A Kiss From Ricky

Writer Author  Janet Seever
Christian Article : Health  - Fiction  Yes

Christian Author Writer Laughter rang out as children raced across the school yard, busily engaged in one of their inventive games. The October wind swirled red and yellow leaves against the brick four-room country school, which had stood like a sentinel on the corner for generations. It was a vital part of the rural community of Harriett—population 150—including some of the dogs and cats. In 1953, school games were innocent, and the worst school crimes were gum chewing or whispering—and on rare occasions, looking at a neighbor's test paper.

"You can't play," said LeRoy, hands on his hips.

"Why not?" I questioned.

"Because . . . because you're only in second grade, and second graders aren't old enough. That's why." He peered at me through thick glasses which reminded me of a magnifying glass. A fourth grader, LeRoy often acted as spokesperson for his grade in Mrs. Leander's grade 2-4 classroom.

"That's not fair," I protested, scuffing the toe of my saddle shoe in the dirt. I turned and walked away, pretending I really wasn't interested anyway. But the unfairness of it all hurt deeply. I wanted to play too!

The game? Catch-the-girls-so-Ricky-can–kiss-them. Ricky was Mrs. Leander's fourth grade son, who normally attended the town school in Pine Grove. However, today was a teachers' convention at his school, so he had the day off. Much to our delight, he visited our school.

A handsome boy, Ricky was well-liked and we all looked forward to his visits. In those days kisses were innocent, and the game had far more appeal than Red Light-Green Light, Captain, May I? or Poison Tag. The fourth grade boys chased the giggling girls until they caught them. Then they brought the girls to Ricky, out of the line of sight of the playground supervisor.

Although it was a trivial thing, I buried the memory of that day and the missed kiss deep within.

Later, as a fourth grader, I attended the town school in Pine Grove and attended church there as well. Ricky came to our weekly Bible school class at the church with two of his sixth grade friends. I was acutely aware of Ricky's presence in class, but he never noticed me. Never.

Throughout junior high and high school, Rick, as he was now called, was a popular, model student. As a member of the Future Teachers Club, he sometimes assisted teachers with grade school classes and set all the little girls' hearts a-flutter, including my younger sister´s.

I mostly admired boys from afar, and concentrated on doing well in school. Rick was out of my reach and out of my league.

Days turned to months and months to years. I graduated, went to the university, got my degree and eventually married. Then my husband and I moved overseas.

Grade and high school crushes were long discarded and forgotten. All except one—the memory of that day on the playground. It was a funny story, and I retold it on a number of occasions. But it was important to me for some strange reason, and I held on to it.

While we were overseas, my mother wrote weekly with news—who was getting married, who had a new baby, who had died. On rare occasions she mentioned Rick who had graduated from the university, married and was teaching.

A decade later, my mother sent a clipping from the Pine Grove paper. In her letter she wrote, "I know you remember Rick Leander, so I thought you would like to read what he wrote for the local paper. He's very brave to write so openly."

I could hardly believe what I was reading.

"No one understands the pain of mental illness except someone who has lived through it," Rick wrote. "I am sharing my story to encourage struggling people to get help as I did." He had lost his wife to divorce, lost his job, and lost his self respect in a nightmare of mental turmoil. He also had struggled with an alcohol problem. It was only when the condition was diagnosed as manic depression and his doctor put him on lithium that he was able to find his way out of the mental fog in which he had been living. Now he was finding hope for the future, day by day, step by step.

Emotional pain flooded through me as I remembered the Rick I had known. “Lord,” I prayed, “Be with Rick and help him overcome this mental illness. He deserves so much better than this. The Rick I remember had so much potential.”

At this point, Rick returned to Pine Grove and to the church. He was a different person from the one everyone had known previously. People felt awkward relating to him, but my mother reached out to him, encouraging him to keep coming to church.

Some time after that, Rick's father died. I sent Mrs. Leander a sympathy card and began writing to her at Christmas. It was a natural connection since she had been my teacher so many years back.

Every few years when my husband, John, two children and I were back in Pine Grove on a Sunday, we attended the church with my mother, who was now also widowed. I occasionally saw Mrs. Leander. Rick, with his hippie-like appearance, would chat with me. I tried to remember the sweet young boy of bygone years from the school yard incident, but the two images seemed so different. I couldn´t even reconcile this new Rick with the image of the sharp-dresser from high school days.

Then my mom died in 1992, and we had less occasion to return to Pine Grove.

However, in spite of all the time that had passed, the story of that incident on the playground was still fresh in my memory as if it had been a recent event. I realized how fragile life was, and the story took on a new urgency. It partly belonged to Rick, and I knew if I shared it with his mother, she would pass it on. It was my way of saying, “Rick, I care what happens to you. I always have.”

In one of my letters to Mrs. Leander, I wrote, "There's a funny story I'd like to share with you. It happened in 1953 when I was a student in your class in the Harriett school and Ricky visited our school. . . ."

This past summer, when John and I returned to the church in Pine Grove, Rick was there. Now in his mid-50s, he was dressed in a red-orange-yellow-and-brown vest buttoned down the front— without a shirt—and had on jeans and sandals. With his longish, wavy hair and beard, he would have made a perfect modern-day John the Baptist.

After church, he greeted me with, "I heard you once had a crush on me." He was genuinely pleased and gave me a hug. I was glad the message had been passed to him. Then he asked, "Did you know that my mother recently had a stroke?"

"No, I didn't know," I responded. "I'm so sorry to hear that."

"She's living at home, and I know she would like company. I live with her because she needs help. Do you want to stop and see her?"

“Yes, I would. I haven´t seen her for a number of years.”

John and I got into our car and followed Rick the six blocks to his mother's house. Although the modest décor spoke of the '50s, it was neatly kept up.

Mrs. Leander, now nearing 80, was seated in a chair, reading a book. The stroke had affected her mobility, but she was still alert and remembered me.

"How nice of you to come," she said enthusiastically.

After a visit with Mrs. Leander, Rick, John and I sat down in the living room. Rick got us each a cup of coffee.

"I miss not having a family of my own," Rick said wistfully as he stirred sugar into his coffee. "You are so fortunate to have each other and your two children."

"God has blessed us," I agreed with him. "How about you? What are you doing now days?"

"I hope to go to Bible school so I can work with street people. The need out there is great," he said with conviction. "About three years ago, I met the Lord. I always thought I was a Christian, but discovered I never really knew Him. It's made a big difference in my life."

"That's great! How did it happen?"

"Through a chaplain who works with street people.That's why I want to help others who feel hopeless and live on the street."

"Going back to school at this stage in your life will be a challenge," said John, sipping his coffee.

"Yes," agreed Rick. "But it's something I feel God wants me to do. I won't know if I can do it unless I try. He paused a moment, deep in thought. "I hope I can get some funding to do it.”

"I hope so too," I agreed. "It would be a shame to let your dream die."

Later, when it was time to leave, Rick got up to walk us to the door.

"Thanks for coming," he said, "I know my mother really appreciated your visit. I appreciated it too. The two of you have been an encouragement to me today."

Then, on impulse, he lightly kissed my cheek. “That´s the kiss you missed on the playground nearly fifty years ago. God bless you both," he said with a smile.

"He already has," I said fervently. "More than you can imagine."

Editor's Comment: Author's Notes - "A Kiss from Ricky" Mental illness, brought on by a chemical imbalance, affects a signicant part of the population and is just as much of an illness as diabetes or heart disease. However, in spite of strides in diagnosis and treatment, it still comes with a stigma attached to it. Nowadays, with proper medication, understanding and strong emotional support from those who love them, mentally ill people can make worthwhile contributions to society. I know this from personal experience within my own family. Although you won't find Pine Grove or Harriett on the map, "Rick" does exist and is someone I knew personally. My prayer is that "Rick" will get the emotional support he needs and will be able to fulfull his dream of ministering to other hurting people. Janet

About the Writer Author
State: Alberta
Country: Canada
Email: jseever1@shaw.ca
Website: www.inscribe.org/members/janet-seever
Profile:  Click here!

Worthfinding.com has been given permission to use all materials and content found on this website. All contents of this Website are subject to Copyright protection. Please contact the Christian Writer by email for permission to use their work in any manner.

Most Recent From This Writer

Inspired Still - Designs by LaVellaK

Design Challenged? No worries! Among many design services I offer, I'll gladly design hats, t-shirts and more for you or your organized Special Event. Email me at justask@worthfinding.com for details!

Photgraphy & Design by LaVella Kraft


Make personalized gifts at Zazzle.

Select Article or Story