Better quality of life


The fact the deck had been both swept off and stained a deep redwood didn’t startle The Wife. The fact that for two nights the back door stood closed but unlocked did.

It wasn’t the first time I had forgotten to secure us in. Forgetting things has become more common of late, but there was once a time my memory never failed me — a time when most people’s back doors stood unlocked for months not just days.

Mom and Dad never worried about locking the doors against intruders. Us kids being abducted was not a concern. (There were many days our parents said they’d gladly given us boys away.) Come sundown if we weren’t home, they knew where we were: in the cul-de-sac playing kickball with the gang from Flamingo Street.

Then something happened. Time passed, we started to grow up and set aside such childish things. As adolescence folded into teenage years, the kickball was used less and less. All of us concentrated on things we thought more important: schoolwork, careers, and of course, girls. As we got older and wiser about worldly things, something else happened. We started to lock our doors at night.

Better quality of life became our battle cry. It was our justification for everything: working endless hours at our jobs and spending too much time away from our loved ones.

No matter what else, our children would have a better life than we did. Behind closed doors they will have rooms of their own filled with computers, TVs, iPods and every conceivable electronic device. They would not be deprived of anything. It would surely be a better life than playing kickball in the cul-de-sac.

Sadly though, in our quest for better quality of life, we’ve forgotten something. Spending time with family is the key ingredient.

I met a lady the other day who recently moved here from out of state. I listened as she talked and felt sad for her. She and her husband had heard of the great schools and the better quality of life people in this county enjoy. They wanted the same for their family. They moved here and bought a huge house. Now both have to work all the time to pay the bills and never see each other. The quality of life they sought has, so far, eluded them.

After the sun sets, they lock their doors and don’t venture out. There’s a neighborhood watch patrol that cruises the streets at night, all of this in an effort to protect the quality of life they both work so hard for, but still don’t have. At the end of their cul-de-sac, there’s a phantom kickball that lies still.

Those who continuously strive for richer life have already missed out on it. Is it defined by how much stuff we have or how big our house is? Or even the size of church we attend? How much is enough?

My dad told me many times that if you have your health and family, you have all you need. The older I get, the smarter Dad becomes.

What I would give for just one more kickball game with the guys from Flamingo Street — and the peace symbolized by an unlocked back door.

Back then we already had what we all now seek – a quality of life we will never see again.

We have a family reunion next week. Maybe we can dust off the old kickball, turn off the electronics and not worry so much about locked doors.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is]