Friday, March 07, 2008
Most folks knew him as Richard, Rich, or Richie. We had a cousin named Ricky, so some of the relatives called him "Little Ricky" even though he was 4 months older than his cousin. But when my dad first called him "Dick," my mom put her foot down(in her words) so the only one who got away with that was the high school basketball coach, Mr. Keating.
My brother practically worshiped the ground I walked on, and sometimes that was very annoying, as he was my shadow as we were growing up. I look back and realize that that is the greatest tribute someone could give another person. I could predict what he would become interested in, because it would what I had most recently become interested in. Only thing is he would become more fanatical about it. I got interested in baseball and a year later you would think Ricky swallowed the record book, he would know so much. I would get Batman and Superman comic books, next thing you know Ricky would have his own collection of comics. And he would laugh at my jokes no matter how bad they were.
But it was noticed when he started school that he wasn't as intelligent as the others, and in many cases he was passed from grade to grade as a matter of courtesy. The others knew that he couldn't take teasing and took teasing to a new level. They noticed tan blotches all over his body and started calling him "Spot." Children can be so cruel, but I've always been told that it's a reflection on the parents. There would be other, just as cruel, things done. But the fact is, if Ricky was still around, he wouldn't even think about it. The things he remembered was when some of the upper class students got together and bought him a sports record book. He remembered some of his classmates that stuck up for them, people such as Roger Chaffee, now Dr. Roger Chaffee MD, one of the top cardiologists in Akron, Ohio, and Jim Ritcher, who had won the Outland Trophy, given to the top offensive lineman in college football. Oh, and Jim Ritcher also played in four Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills. Do you see a trend here?
While I was still in high school, Ricky wanted to be on the football team like his brother. He played 8th grade and freshman football, both years the team was undefeated, but Ricky sat on the bench, as he was one of the most uncoordinated kids around. But to be fair, I wasn't too good either and if Highland High School would have cut players, we would have both been cut. They gave everybody a chance. Mr. Cranston, the athletic director, took a liking to him and talked him into being a manager. Ricky was baseball manager his freshman year and would sing(badly) the national anthem before all the games. Ricky earned 2 letters for managing. I didn't earn any.
Oh, those dark splotches? Those were the sign of an inherited condition, called neurofibromatosis. The condition led to epileptic seizures. Ricky started having seizures during his sophomore season. One of the football coaches called our house and said he noticed brief episodes where Ricky would seem to zone out, and suspected petit mal seizures. They gradually got worse and Ricky spent a week at Akron Children's Hospital. while in the hospital there were no seizures noticed and My mom was going to bring him home. While walking toward the entrance of the hospital, she had her purse snatched. Mom was shaken up over it and told Ricky about it. At this point, he went into the first seizure noticed at the hospital, so they kept him another day, with still no definite diagnosis.
As time went on, the seizures started getting worse and so was the cruelty of the other students. My dad thought they were fake and told us as much. The following year, after I graduated from school, Richard and our younger sister Deirdre were getting ready for school. Ricky went into a seizure and my dad punched him in the face. Dear old dad told him that he was tired of his fake f**king seizures, and if he didn't stop this, he(Ricky) would end up in an institution.
When mom couldn't take any more, she talked to our pastor, who went with my dad and Rick to the neurologist. After reading the results of the EEG, the neurologist said it looked like there were electrical storms going on and while he was talikng to the three of them, Ricky then went into a seizure. Ricky was then admitted into the hospital for observation. My dad became a believer, and started treating Ricky better when he thought he had only a little while to live. Ricky would be around for another 33 years.
Next: The adult with the mind of a child and the heart of gold.