(I apologize for the length of this entry, but I think I'm ready to write about this now.)
So today was Veterans Day, and I almost missed it. I would have, if my Mom hadn't reminded me of it this afternoon. This is the first Veterans Day that I have almost missed in a long time, and this is why:
I knew Ricardo for a good amount of my life, although he didn't have much of an impact on it at first. He was Rick's Dad, and I met him when I was 12 as I was getting to know Rick. Ricardo was a Vietnam veteran who served two tours in Vietnam. He earned one purple heart when he took shrapnel one day. He retired a 10 point disabled veteran at the end of his military career and, because he didn't know what to do with himself once he returned home, went to work at the nearby air base as a civil servant. When I met him, I didn't know any of this.
Rick's Dad had renal failure, and shortly after Rick and I graduated High School he came down to visit us for Christmas. While he was here, he had a heart attack and was in the V.A. hospital for 2 months. He decided to stay with us until he was comfortable living by himself again and we took him back and forth to dialysis throughout the week and moved into a larger apartment so that he could stay with us. He suffered another heart attach in April and had to undergo surgery to correct an aortic aneurysm and removed part of his lung that had died . We went to visit him every day, brought him food, and made sure the nurses were taking care of him. He finally came home in August, only to suffer another heart attack in September. He died September 4th.
Ricardo didn't understand me that well when we lived together. He didn't have the same kind of humor that I do, so jokes that I would tell him or he would tell me were often lost on the other. He didn't understand why I felt the need to make things myself. Rick says that part of it was a difference in education-Ricardo went to war instead of finishing High School and I was in college. He came back with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-I was studying for a psychology degree. That didn't keep him from liking me, or from encouraging Rick to 'hang on to me'. He'd been encouraging Rick to date me since those early days of junior high knowing that we were compatible.
I was fond of him, too, even though I didn't understand him that well, either. For his birthday, I tried to make him a strawberry cake, his favorite. Instead of a cake, however, I pulled a thick, gooey mass out of the oven. Rick put frosting on it while I cried in the bedroom and when I came back out, he'd lit candles on it for his dad and Ricardo still ate a piece of it.
While he stayed with us, Ricardo and Rick conspired together to design and have made my engagement ring, but it was not finished until after Christmas. He was not able to see Rick propose to me (which he did in public the following year), or to see us get married. Ricardo had always wanted a grand-daughter, but he didn't get a chance to see baby c or hold her in his broad hands. He won't be here for any of the great moments of our lives.
I would have thought that taking classes in psychology would prepare me to handle grief or to be able to help Rick with his, but it doesn't. I know that if I still hear the sound of the 21 gun salute in my head and the bugles playing that Rick must surely hear it, too. I think to myself that nobody as young as Rick was then should have to bury one of their parents.
I hope that you had the opportunity to, regardless of political affiliation or opinion of our president and the United States' current state of affairs globally, stop and think about what people like Ricardo sacrificed in order to serve our country. The fact of it is, we still miss him, and this world is a lesser place without him.