I remember the day in fragments of memory that sparkle and cut like broken glass.
I awoke to my mother’s voice on the phone, “Can you come over to the house?” That immediate sinking feeling flooded my gut. Why was she at home? It was the middle of the week. I jokingly asked if she’d been fired. No, just come over.
When she looked at me I saw death and pain her brown eyes. My mind started racing. My grandmother? Dad? “No, Dad is on his way.”...Dad is on his way? Why? You’re divorced. He should be at work. Who is it?! What happened?!
With a quick, quavering breath the bow was drawn and then the arrow rocketed deep into my chest. “Ricky shot himself.”
I remember feeling like the world was spinning. I remember not understanding. Surely she didn’t mean what it sounded like. He couldn’t be dead. Suicide?
My entire being screamed out against it. Looking back, I know in my bones that I did something then but in my memory everything stops. Those moments are locked away and I refuse to locate the key.
Soon my Dad was there and they were both holding me. A reminder of what my Uncle Ricky always told me, “Your parents are who they are. You can’t change them. Just remember that they love you and no matter what they want to do what is best for you.”The next days were a blur.
I wore pink to his funeral because he would have been happy to see me in the color. Every year when we went shopping for my birthday he’d pick out bright colors for me, even when I was going through my angsty teenage years. We sat together as a family, all of us side by side. My Bonus Parents never knew him the way we did but they stood by us as we grieved. My knees buckled as we sang in the Church and my parents held me up. Twenty years old but still their baby.
I’ve spent the past eight years working to heal. The first year was the worst but time has played its part in dulling the edges. There have been so many moments when I have wept with frustration and grief because he wasn’t there. Every birthday and Christmas missed. The day I graduated from college. The day I walked down the aisle to the man of my dreams. The day my daughters were born. When I held my sweet baby girls for the first time and he, the man who had been there on the first day that I entered this world and celebrated so many birthdays with me, was not there to see what I had worked so hard to create.
I’ve had moments of regret…moments where I tormented myself for not seeing the signs. For not saying, “I love you,” the last time we spoke. I have moved past those. He would have hated those moments.
I’ve had moments of anger. How could he do this? How could he leave his family? We love him! He should be here! I need him! I’ve learned to let that go too. The person who pulled that trigger is not the man I choose to remember. My Uncle was full of life and humor and…his own demons. I know this, he didn’t leave us to hurt us, whatever his reasons may have been.
Through it all there have been moments of outrageous laughter. Memories that come crashing in like waves. That terrible 90’s hairdo with the frosted tips. Our shopping trip. Firing rotten fruit from a potato gun. The Christmas when he cut his hand so I could see what blood looked like through my brand new microscope. Asking me every time I saw him if I wanted a cigarette and praising me when I said no. The time he passed the hat at my parent’s Christmas party to buy me a toy Jeep that I could actually drive. Flying kites together on the day my grandmother died. His pride as he told stories about his head strong daughters.
So, today I took the day off. I spent my time with my babies. I had lunch with my Dad. I mentally asked myself if I wanted a cigarette and, as always, replied, “no.” I wore pink. I lived and found laughter and embraced the day. I cried and slowed down and remembered my wild, flawed, obnoxious, funny, loud Uncle.
In Loving Memory of Richard “Ricky” Rizer. Gone but never forgotten.