Never Did I Ever


Never say never. It’s one of those phrases that our parents said to us kids during those seven magical years we spent growing up on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo. At least once a week, they said, “As soon as you say you’re not going to do something, eventually you will.” I thought I’d never admit it, but they were right. 

For more times than I can remember while we were growing up, Dad stated, “Never will I ever live at the beach. Never will I ever have an inside dog. Dogs belong outside.” Right after we graduated from high school, he moved to a condo in Panama City right on the beach and got not one but two dogs. 

Mom and Dad both said, “Never, ever be a police officer or firefighter when you grow up. Both jobs are too dangerous.” I agreed. Then life happened.

During my second year of college, I was rushed to the horrific scene of Twin Brother Mark’s crushed car. He had been in a head-on accident with a drunk driver. Watching as the firefighters risked their own lives to free him, I knew immediately how I wanted to spend my life. 

When Mark got out of the hospital, I joined the fire department and spent the next 28 years placing my life on the line to save others, just like those firefighters did for my twin brother so many years ago.

Then, early one morning, my career ended as it had started. I found myself again on the scene of a life-changing horrific accident. But this time the accident was mine. Never did I ever think my career would end simply because I slipped in the garden while picking a tomato.     

Never will I ever see a man walk in space, walk on the moon, or a car orbiting Mars. It was 1965 when the first spacewalk happened, only four years later is when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and Elon Musk launched a Tesla into space on February 6, 2018. The car is due to cross the orbit of Mars for the fourth time this year.  

Never did I ever think I would buy a coat that needed to be plugged in at night. Yes, Dear Reader, over at the giant hardware store with the orange roof, they actually have coats and vests that come with a rechargeable battery pack!

Once I thought such a thing was a silly idea, but no more. With heating coils covering the entire back and shoulders, three heat settings, and two heating zones, my new electric coat will keep me warm in the coldest of weather. Watching our granddaughters play soccer this winter, I’m sure to be toasty warm over on the sidelines.

Never did I ever, after spending such an agonizing year with Down the Street Bully Brad sitting behind me in Old Ms. Crabtree’s classroom, think I would want to be back in the third grade. Now, with still a week to go of Christmas break, I can’t wait to go back to school. 

Being a substitute teacher at our granddaughters’ elementary school is something I never imagined would happen. And what is my favorite class to teach? Third grade.

Back on Flamingo, never did I ever think there was gonna be a time when we looked around our table at Christmas to see that one of us kids were gone forever. An empty chair left as a reminder of the great loss we all felt that year. 

After eight operations in 2019, never did I ever think that 2020 could be worse. And never did I ever think there would be another empty chair around our Christmas table, but another one was delivered to our house that year.

What’s the most important Never Did I Ever in my life? That one is simple, never did I ever think I’d be fortunate enough to spend my life with such a wonderful lady as The Wife. This July will mark our 25th anniversary, and to say the day will be special is an understatement.

Every day with her is special. Without her I never would’ve continued writing after that first column so many years ago. Never did I ever think I would meet a person who, no matter what dire situation arises, can keep such a positive outlook on life. A person whose intelligence is only outshone by her wit and charm. And never did I ever think she would marry me. 

And lastly, after receiving a D- as my final grade in Ms. Newsom’s eleventh grade English class, never did I ever think I’d eventually become a writer, and if asked, I bet Ms. Newsome never did either.

To my surprise, and I’m sure hers, this year starts the twenty-third year of this column. Please join me each week in the coming year, right here for Hallmark-type stories of the adventures and misadventures of all those kids from Flamingo and general observations the things in life that happen to us all. 

But never will I ever discuss politics. 

And that’s one “never will I ever” you can always count on.

From The Wife and me, here’s wishing you and your family a happy and healthy New Year.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]