2016 Ripley year in review

The highlights and lowlights of 2016 (make yourself comfortable….I might go on a rant)

February…I was assigned three post-season basketball games, a personal high for me.  It’ll be a tough number to beat but every night on the court I try not to suck.  So far….so good.  I used to get butterflies before each game, hours before tip.  Nowadays I get a little nervous, but only to get the game started and start having fun.

April…I took a cruise in the Caribbean with my best buddy.  It was a banner year of travel for yours truly.  Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico and Japan.  Some of my favorite photos of the year were taken during this cruise.  Dave’s my wingman.  Has been since August of 1984.

KICKIN' ASS SINCE 1984

KICKIN’ ASS SINCE 1984

The Tequila Kid and The Ripper

The Tequila Kid and The Ripper

June….a family vacation to Colorado.  All five of us.  Again…lots of fun, great food and a few memorable photos.

Hurricane Pass

Hurricane Pass

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

August…the unexpected death of a young friend.  I miss him.  I was working yesterday when a young man wearing a hoodie turned towards me asked a question, he looked like my friend.  It took me aback.  His death has affected the way that I manage our young employees.  I can’t say that its a better way of managing, but more aware of what’s at stake.  Over the course of 27 years I’ve known five employees who’ve taken their own lives.  I’ve never come to a reasonable answer for any one of them.  As I said before…I miss him.

2016...With our friends daughter, Lilly. She'll never know...

2016…With our friends daughter, Lilly. She’ll never know how great of a person Jordan was.

 

August…..they flew the coop!!  Our two youngest daughters left…in a big way.  One to Germany.  The other to Japan.  Our closest daughter is in Miami…1500 miles away.  My wife and I are all alone.

September….we’ve lived in this neighborhood since 2002.  We’ve been the “new” neighbors for almost 15 years to our next door neighbors.  With Pat and Ed moving into an assisted living apartment and our other neighbor moving to a nearby town…Connie and I are now “old” neighbors.  The young couple living next to us put up a privacy fence and don’t let me pet their dog (of all things…?) but at least Jerry and Claire seem more like our kind.  Nice…wave if they see you…stop and talk.

October...at my workplace, I started posting videos on our stores Facebook page with the charge of “engage our customers”.  Many of the videos that I see on Facebook for our company are…professional though fairly bland, in my opinion.  What I did was become Rowdy Rich.  I  started putting stuff out there with the idea of trying to catch our customers attention with #1…a gimmick (me wearing a pig nose for National Pork Month or something else) and #2…a great price on something that our customers may want.  Its resulted in folks enjoying our Facebook videos but as far as driving us towards a sizable sales increase, don’t hold your breath.

November….I traveled to Japan to visit our daughter Karalee.  Its a long-ass flight…dead serious, but quite an adventure…and I totally enjoyed myself.

At some falls in a gorge with Karalee

At some falls in a gorge with Karalee

December…I read my Facebook “Year in Review”.  Can’t say that I liked it, so I didn’t post it.  What I did find interesting is that I “liked” 5300 times.  REALLY?!  Am I that promiscuous with the “like” button?!  Broken down daily…that’s like 15 “likes” a day.  I was wondering if I was being too liberal with it, then I realized that I was being totally stupid because I’m always going to “like” or react to dog and cat videos, beautiful sunrise/sunset photos, memes that are probably inappropriate and a friend of mine posted her Facebook in review and she had over 10,000 “likes” (BTW…she rarely posts, what she does post isn’t funny and she’s a fairly quiet person….so if anyone has a problem it’s her….not me, cause I’m normal).

Connie left me alone for the holidays.  Dead serious.  For the last week I’ve been totally alone.  Christmas Eve…alone.  Christmas morning…alone.  Thank God my brother and his wife had me over for Christmas dinner (where I was fed like a King!!).  Before you get the tar warmed up and feathers ready, she’s visiting our two daughters.  One in Germany and one in Japan, with a quick visit to Sweden where she’s touring where her ancestors lived, not to mention the moose burgers she ate and wine she’s been drinking…all the while “missing you sweetheart!!”  That old ruse!!  Someone needs to start a business where you can rent a pet for the duration of your wife’s vacation.  Her absence would be greatly eased with either a puppy or kitten greeting me every nightDead serious. 

My boss had a baby.  So I’m trying to do my job and hers.  I can’t really half-ass either and get away with it…so I’ve been going into work on my days off for a few hours and working.  I’ve worked 25 hours in two days so far this week!  Its okay…I’m just getting a little grumpy towards the end of my work day…especially with no puppy or kitten or wife to greet me at home.  Also…since its Christmas break there’s no basketball games to officiate to work off my stress.  Honestly…that brings me down as well.

I’m part of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, an organization that pairs at-risk kids with mentors.   I’m a Big Brother to a 14 year-old young man.  I try to be a good influence on him, take him to movies, dinner, games, try to teach him life-skills, etc.  We’ve been together for 2+ years.  Recently his mother (and him) won’t respond to me taking him out like we used to do.  I’ve been trying for two months with nothing happening.  If his mother does reply she says that “he’ll get back to you”.  I understand that he’s 14, probably doesn’t think replying to my texts are a big deal…but I wonder if we’re “done”.  It kind of made me mad, at first, but perhaps I was only to be a part of his life for these past two years and that’s his journey, not mine.  Our case worker is reaching out to him…but I have a feeling that its “over”.  If it is…I’d be sad.  He doesn’t have a good male role model (not that I’m a Boy Scout by any measure….) in his life.  His friends are shoplifting and such, I told his mother that. He might be done with me.   I’ll just wait and see.

Ripley's...jumping for joy

Ripley’s…jumping for joy

I hope that your year was a great one.  Take care and thanks for coming along.

God bless…

R

 

You’re not here….

I stopped in to see you today.  I was minding my own business when Gun’s & Roses “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” came on the radio.  I’ve heard that song three times since you chose to leave us.  On the drive to your visitation.  Once in September when I was a block away from you and I stopped in, and this morning when I was three blocks from you.  Its like you, or someone else, is nudging me towards you, again.

I honestly don’t know why I stop to see you.  You’re not there, just a marker with your name, date of birth and the day you left us.  A relatively fresh bouquet of red roses, and one withered arrangement of lavender roses.  Some autumn decorations and one heartfelt Ziploc baggie with hearts drawn on with a few cookies in it.  We still miss you bro.

As if the holidays weren’t hard enough, a cold cloud of melancholy sadness lies over many of our hearts.  “What if…?” still crosses my mind.  I’m not alone. 

December 2013 you and Dalton asked if you could stripe the mannicans of their holiday clothes and wear them that night.  I said "why the hell not..?"  You were always looking for a laugh.

December 2013 you and Dalton asked if you could stripe the mannequins of their holiday clothes and wear them that night. I said “why the hell not..?” You were always looking for a laugh.

I looked forward to you rolling your eyes at me as you flashed across the front end of our store, on your way to another supervisor call.  To you sarcastically telling me how amazed you are at me being able to navigate from one country to another.  To you telling me to “get to work”, to how much I looked forward to discussing my trip to Germany with you.  I miss your work ethic.  You left a huge professional void at our store.  I miss talking football with you…and movies.

Probably being naughty...but nice around Santa this year

Probably being naughty…but nice around Santa this year

I’ve wondered why I visit your grave?  Throat tight, eyes watery, chest heavy…I guess that I’m no good at grieving someone who shouldn’t be dead…someone whom I love.  Do me a favor, Jordan, the next time that you nudge me…nudge me somewhere happyThanks bro.  Until then…rest my brother, rest. 

Rip

I’m done

I’m done crying, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.  I’m wired to live in life…not death.  I’m tired of hearing from others how sad I look.  I’m tired of folks pulling me in for a hug.  I’m tired of sadness and death.  I’m done. Instead of crying…I’ll celebrate your life.  Remembering your laugh, your energy and orneriness.  I’ll be kinder, maybe a little more attentive and better than ever.  My hugs will be happy hugs.  I’m going to start giving people some good-natured shit.  I’m going to start being me again because “sad me” ain’t me.

What’s my “take-a-way” from your death.  Life’s short.  Touch someone in a positive way like you did.  Be someone’s hero.  We all like hero’s…right?  Be one. 

  • Donate blood
  • Drop off food to a food bank
  • Take some clothing and toiletries to a mission or shelter
  • Bake someone cookies and drop them off just because you can
  • Buy someone a flower
  • Hug…nuff said
  • Share your time and attention
  • Be nice when everyone else isn’t
  • Text someone a nice note
  • Forgive a debt
  • Reach out to a friend who’s having a tough time and then reach out again
  • Call someone and leave the following message “WWWHHHHHAAAATTTTZZZZZUUUUPPPPPP?!” 
  • Encourage
  • Don’t be so critical of yourself
  • Teach
  • Coach
  • Volunteer
  • Tip well
  • Act like a bigshot and order hot fudge sundaes for the whole table
  • Encourage high fives when its so awkward that its funny “don’t leave me hangin’ homie!!”
  • Bring a dozen donuts when no one expects you to
  • Show up
  • Laugh
  • Do what it takes to show others your love for them

I think that our good and gracious Lord talks to us throughout our day.  On the way to your visitation I turned on the radio and Guns and Roses “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” was just beginning.  On my way to your funeral this song came on.  I had to smile, if even through the tears.  Its one of my favorites.  It rings so very, very true to me these days.

 

Crying won’t bring you back…celebrating your life keeps you alive in my mind…in my heart.  They buried a body…they didn’t bury my friend.  My friend lives on.  I’ll see my friend again.  I’m going to start living again.

11057783_882767311804724_4233027547311717057_n[1]

Why Jordan…why?

 

I hired you on July 19 2011.

We became friends shortly thereafter.

I’m not supposed to have favorites.  Like every manager I have those that I like to work with more than others.  Some employees need supervision on everything, while others do not. Some go the extra mile without asking, others barely make it to the end of their shift.  Some make me work on making them better while a few select, a very small percentage, excel and challenge me to keep them busy.  I’ve been abundantly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life through my profession, some have even gotten their way into my heart.  You were one of them.

You were reliable, energetic, funny, bright, handsome, hard-working, quick-witted, fiercely competitive, stubborn, a world traveler, but most of all…you were my friend.  I took you into my confidence.  You were one of the few who teased me back and busted my chops.  I trusted you.

 

December 2013 you and Dalton asked if you could stripe the mannicans of their holiday clothes and wear them that night. I said "why the hell not..?" You were always looking for a laugh.

December 2013 you and Dalton asked if you could strip the mannequins  of their holiday clothes and wear them that night. I said “why the hell not..?” You were always looking for a laugh, and you usually found it.

You and Becky...ugly sweater contest

You and Becky…ugly sweater contest

...did I mention that you liked to clown around? Here you are with Alysarose...two knucklheads

…did I mention that you liked to clown around? Here you are with Alysa…two knuckleheads

 

You and Bailey for Halloween

You and Bailey for Halloween

You, Jared and Blake...three super dudes.

You, Jared and Blake…three super dudes

Probably being naughty...but nice around Santa this year

Probably being naughty…but nice around Santa

...was there anyone that you didn't take a selfie with?

…was there anyone that you didn’t take a selfie with?

Swiping my phone and posing with Gwen 2015

Swiping my phone and posing with Gwen 2015

2016...With our friends daughter, Lilly. She'll never know...

2016…With our friends daughter, Lilly. She’ll never know…

Wednesday 8/17/2016…you were uncharacteristically late.  You didn’t answer my phone calls.  You didn’t answer my texts.  I grew concerned.  I called your grandmother.  I was on the phone with her when she found you.  Her frantic screams at the other end of the phone are still ringing in my ears.  I hung up and called 911 then rushed to your home.  It was too late. I stood on your lawn.  What do I do now?  Your neighbors gathered on the sidewalk, away from your house.  I took a wide walk away from them to avoid their questions.  I’ve always prided myself on knowing what to do, who to call and how to brush aside the emotion and stress of the situation and get my job done.  27 years in the hot seat will do that, but this…the death of a friend who’s a big part of our store?  That’s altogether unchartered territory. What’s my job now?  Why…?

Who do I call first?  What do I tell them.  How do I keep the present crew in the dark while I try to wrap my head around this….all while mourning you myself?  I go over the last conversation that we had that day.  It was all business.  Did I say something wrong to push you over the dark edge that you were at?  Was I curt or a prick?  Didn’t you know how much we loved you?  How much I loved you?  Jordan…all you had to do was call any one of us and you would have had an army of friends and family to hold you until the darkness passed.  Now…its too late.  Why…?

Arrangements to be made.  Hollow heart.  Scattered brain…I can’t keep my thoughts on track.  Orders to be written.  Customers to wait on.  Coworkers to comfort.  Customers ask why everyone on the crew is forlorn, so sad.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow, to repeat the story and hear their shock, their disbelief.   I have to go in, to work, to comfort to try to get everyone else and myself through this.  My head hurts from crying so much.  I’m told that I can go home.  Spontaneous crying, cold shock and unanswered questions are the ingredients of this horrible day.  Why…?

At night I try to sleep.  I’m exhausted but memories of our exchanges cross my darkened minds eye like flames that flicker at a candles end.  Bright flickers…just asking to be replayed again and again.  Why…?

When I finally leave this earthly home, I wonder if God will look the other way once you and I finally meet again…because I feel like punching you hard in the chest…not violently…just to knock some sense into you.  We trusted you.  We called you our friend and now we’re hurting because you took you away from us.  We’re selfish, Jordan.  We wanted you here for a long, long time…to watch you complete college, to excel and get a career, to get married, raise a family to travel the world.  That’s all gone from us now and…quite frankly…we’re hurt.  We’re pissed and hurt and sad.  My whole body hurts.  Why Jordan…why?

 On our way to Career Day 2015

On our way to
Career Day 2015

This will hurt for a while…but I’ll never forget you buddy.  You were a blessing to those around you…maybe we should have told you that a little more often.

R