Ordinary Heroes

I get fun mail. And hate mail. And sad mail. But this is the best mail — and the entire reason I wrote Heroes For My Son. Never forget the heroes you see every day.

Dear Mr. Meltzer,

Two months ago, this past week, my thirty-six year old sister, Renee, was diagnosed with GlioBlastoma Stage 4 brain cancer. It has taken its toll, not only on my sister, as I’m sure you could imagine, but on my entire family; my parents, my sisters two children 6 and 7, and her husband, Scott, my wife, Megan and me. Throughout the course of these two horrific months, my sister has undergone and finished her radiation treatments and continues to receive chemo. She has been in and out of Stony Brook University Hospital as well as Sloan in NYC. She initially went to a local hospital, because she had headaches. Who would have thought this? In the course of Renee’s first four weeks with this illness, the two tumors that were found doubled in size. The tumors are lying on a part of the brain that effects her emotions, personality and short term memory. Because of this, they were and still are unoperable. When asked about her prognosis, the doctors said she would have two to four weeks without treatments. My mom, dad and I, have aged, so it seems, ten years in these two months.

Only three months ago, my sister was planning to go back to teaching for her 14th year, driving her boys to their baseball and swimming events and doing everything a parent could do with their children. All of this was taken away that Sunday when she went into the hospital. Prior to her diagnosis – two weeks before, the eight of us, and my one year old son, Matthew, were fortunate enough to take a family trip to Aruba. Will this be the last family trip? Who knows? We are hoping, no, praying for a miracle. Renee recently met with her doctor from Sloan and he was amazed at how well she looked and sounded since he last saw her a few weeks back. After so many negative outcomes, could this be the break we are looking for? (As if there is such a thing.)

On September 11th, just two weeks after my sister Renee’s diagnosis, my sister-in-law, Kaitlin, went into Stony Brook University Hospital after feeling numbness in her tongue, legs and feet. Within one day, she lost the use of her lower half of her body, and within two days, she was paralyzed from the neck down. After the third day, she was put on a respirator and sent to ICU. She was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, a rare disease where the immune system attacks the nervous system. Basically, your blood turns bad. With this disease, 90% of patients diagnosed will recover. However, once the first symptoms appear, it gets worse for three weeks before it gets better. I am happy to say that Kaitlin is on the slow road to recovery, and is able to walk, with crutches and a walker. She still needs intense occupational and physical therapy, as she cannot open a soda bottle by herself. The one thing that never strayed, was Kaitlin’s mind. She did question her will to live, and go on.

Through these two separate experiences within my own family, I have learned a ton – especially about everyday heroes, and more importantly,who I am. I can talk about my brother-in-law, Scott- Renee’s husband, and how he has found an inner strength to take care of my sister and his two children. I have learned to be a better dad and husband because of him. I look at my parents, my mom and dad, and how they offer their help, guidance and support to their daughter and her family. I feel as if I have become a better son because of them. I look at their neighbors who have cooked food on a regular basis for the past two months. They even held a fall festival on my sister’s driveway so she could celebrate Halloween with her children and their friends. Perhaps one day, I’ll be that neighbor that can lend that hand. I commend my colleagues and the community that I work for, and where my sister lives, that created fundraisers on my sister’s behalf, sent and continue to send gift cards. I look at my wife, who has been the strength for me, despite what she is going through. I look at her family and see what they have done for Kaitlin. Then I look at Matthew, my son, perhaps the true hero at age 17 months. He is the one who can get me to smile at any moments notice. Sure, he probably senses what going on, but he makes us laugh regardless.

Then there is Renee. My sister. A teacher. A friend. The person who helped me find my way in this world. It’s pretty basic quite honestly. At some point in time we have to face reality and have to make simple decisions that will effect us tomorrow. Fifteen years ago, my sister invited me into her classroom to help her set it up. I was hanging up a bulletin board behind her desk. At that moment, I turned around and had an epiphany. I saw a classroom of students looking at me, instead of empty desks waiting anxiously for those children. I knew then that teaching was for me. I had found my tomorrow, because of my sister. Besides her classroom ways, she taught me to love my child more than anything, and to appreciate my parents. She taught me to set time aside to watch your children play and live. My sister, my hero. Now I look at her, and I see that she is in the fight for her life. I have told her many times how she inspired and continues to inspire me. I can only hope she gets through this, not only for me, but for her own children and family, for my son too, and my mom and dad.

I don’t know why, but I feel compelled to write you. You wrote about heroes; those that defied the odds and did things that noone could think possible, especially when others turned their backs. I truly appreciated what you wrote and how simple you made these heroes sound. I cannot wait to share these stories with my son when he is old enough. I have been sharing these stories with the 5th grade students whom I teach, since I bought this books less than two weeks ago. My fifth graders are now turning my questions about what you wrote into writing assignments – if that’s okay with you. Through all of these experiences that you write, it seems like you hit upon- story after story- of what you learned. For that I am grateful and perhaps that’s why I write.

Thank you for allowing me to write my story to you. Everyone of us has a hero within us. At times we lose that sense, especially with all the negativity in the world. Perhaps that’s why you wrote this book too. It’s these trying moments that define who we are as people. Please continue to show and talk to your children about these heroes, yet continue to show them that there are heroes within all of us, and you don’t have to look to far to see that. Besides, I’m sure they already look at you that way!

Respectfully,

Mark Yashowitz

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Coach

Just got this sent to me by reader Wendy Tindall — and love this story.  Here’s to all the coaches out there.

From Wendy, who’s hero is Doug Messeck:

Doug has become someone that I am glad my sons look up to, and a man I can point to and tell my daughter—”find someone like him!”.  He has given them confidence in their abilities and strength in their character.  Very few men are able to convey such a no-nonsense attitude and still let the kids know they matter and are special!  Who is he……the little league coach I was lucky enough to have my kids play for.  Thanks Doug!

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Why I Love Kodak

Okay, now that the tour has calmed and my family recognizes me again, I finally got a chance to upload all the photos from the Heroes For My Son book tour to our regular Brad Meltzer facebook page.

The gallery contains pics of tons of readers, my very first girlfriend, my first best friend …in Florida, and even the family of a high school friend who died too young. It just reminds me how lucky we are every day. And how many beautiful readers and friends I’m so lucky to be surrounded by. You are the real heroes.

Anyway, special thanks to Kodak for the use of the amazing M530 Easy Share camera. Gave me my true Kodak moments.

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Bestseller List

I’m breaking one of my rules. I never go out there and yell from the rooftops when we get on the bestseller list. And y’know why? Because being on a stupid list doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t make me a smarter, nicer, or better person. It just means my family bought a lot of books.

But.

Sometimes you need to say thank you. And I need to say thank you for this: When Heroes For My Son launched, it was seen as a small idealistic book. It didn’t have crazy orders. It was always the underdog. And the entire advertising budget for the book was…zero.

Zero dollars.

Not a single ad was bought. Not a single TV or radio or print ad ran. In fact, in the weeks before the launch, the entire imprint that bought the book was shut down. It was an orphan book.

But, as it was launched, it had one thing going for it: you. Yes, you — our family and friends and beloved readers who supported this little dream of a book. You came out, and supported it, and bought copies for Dads and Grandparents, and kids and new babies. And Kodak came in and believed in that dream. And so did all our friends in the media and in publishing, who have looked out for us since page one. And so did the people at Harper, who took it over.

And that was how the book with zero advertising dollars just made the number two spot on the New York Times bestseller list (which I just got the call about).

So as I finish the tour tonight in Michigan, thank you for believing in this little book — and in me. It is your love and support of the thrillers that let me do this book for my boys. And it’s why it was launched with so much love. And that love is the only damn way to explain anything in this world.

Love on all of you.

b

PS – Right after we got the news, look what we passed. No kidding.

Marshalls

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Heroes For My Son – Dallas Signing

This is how you welcome someone to Dallas. Never have I seen a bigger balder head on a stadium.

This is how you welcome someone to Dallas. Never have I seen a bigger balder head on a stadium.

I’ll be at Borders tonight at 7:00 PM

View Larger Map

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All Things Considered, NPR Interview

From All Things Considered (NPR) — me talking about Heroes For My Son.

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One More Day

It’s now less than twenty-four hours until Heroes For My Son is released into our wild cruel world. So in this quiet little moment, let me tell you the most important thing of all: thank you. Thank you for what you’ve always done for all of us. If it weren’t for you buying the other stuff, I don’t get to do this one. And this one is just so personal to me.

As I’ve said before and will say again, this isn’t a book to me. It’s a dream. More important, it’s my dream for my son — and it’s something I thought up on the very first night Jonas was born eight years ago. Is that schmaltzy? You better believe it is. But I want my son to learn that too. And I hope that whoever you give it to — Dad, Grandparents, Mom, teacher, or child — I hope they get the joy that I had building it.

In fact, to show you what I’m talking about, take a look at this, which answers the real question my son asked me (and also gives you the first peek at some of the heroes inside).

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My Mom

With less than a week to go until the release of Heroes For My Son, things are getting crazy here. But even with all that’s going on, nothing in my professional life has hit me as hard as putting together this video. Anyone with a mother will understand.

We usually go through a few drafts when we do a video. Here, we went through dozens of edits, tweaks, etc. This one had to be perfect. It’s for my Mom.

So yes, she’s in the book along with Jim Henson, Rosa Parks and Mr. Rogers.

Of course, feel free to forward to your own Mom. And happy Mother’s Day to all.

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Calling All Members!

Okay, we’re officially 3 weeks away from the launch of Heroes For My Son.

As we do with every book, just want to know who wants to help by being part of our oh-so-glamorous Invisible Army (who every book saves our tushies like nobody’s business). If you’re up for it, please email me here or at bradmeltzer44 AT gmail.com with the message: “I’m in.” We’ll do the rest.

Love you like Milano cookies.

-b

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Make A Wish

Time to reveal a new hero from the book.

Of all the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet while researching Heroes For My Son, I think the greatest thrill was meeting Frank Shankwitz. In fact, just to share a little more, here’s the actual entry from the book:

It started with a boy named Chris.
Chris wanted to be a police officer.
The problem was he had leukemia. He was dying.

But when Chris met Officer Frank Shankwitz,
when he saw Shankwitz’s motorcyle,
when Shankwitz came to the boy’s home and created a toy-motorcycle riding test,
for just that day, Chris forgot about the leukemia eating away at his body.

Two days after the visit, Chris was in a coma.
Shankwitz came to the boy’s hospital room to present him with real “motorcycle wings.”
When he pinned them on the boy’s uniform, young Chris actually came out of the coma.
And smiled.

On the flight back from Chris’s funeral, Shankwitz had an idea.
What if he could somehow give that same joy to other kids like Chris…just for one day?
Right there, the Make-A-Wish foundation was born.

During the research phase, I had the honor of getting on the phone with Frank. He gave me fifty more reasons why he should be in this book alongside Eleanor Roosevelt and the bigshots. So in his honor, check out World Wish Day and help them celebrate the upcoming 30th anniversary of Chris’s first wish day.

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