Now – I’m a Grandpa…


Time Keeps On Ticking…

The summer of 1962, August 13th a day that haunts me still.  That morning was bright and windless with a solid blue canopy over all who breathed, animals, insects, flowers, and naturally, us humans.   I pedaled and coasted my bike down the east-west street to where it ended into a busy north-south 4 lane avenue; Tom’s house was just across that avenue.

Though Mom had always told me to go the extra half-block to the corner street lights and cross with the green light, I never did.  I waited patiently for the cars to pass, sometimes, but mostly I just waited for an opening where I was sure I was fast enough to make it to the other side and I shot across on my motorcycle bike that grandpa had bought for me.

Grandpa was a WWI veteran that saw most of his service years in France.  He even gave the eldest of two daughters a French name, Mireille, perhaps from a girlfriend there, that’s what Mom, the youngest of the two girls, said.  I had a “tin” picture of him in his uniform looking young and debonair.  I used to carry it with me all the time, come to think of it, I don’t think I was supposed to have that ancient photo.  I was still a boy (in grade school) when it mysteriously vanished.  The picture of that dapper kid (my grandpa) had been permanently photographed in my mind’s eye, but now; I am the only one who can see it .

Thank goodness for Grandpa because he thought that every boy should have a bike. Grandpa bought and totally surprised me with a “20 bike that

This was such a "cool" movie to an 8 yr old boy and now I owned a bike like Marlon Brando's.
This was such a “cool” movie to an 8 yr old impressionable boy and now I owned a bike like, Johnny’s, (Marlon Brando).

looked like a motorcycle in it’s dull, dark grey finish, large comfortable black and white seat with springs that showed.   While most bikes only had a crossbar that reached from the seat to the front post, this one had smooth finished tin with no sharp edges filling the space between those bars from end to end and it resembled the gas tank of a motorcycle, I loved it.  This was before such a thing as Stingray’s with their high handlebars and banana seats, or at least before I’d heard of them.

I had the real thing just like the one Marlon Brando rode in the best motorcycle movie ever – “The Wild One.” I started it every morning with a short stick somewhat whittled to resemble a key.  But when I turned the key nothing happened (every morning I went through this ritual) so I raised up above the seat – kicked the pedal – vroom, vrooom, vrooooom and then it just rumbled until we (bike & I) were on our way.  I made the loud engine noise, and then, for added effect I took some of Mom’s clothespins and some of Dad’s playing cards and fastened them to the spokes.  That way the engine would be on when I went anywhere with that precious bike.

Grandpa even took me with him to where he worked (I believe as a dishwasher) and showed me the restaurant’s parrot.  I was amazed at how big those birds were and I felt big doing things with my Grandpa. He worked until he was no longer able to resist his yearnings for his birthplace.  Grandma & grandpa moved back to their home state of Arkansas a while later.   He was working as a cutoff man at the sawmill in the mountains of Adona, Arkansas; and he took me with him a couple of times during our summer visits to see them. Grandpa was a hard-working man, of course, he had to be to support his drinking habit he picked up while in the Army.  There was never any talk of retirement and now my dad is carrying on that tradition. 

All the way down the block to Tom’s I went; he and I met at school in the second grade and we hit it off.  We rode bikes together, his dad took us camping one time – the only time I had ever done that.  We camped for hours in Tom’s backyard.  However, it was a long backyard with a tent and rocks surrounding where the campfire would be, as Tom’s dad put hotdogs and later marshmallows on sticks for us; and to this day I remember how I savored the crunchy, juiciest meal ever, oh so good!

Dad preferred to sit and play gin in a dimly lit, smoke filled bar (even though he did not drink) he played for hours.  And, I don’t think there was another in the world that knew a craps table as well as Dad.  He knew the odds on everything and so I grew up thinking that I would be the best gambler ever.  I had Dad’s wisdom on what to do and what not to do.  “Never drink when you’re gambling, never chase your money, and only play with what you have.  Don’t bring a girl to the game because that will distract you.  Just don’t gamble, period!”

Dad never enjoyed camping and so neither did I, “It’s great if you like it,” he used to say.  Well I learned early on that I didn’t like it.  Though, camping at Tom’s in his backyard was great because I could back home in a few hours.  Dad never talked down about it, he just said that he didn’t care for it and so I grew up trying to impress him with my gambling abilities, though, they were never up to par with his skills and so cost me much.

My cousin, Carl, used to say this about fishing…”Ahh, those guys are nuts.  They sit in a boat all day, drop their line in the water and out of a million gallons they hope to get a bite!  Na, I’ll go to the market to get my fish.”  Obviously another gambler in our family.  None of them were what you would call – family men – they (Dad included) never seemed to enjoy time with their families, but instead, always had to go somewhere.  I don’t know, maybe that was the reason for wanting to be around my dad so much and the reason I considered him great because time with him was so limited.

On the 13th and I don’t remember if it was Friday the 13th Tom gave me a golf club from his Dad’s bag; his dad was at work. He asked if I wanted to go over to Hazel Park School and hit the golf ball around?  I thought that was a great idea so he went inside to tell his ma where we were going though he didn’t say a thing about taking the golf club and balls; he had to be back home in two hours and Tom of course, had a watch.  We were off… Tom held the club across the handlebars of his bike and I carried the 1/2 dozen golf balls in my pockets.

Hazel Park was the big school we would be going to after Hayden Heights.  “You ever been over there Tom? I’ve been by there a few times because me and Wayne built a raft on the pond at the other side of the tracks.”   Railroad tracks ran behind the school and we didn’t ride that far, only to the large vacant and open field passed the ball fields and then we stopped just behind the last one – far from the school.

“You ever been golfing,” Tom asked me because he wanted to be the guy in the know on this venture.  Even though he was that guy on nearly everything.  I just didn’t have experience with family things even though Dad always preached closeness, we weren’t.  Could Dad really expect it when he was never home?

“I never been Tom,” so he told me to go first…

“Take some practice swings,” and that sounded good to me. “I’ve gone with my Dad a few times so I know how to stand and swing the club, you don’t swing it like a baseball bat,” Tom said as if he were an expert. 

He did know more about Golf than I did because I didn’t know the first thing about the game.  Heck, that day was the first time I ever swung a club…other than miniature golf…

Steve Richie

Hi folks, Two lives in one lifetime. The first me, lived to age thirty-four. That Steve was overly confident and oozing with pride. Then, on a record heat-setting day (107º) here in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota and western Wisconsin, a one car near-fatal wreck left me in a two-month long coma. I emerged much as I was before minus certain physical capabilities, but my mind seemed mostly in tact. The crash and its effects did not change me (I emerged a happy individual) but the deeds perpetrated against me in the ensuing months from my wife of sixteen years scared and humbled me as I was dragged down with nothing left by my wife who now had guardianship over all of our accounts. And neither would she allow me to see our kids. She took everything out of, "Our" names and changed them to her name only; then would not allow me to our home and divorced me. I was angry, but no more. I spent half of 1988 and more than half of 1989 in hospitals, nursing homes and a three month stint at a head-injury rehab center where I was being taught how to re-enter society as this different person, that I didn't know. I was not able to return to my previous line of work, a self-employed decorator, you know, painting and paperhanging. It was a physical job which required much dexterity, finesse, and a good grasp of numbers. I returned to the beginning, school, but on a community college level. One of the instructor's liked my writing and I began focusing my attention on that. I attended classes at, "The Loft," A Place for Writers in Minneapolis. While there, a classmate of mine was having her friend from New York, a CBS executive, to her home for the holidays and asked me if she could do a critique on a couple chapters of a book I was writing, "A Day I'll Never Remember" and I obliged. When she returned to class the following Monday she told me that the exec wanted a ten-page synopsis of the book for a possible movie; I was excited. After obliging for that also, I never saw or heard from her or the guy from CBS. Next thing I knew I was watching a movie called, "Regarding Henry" starring Harrison Ford and the scenes of therapy were exactly like what I went through and had written about. Regarding Henry - could've been my story except that, "Henry" got his head injury from a gunshot and his wife stayed with him throughout the ordeal. Coincidence I'm sure, though, the therapy scenes entailed what I described in the book so I always wondered..... My hope, my dream is to bolster our income for my daughter and for myself. I am and have been raising this beautiful, talented little girl who was diagnosed with autism at age two, since 2006 singlehandedly. I divorced her mother the same year following complaints that I spent too much time with our daughter. However, Stephanie began school with no need for special education. She has been reading since age four and understanding what she'd read. Stephanie maintains straight "A's" on her report card, has published two books (through school) and has been selected as an, "Honors" student for seventh grade English. My ex moved to New York to be closer to her sister and has been remarried now for a number of years. Well, that's only a snippet of my sixty-one years and I would like to thank you for reading, thank you.

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