Excerpt: Rita Cosby's 'Quiet Hero'

My family was certainly a little bit unusual living amongst the white picket fences and storied wealth of Greenwich. Everyone knew my folks were from a different country, even if they didn't know which one. You could tell from their heavy accents that the Cosbys, Richard and Adda on Halsey Drive, were from "somewhere else."

There is a distinctive melody to the way the Polish people sound, accenting words Americans typically don't. While my dad spent time actively working to lose his accent, my Danish mother defiantly refused to let go of her. She never got the hang of the English "th" no matter how many times I demonstrated the correct placement of the tongue beneath the front teeth. Regardless of intentions, my parents' heavy accents remained with them, throughout their lives, putting me often in the role of translator. I would dutifully explain to perplexed friends and puzzled store cashiers what exactly it was my parents were saying. Growing up, it was admittedly embarrassing for a young girl facing the harsh judgments of her peers, but today, I'd be overjoyed if I could hear my mother say "tink" or "tank you" just one more time.

Even though they stood out amid the Connecticut Yankees, Richard and Adda quickly became well liked around the neighborhood. My father was the handsome, dark-haired European, often spotted running the streets of Greenwich. Tall and thin, with high cheekbones and chiseled features, he was very fit. Every morning, whether he was at home in Greenwich or away working on engineering projects, he'd wake up at six o'clock and go for a run. It always amazed me that he remained committed to doing so even in pouring rain or a half-foot of snow on the ground.

My father enjoyed the outdoors. Whether coming back from a run or doing yard work, he was always willing to strike up lively conversations with the neighbors. My mother became a neighborhood fixture in her own way thanks to her daily walks with a revered series of dogs. She'd zip down the street, a streak of short-cropped blonde hair, greeting neighbors with a wave and a smile as her sneakers trekked quickly behind her furry friend. In the early days, we always had German shepherds, starting with Nicky, my Dad's favorite. In later years, we had smaller, more lap-friendly dogs. My favorite was Lucky the Shetland sheepdog, who loved my room most, falling asleep many nights to the ticking of my little red leather alarm clock. (One day, for reasons we never understood, Lucky ate the clock.)

My parents always lived modest lives. Our furniture wasn't fancy, our decor was very simple, with European accents. My father never had an expensive suit, or my mom a costly dress. Neither of my parents ever wore anything flashy, reluctant to draw attention to themselves.

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