A Childhood Promise


After the day is done, after kids have all been tucked in their beds for the night, after the bedtime story has been read, and after the obligatory glass of water has been begged for and then consumed, I watch our two granddaughters slowly falling asleep.

Rocking in the overstuffed chair in their bedroom, I have time to think and to wonder. What one event will they remember from this, their childhood, that shapes who and what they will be when they grow up? Will it be something I said or something I did or didn’t do?

For me, my childhood event had to do with a person who never reached his teenage years, and it was why we moved away from our childhood home a long, long time ago on than old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.

Late one summer afternoon, I heard loud crashing noises coming from our basement, so I slowly crept down the stairs to see what had happened. It could’ve been a monster, but then I saw Older Brother Richard. Standing in the middle of the room, he was holding a bar in his hands with large disks on each end.

Seeing me, he dropped the bar and it fell to the floor with a loud THUD! I walked over and asked what he was doing and whether the loud THUD scared off the basement monster. Laughing he replied, “No monster, I’m building my muscles.”

“Can I have some muscles?” Richard laughed again and then told me I had to eat good food, and lift weights to get muscles and be stronger. I watched carefully to what he was showing me ‘cause I wanted to be big and strong like he was. He made me promise to work out every day and eat right.

Each afternoon I’d find him down in the basement working out, and each day he’d stop to show me how to lift weights. After all, looking after little brothers is what older brothers are supposed to do.

It was the last thing he showed me. A few weeks later we lost Richard due to a tragic accident while playing with his friends.

Sadly, the older I become the harder it is to still see his face. After all, it happened over fifty years ago. The passage of time may have blurred the image, but the memory of that event, is still well-defined. Since then, I’ve done my best to keep that childhood promise. Whether it’s in the gym or in the yard, I still work out every day, and I eat good food, (mostly). After all a promise is a promise, even if it comes from childhood.

Just before leaving the bedroom I give our two sleeping angels a kiss and whisper, “Papa loves you.” Pausing at the door, I look back at them and wonder what event has already happened, or will happen, that will shape the rest of their lives.

Will it be chasing after a grasshopper like they both did this morning, catching butterflies on their finger like they did last week, watching the stars at night, climbing a mountain of freshly dumped dirt like they did this afternoon, or a hundred other things they do together?

Whatever the event, I hope it’s a joyful one. And I hope The Wife and I are there to experience it with them.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]