My son has two middle names.
One is Atticus, because we like the old-fashioned sound and Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird is an awesome guy.
The other is Michael, because it’s a family name, and my wife’s uncle was an awesome guy. More than that, he was a hero.
Mike McGroarty worked for many years for the La Habra Fire Department, ending his time there with a seven-year stint as chief. Then he moved on to become deputy chief of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. He also helped lead the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, which sends animals into dangerous situations to seek out people in need of rescue.
Through his work, Uncle Mike saw things no person should ever have to see, but for him, it was just part of the job. He fought on the side of life, whether his opponent was destruction left by an earthquake or hurricane or rubble caused by an act of terror. He worked to rescue victims of the Oklahoma City Federal Building Bombing, and he coordinated California’s rescue efforts in New York after Sept. 11, 2001.
After he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he continued to fight on the side of life, though this time that life was his own. Despite harboring a disease that constantly sought to break him down, he pushed for positive progress, and he maintained an attitude of success.
He died on June 7, 2010, never once backing down from his battle.
When my wife and I found out we were having a third baby, she confidently told me it was a boy (we didn’t know for sure until he arrived), and then, with realization dawning on her face, said his middle name would be Michael. (Atticus had been a contender for a first name that we ultimately didn’t choose, but the girls wouldn’t stop calling their baby brother by that one, so we tacked it on, too.)
Even though I felt in my gut that we were having a third girl, I agreed with her.
Now, I can’t wait for my son to get to an age where I can tell him about Uncle Mike, and show him photos, because here’s the other thing: Uncle Mike grew and maintained an amazing moustache. A handlebar moustache. A big moustache with waxed points that curled up at the ends.
I can’t think of a better Movember inspiration, since the month is all about growing moustaches and fighting prostate cancer. It’s like the effort was started with him in mind.
If you want to join me, Uncle Mike, my (clean-faced 1-year-old) son, and an amazing number of men and women around the country and world in raising awareness of and combating prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health issues—if you want to join us in fighting on the side of life—visit my Movember page and consider leaving a comment or making a donation.
You can also tell me about the heroes in your life, because I know you have them.