By Matt Gordon
Ever been stuck on a roof? Or in a roadside ditch? Really think of any old place or pickle and stick yourself there. Even a good haunting will do: When there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?
For me, and for hundreds, the answer to that is as resounding as the very sound of the name itself: Rick. It just sort of pierces the night, doesn’t it? Rick.
Rick is the name of my stepfather—perhaps you know a Rick too? He is the first one to arrive to pull your car out of the snow drift and the last one to leave the jobsite despite his status as “Volunteer.”
When Rick was courting my mother, or whatever it is forty-something divorcees call the early stages of romance, we traveled to a state park. He let my sister, his daughter, and me ride not in but on the automobile as the green Toyota Camry ambled along the forest road. When we got to the main road, the girls jumped back into the backseat of the car. I stayed atop it, coaxing Rick into a playful confrontation: “Let’s see what he’s made of,” my teenage wisdom suggested.
His response suggested an answer for which I was unprepared. He turned onto the main road. I gripped the cracked sunroof opening and prostrated myself belly-down along the back glass of the car. He was made of speed and action and cackle, as the car went faster and faster, and more and more water rolled from my grinning, terrified eyes. It was stupendous. It was likely deadly. It was all very Rick. He didn’t just help in times of need, he also brought upon needed times; times of laughter and risk and inexplicable madness.
Somehow, my mother agreed to marry this maniac. They wed and their fused family went to an upscale barbecue place to celebrate. Upon being seated, this restaurant was struck by lightning and the fire brigade showed up, showed us out, and shut the place down. We celebrated nearby instead with a sassy waiter in slapdash drag at what had to be the dingiest diner West of the Mississippi. Though that distinction generously, and mistakenly, assumes it wasn’t worse than those east of the Mississippi too. Rick good-naturedly teased our server and every sleepy-eyed patron of the place, all speed and action and cackle, a joy unbridled.
His yes is yes. I’d say his no is no, but one has to walk a long road with Rick to find a way to a no. Want to jump off this ravine into that river? Yes. Want to fit nine people in this sedan? Yes. Want to make a fast friend of this drifter? Yes. Want to build it ourselves? Yes. Want to hook up a trailer and drive around town yelling Christmas carols and then go through a carwash all while avoiding the police? Yes, yes, and yes.
That last actually happened because they all actually have happened. Rick’s standard reply to any challenge or shenanigan: “wait to worry.” He’s still waiting, it seems. The rest of us are learning.
Be around the Rick in your life enough and you’ll learn too. Mostly, you’ll learn that life is short, one had better make it interesting. And: life is short, it’ll all work out. One way or the other—or many ways in-between—it just will.
So flop atop the car. Take the road trip to California on a whim. Eat chicken off the plates of other customers as you stand in line at a busy restaurant. Life is short and it will all work out. One way or the other.
With Rick in your life, it is seldom one way. But God bless the other. It changes life, not by changing the mundane, but by magnifying the possibility—all possibilities—within it. It is all speed and action, cackling along, one adventure to the next.
So the next time you are stuck on a roof or in a roadside ditch or in any old place or pickle, I’d suggest calling out to Rick for help. If he doesn’t come it is likely due to the fact that he is there beside you on the roof or knee-deep in the ditch or wallowing in all things pickle. Grinning broadly, hopefully, with an ever so timely, “Wait to worry.”