May 26, 2015 admin

HERO: Timothy K. Tollaksen

by Terence J. Tollaksen

Age 71. Racine, WI

My brother contracted Polio in 1949, he was 7, and I was 5.  He could walk pretty well a few years later but ran slowly with limited endurance and he was small. In the all-important world of neighborhood games in the 50’s he struggled. I could beat him but winning meant little. The effort he made, however, was several times larger than his size. Like many with these kinds of setbacks he had an inner strength coupled with determination and purpose.

In high school he was a delinquent, not a term in fashion anymore. Suddenly he turned into a scholar and an intellect; after his BA he went to Ireland for postgraduate work in English Lit, ultimately earned his masters and then went on to law school. He practiced for 8 years before he died of what was believed to be post-polio syndrome –it was still the dark ages of neurology so the diagnosis was uncertain – his courage was not.
Through his example I learned to truly appreciate effort over winning, class over boorishness.   In grade school, on the playground during the class recess, there would be 2 captains who would then alternately pick sides for a game of kickball or softball. Typically I was one.  I would choose the slowest, least athletic kids early along with some of the better athletes. We always lost.  But, the look on those kids’ faces when picked early trumped winning so much so that even the good players on the team eventually learned to appreciate their efforts and joy.

Hero is a word tossed about too freely these days; my brother was my hero.

Very early on I learned to look at people for what they are – and not for what they aren’t. I saw too many write off my brother without making an effort to know who he really was.  Each of us has value, gifts, talents, abilities, and self-worth and we all have a responsibility to cultivate those attributes in one another.  Dante has a special place waiting for those who take advantage of others, particularly when those others are at a disadvantage for whatever reason.
Hero is a word tossed about too freely these days; my brother was my hero.


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