son at the Market House diner. Built in 1870 and run as a place for local farmers to sell produce and wares, it has operated continuously for almost a century and a half. A two story brick structure with a portico completely around the outside for vendors to display their vegetables.....it’s a taproot that refuses to be pulled out of the ground of history. Your father-in law used to ride a mule ten miles from a little farm into this place when he was a child. You keep looking at the pictures hung on the wall from that era expecting to see him there, city slicker hat tilted down over one eye, worn out shoes clinging to his toes.

But today you sit at a a small table, your son thumbs his smartphone chugging a root beer and you sip hot coffee from a white mug. It’s a tradition. He helps you with some errands, you buy him lunch, you both get to stay informed on any new details of life. You’ve ordered one of your favorite meals, a short stack of blueberry flapjacks with link sausageand real maple syrup milked from a stand of trees on the outskirts of town. He gets what he always gets. A bacon cheeseburger, onions, lettuce, tomato and fries. You’ve never been disappointed in the meal or the price tag. The waitress is efficient and timely.

You never can be ready for this sort of thing, it always comes from out of nowhere. Your son looks up from his phone, hesitates for a moment and ....then tells you your childhood hero is dead. It sort of takes your breath away but he passes the phone over and the headline confirms it. The font seems especially dark and bold.

Your mind immediately goes back to a small baseball field of your youth and a team of scraggly looking ten year olds coached by your father. One of those ten year olds is you, one is the son of your childhood hero. His dad plays Major League Baseball. That makes him a God of sorts. Your teammate is wearing an old first baseman’s mitt that is four times too big for his hand but he plays brilliantly with it. It belongs to his father. He also has his father’s ability to play.

One game the regular catcher fails to show up. You get volunteered to catch for the son of your childhood hero. No problem, this is going to be fun. The first warmup pitch is like nothing you’ve ever caught. He’s left handed and the pitch tails left to right. It also is passed your mask before you get your catchers glove up. The ball sticks in the fencing in the backstop. That’s all you remember about the way he pitched. But you never forget the way he hit.

You play on baseball teams with him up through high school. Every year it was the same. Line drives repeatedly sail over the fence. He gets drafted out of high school but goes to college. He is the best college player in the country one year, and wins an award to prove it. He plays Major League Baseball just like his dad, your childhood hero. And he manages Major League Baseball and wins two World Series Rings.

As a child you saved every baseball card he ever appeared on. Your youngest son now has them framed on his wall at home.

What makes a real hero to a boy? He's someone the boy wants to be like but not someone bigger than life itself. He’s honest, true, committed and maybe not so immortal after all. He returns to his hometown and works to make things better for new generations of kids simply wanting to be the best they can. He’s the kind of guy who would show up at your father’s funeral and tell you what a great person your old man was. He would apologize for his son that he could not be there. He might walk out on the mound of a World Series game and throw out the first pitch and the next day share a chili dog with you at the hometown hot dog shop.

You finish your last blueberry pancake sausage maple syrup combination and chase it with a swig of coffee. You leave a twenty dollar bill on the table with a tip. Your son says, “You ready?” and you reply, “ Yeah, .....I think so.”