Why I’m loved the most…the letter

Five years ago this weekend, in the early morning hours of Sunday, my father passed from his life of pain into Heaven.  It was expected.  He’d been under Hospice care for a week, at a nursing home.  He couldn’t communicate very well, if at all.  Struggling to be comfortable.  Struggling to breath.  Struggling to live.  The call came in around 2 in the morning.  “Your Dad is dying”.  I didn’t make it there in time to say good-bye.  At peace…finally.

By the time I came along in 1966 (I was an “oops baby”) he and Mom had two sons ahead of me.  The closest in age is Brian, seven years my senior while Dan’s at the top of the batting order being eleven years older than me.  By the summer of 1977 I was pretty much an only child.  Just me, Dad and Mom.  I got spoiled. (if you couldn’t tell that already…)  I didn’t wear my brothers hand-me-downs like my next closest brother did.  It was Dad who told me repeatedly “You should be a comedian!!”  He was always telling us boys how proud he was of us, our wives, our children and how much he loved us and Mom.

Dad was ahead of his time.  He communicated really well.  Part Archie Bunker, part Mister Rogers, Dad could let you know exactly how he felt.  Sometimes bluntly (that guy is as worthless as tits on a boar) or softly when I was old enough to drive myself to parties where prior to leaving for the night he’d square up with me, look me in the eyes and tell me “If you need a ride home tonight…call us.  WE LOVE YOU.”  I took that seriously.  I had a reputation as being a “mama’s boy” in high school.  When you’ve got parents as cool as mine…YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT. 

Sometime in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s all of us were at Mom and Dad’s for Christmas.  All three sons and their families at the same time.  Dad and Mom were loving this day.  In the tree there were three envelopes.  One for each son, a letter in each.  I started to read mine, but really didn’t READ it until a day or two later.  It was nice.  I filed it away in my dresser drawer.  I might want it someday.

As we approached the day leading up to Dad’s visitation and funeral I had a strong feeling that I should share the letter that he had given me many Christmas’ ago.   I put a copy of it in my pocket and went off to his visitation.  I ran into his Pastor, a lady who farmed with her husband in a nearby community.  “They’re good people” Dad used to say of them.  I gave her the letter and said something along the lines of “if you think this will apply to tomorrows sermon…feel free to use it.”  She took it without looking at it, or commenting.

At Dad’s funeral the next day things were progressing along as well as could be expected when the Pastor pulled out Dad’s letter and read it aloud.  While I’m glad that I shared it, it was extremely hard to hear it being read and not become emotional.  Here it is:

THOUGHTS AND MEMORYS OF THE THREE

GUYS THAT MEAN THE MOST TO ME

Dear Daniel…I’ve loved you the most because you were our first born.  You were the beginning of a marriage, a fulfillment of our Love for each other.  You held us together through our first years, the first apartment in Furth Germany, our first mode of transportation, FEET.  You were new, BOY, we were too.  You were the prototype model.  You are one of a kind, and you are OURS.

Dear Brian…I’ve loved you the most because you were the center of our family, a tough position.  I believe you’re stronger because of it.  Your clothes were someone else’s, as were most things.  You were the one we started to realize that you were not made of eggs and had a personality of your own.  You came at a time of life style change and marriage routine.  You were the love of our ambitious years.  Our Love for you is SPECIAL.

Dear Richard…I’ve loved you the most because while your Mother and I have grown more experienced we’ve found that things in the beginning thought to be important aren’t necessarily so.  Generally endings are sad, but we are not sad, you give us much happiness.  You are our link with the past; dates, girls, ballgames, cars, beer, and troubles, and our hope of the future.  You’ve quickened our step, lightened our heart and straightened our shoulders and given us a humor that maturity doesn’t provide.  You are our Love of Life.

We miss Dad dearly.  If there’s a lesson, a take-a-way, from his letter its that you should let your loved ones know how you feel about them. Whether in spoken word, a letter that gets stashed away in a dresser drawer or some other means.  Say it.  Write it down.  Whatever.  Do it.  They’ll want to hear it.  If not today…eventually.

Dad and Mom Ripley

Dad and Mom Ripley

God bless.

R

 

fast

I knew that this day was coming, this storm…so to speak.  I’ve known about it since January when our youngest daughter, Macy, sat down next to me on the couch as I watched a game on TV and ate supper.  “How have you been?” was her question.  My stomach sank.  I reached for the remote and shut off the TV.  I placed my plate, half-finished, on the end table.  I looked at her and replied “what’s wrong?”  You see, our daughters don’t just ask those kinds of questions.  At least not yet.  She was moving to Germany in the summer to become an Au Pair for a German couple, taking care of their kids, for a year.  After the year she’d start attending a university in Berlin and resume her studies while getting a job.  Germany has free college.  She’s fairly good at speaking German.  My guess is that she’s going to get a lot better.  I asked her if this was an “idea” or a “done deal”.  Her reply “95% done deal”.  My stomach sank further while my heart rose into my throat.

Our middle daughter, Karalee, was due to graduate in May.  She got a job in Japan. Literally, within three weeks during the coming summer we’d lose two daughters to two countries.  4,545 miles and 6,371 miles away respectively.  The storm…was gaining strength.  I could see it in the distance.  It wasn’t going away.  It had been building since the day of their birth I suppose.  Since their first step.  Since their first defiant toddler tantrum.  Since swimming lessons, learning to ride a bike, driving a car and so on and so forth.  Its been a steady and relentless learning curve to try and conquer new things.  Scary things, except this time around I’m the one who’s scared…scared for them and maybe, just maybe…scared for me.

We’ve been temporary empty-nesters for two years with both daughters living half an hour away while attending college.  If they needed us we could be there in a short time (they never did..).  What’s my role now?  How am I to be defined?  Too young to be old.  Too old to be young.  Not wanting to be hip. Not wanting to be stodgy.  The salt is overtaking the pepper atop my head.  Do I try to be that old guy who wears denim shorts, black knee-high dress socks and sandals with a fanny pack when I go out?  Maybe try wearing a tie-dye shirt and grow a pony tail?  No one told me how to do this.  I’m serious when I write this.  What’s my role now?  My wife can only withstand so much of me before she shoots me the stink-eye.  I’m not always a delight to be around. (true story)

They’ve moved into good countries, not third world places.  I can’t imagine how parents with kids in the military feel when their kids are put in harms way in a bad part of the world.

That storm kept coming.  It brought tension, the silent type.  I told them that they could come back home if things didn’t work out.  That life sometimes hands you failure that you can learn from, but life continues to go onward.  I told them that I was proud of them, loved them and to be safe.  To trust their inner voice.   That trust is earned, not given freely to strangers or folks that you just met.  I don’t know if any of it sank in.  I was young once too, bullet-proof and foolhardy.

The day of the storm arrived.  Our last child would be flying from our home.  The storm wasn’t made of lightning, thunder nor rain but of questions, uncertainty, an emptiness in our lives, a hole in our heart.  An awkward vacuum left in the place of parenting up close and personal.  Each of our daughters, all three, have plans.  They made them themselves.  They’re theirs to live and fulfill, regardless of our feelings as parents…and for that I’m thankful.  They’re good people.  I’m proud of them.

Karalee's flight to her new home in Japan, from Chicago

Karalee’s flight to her new home in Japan, from Chicago

Macy's flight from Chicago to London before heading to Berlin.

Macy’s flight from Chicago to London before heading to Berlin.

On my phone. I can see what the weather is like where they're at except for New Liberty. Home town gets a place on the phone too.

On my phone I can see what the weather is like where they’re at except for New Liberty. My home town gets a place on the phone too.

From this....

From this….

...to this. It went by fast.

…to this

At the airport.  Silence speaks volumes.  Exuberance verses apprehension.  Exciting future verses the tedium of daily routine.  Throats tight.  Goodbyes whispered.  Eyes misty.  Silent walk to the parking lot as nearby jets rev their engines.  Quiet car ride to an empty house.  Prayers sent.  This storm, is it over or just beginning?  Trips to be planned.  Reunions in the future.  I wish that I had paid a little more attention to parenting while it was happening and savored those moments.  It went by fast.

R

 

 

PARENTHOOD…DAY 9,178. So far…so good

The time frame for this, the fourth of six chapters of my life as I enter the tender age of 50 (in less than two weeks if you’re mailing your gift to me…), begins around the beginning of 1989.  Connie and I had been married for almost a year when she brought it to my attention that we should start trying in earnest to get pregnant.  If I remember it correctly we didn’t discuss how much the baby would cost us in terms of money, time, patience, formula, medicine, insurance, sickness, loss of sleep, worry or anything else….we were 23 years old and it was time.  Connie, being a right-brained analytical type, purchased a Basal thermometer and started charting her ovulation cycle on graph paper which was compared to a calendar on her nightstand.  After a couple of months of this she informed me that “this next week I’ll need you on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights around nine PM” to which I wholeheartedly agreed that, this whole baby-making scheme of hers sounded “just grand” to me (HAR HAR).  What I came to quickly realize was that being called upon to sire a bloodline is TOTALLY  different from frisky and fun spontaneous sex.  My bride was all business…with no time for foolishness nor foreplay. She was all “GET ‘ER DONE” before the phrase was coined.  The following video closely illustrates our exchanges at that time. The movie She’s Having a Baby was the movie that we went to see on our first date.  Funny stuff…hits close to home.

We got pregnant quickly though it didn’t last…two times in a row.  We were heartbroken, with one even going into the second trimester.  Geez…did we really want this hurt to continue?  We cautiously approached this whole “parenthood” thing again and came through it with our first-born daughter Jordan.  She was perfect.  Eight pounds and a head full of hair.  As I laid down to sleep that night, with Connie and Jordan still at the hospital I thought to myself “I can finally relax…she’s born…she’s here…” before a stark realization pierced my conscience with “DEAR GOD…IT’S JUST BEGUN!!”

Connie and Jordan early on

Connie and Jordan early on

After Jordan was born Eastman Kodak probably posted record earnings.  We took photos of her endlessly.  Repeat…endlessly.  She was unique.  She was so smart. She was in the 100% percentile of her age group!!  She also pooped a great deal, spit up almost constantly, tried to eat our cat and was the apple of our eye.  Why our child was destined to be someone wonderful!!

Never mind that Jordan's gouging my eye out...she's happy and I can buy a glass eye for myself

Never mind that Jordan’s gouging my eye out…she’s happy and I can buy a glass eye for myself

First born children shoulder the burden of breaking in new parents.  Who would teach new parents that they should ALWAYS bring at least one set of clean clothes for the baby to even the most routine trip…?  The first-born.  Who would teach new parents that they shouldn’t leave the diaper bag (with diapers, wipes, Tylenol, pacifier and burp clothes in it) on top of their car then drive twenty miles before realizing that its now somewhere along a rural county blacktop…probably being ripped apart by cars driving over it?  The first-born. (true story…we realized it at eight o’clock at night…as we were getting ready to put Jordan down for the night).  Someone found it and turned it into the sheriffs office where we picked it up the next day.

Fast forward three years and BAM!!  Daughter number two shows up and she’s TOTALLY different from her sister in attitude, temperament and intestinal regularities (funny how when a kid doesn’t poop as often how your WHOLE being is centered on that until the issue is relieved…no pun intended).  We were in a new town, a nice apartment, new careers and adjusting to being a family of four.

Karalee was more of a Momma's girl in those first few years...

Karalee was more of a Momma’s girl in those first few years…

At a wedding reception that had a teeter-totter close by that caught a little girls eye

At a wedding reception that had a teeter-totter close by that caught a little girls eye

Not much money in those early years so we went camping. The flies were so bad that we ate inside the tent. I remember this trip real well because I woke up from a nap with chewing gum stuck to my bare back. Sunburned, sweaty and sticky...it was fun.

Not much money in those early years so we went camping. The flies were so bad that we ate inside the tent. I remember this trip real well because I woke up from a nap with chewing gum stuck to my bare back. Sunburned, sweaty and sticky…it was fun.

And fast forward again…

Have you ever seen a very pregnant woman give a "come hither you sexy stud" look? Me neither...

Have you ever seen a very pregnant woman give a “come hither you sexy stud” look? Me neither…

BAM!!  Mason Sue was born…all TEN POUNDS OF HER.  Our girls topped the charts in weight by coming into this world weighing at least eight pounds each.

Grandpa Kenny and Macy Sue

Grandpa Kenny and Macy Sue

Just because you just had a ten pound baby doesn't mean that you stop being a Momma to the others.

Just because you had a ten pound baby doesn’t mean that you stop being a Momma to the others.

By the time Macy arrived we were old hands at raising little girls. We had bought a little house and Connie was real adept at finding garage sale clothes that a growing family needed and bought our girls winter coats the previous spring during seasonal closeouts.  Our kids didn’t mind and frankly…our family of five’s budget was lean.  All through this time there were always plenty of books, a sandbox, a swing set, bunk beds and their imagination.

Fast forward…

Karalee, Jordan and Macy at a amusement park in 2001. Short trips and overnight stays were our vacations

Karalee, Jordan and Macy at a amusement park in 2001. Short trips and overnight stays were our vacations in 2001

DON'T LOSE THE BABY!! Connie with death-grip on Macy on a log ride 2001

DON’T LOSE THE BABY!! Connie with a death-grip on Macy on a log ride 2001

We continued to learn life lessons…like if our toddler ate half a bag of cheese popcorn at the babysitters said toddler of ours would throw up an orange mess onto our beige carpet that wouldn’t come out.  Or…if one child gets sick the parent who slept on the floor of their bedroom to comfort them would eventually catch what the kid had (it didn’t kill me….)

It was around this time that I taught the girls how to ride their bikes.  True story.  They were having trouble learning how to ride, so I loaded up their bikes, dressed them in jeans and drove them to a park with a steep grassy hill.  They put on their helmets, knee and elbow pads then I had them take their bikes to the top of the hill.  They weren’t too sure of this method and expressed their doubts constantly to me.  They got on their bikes and I pushed them off, yelling “PEDAL!!  DON’T STOP PEDALLING!!”  They’d make it a little ways, crash then really expressed their doubts about my methods with “DOES MOM KNOW ABOUT YOUR TRYING TO KILL US?!?!”  Within minutes they were riding their bikes down the hill and onto the blacktop playground at the base of that hill.  Happy and confident, but not without a bump or two.  The girls were little, and whenever Connie left town for a conference and I had to be Mister Mom for several days I ran our girls hard….and they loved it.  If it were summer I’d let them get up around 8 and mill around the house until ten or so.  I’d load up the van with bikes, a cooler of food and drinks then head off to a park where they’d play until lunch time.  We’d picnic, then change into our swimsuits and go to the pool.  After a couple of hours at the pool we’d head to Dairy Queen for ice cream.  After getting home I’d send them outside to play some more.  Supper.  Showers.  A little TV and reading then send them off to bed at 7:30 where they’d crash.  It was a great plan…sadly I was almost as wore out as they were.

Without Connie around I usually relaxed the house rules.  On one occasion I encouraged belching at the dinner table with a follow up exclamation “GOOD FOR YOU!!”  shouted by everyone and hitting the table with both hands (this was done by one adult, me, and three little girls under the age of 11 for approximately one week).  It went over BIG!!  The girls loved it and practiced it as often as they could…with silverware clattering with each pounding and a lot of laughing….then Connie got home.  I didn’t think to tell the girls to stop our little routine, why would I?  At our first meal with Connie back Macy let out an ear-splitting belch that would make a sailor proud then hit the table with both hands and yelled “GOOD FOR ME!!!!” with a big smile on her face.  Connie’s jaw hit the floor.  Jordan and Karalee looked on in astonishment like Macy was about to die.  I chuckled and told Connie what we had been doing.  It ended right….there.

Fast forward…we wanted a larger house and bought one.  Everyone was excited.  Each girl had their own bedroom and got to decorate it accordingly.  Friday afternoons I’d pick them up from school then race home to clean the house, shower, order pizza then crash on the couch and watch Nickelodeon’s Friday night line up of Dexter’s Laboratory, SpongeBob, Jimmy Neutron, Rugrats and Ed, Edd and Eddy.

Good times...

Good times…

They grew…

First day of school

First day of school

School days…roughly 7,000 of them…not to mention their time in college.  Our girls got good grades, a direct reflection of their mother’s influence.

Family reunion 2006

Family reunion 2006

Lots of Halloweens…

Thug life. Don't ask me why..

Thug life. Don’t ask me why..

Connie was/is always in charge of Christmas.  Since I work retail I’m usually not in any good mood to do anything other than drink and watch others enjoy the festivities.  We both grew up with generous, loving and thoughtful parents.  I’d like to think that we carried those traits onto our family.

Me, Brian, Dan and Dad. Christmas 2007.

Me, Brian, Dan and Dad. Christmas 2007

Lot’s of birthdays.  We’ve hosted many, many birthday parties for our daughters.  When they got older and had friends over…we got wiser and ended “sleep overs”.  I suddenly started feeling my age when I started telling kids “its 4 AM dammit…get into your sleeping bags and go to sleep!!”  One hundred and thirteen birthday cakes later…we’re still ready for more.

My bride didn't have a "9" for my 39th birthday so she improvised with "38" and "1".

My bride didn’t have a “9” for my 39th birthday so she improvised with “38” and “1”

My 40th birthday with my girl. We're both grayer now...go figure

My 40th birthday with my girl. We’re both grayer now…go figure

Our girls showing a little of their moxie while exploring some timber and railroad tracks close to Grandpas house. (it was muddy and Macy didn't bring her old shoes so we went old school with grocery bags and rubber bands over the her school shoes)

Our girls showing a little of their moxie while exploring some timber and railroad tracks close to Grandpas house. (it was muddy and Macy didn’t bring her old shoes so we went old school with grocery bags and rubber bands over her school shoes)

Vacations.  We finally started taking good vacations.  Destination spots.  Disney.  Washington DC.  Colorado.  It’d take a couple of years to save up for them.  I think that Connie and I were just as excited as our girls were.

Nebraska 2007. Here I am trying to stuff Macy into a trash can at a rest stop. She wouldn't fit. (I call this my "white socks with denim shorts phase)

Nebraska 2007. Here I am trying to stuff Macy into a trash can at a rest stop. She wouldn’t fit. (I call this my “white socks with denim shorts phase)

On top of Pike's Peak Colorado June 2007. At 28 degrees and windy we were Ripley-sickles in this photo

On top of Pike’s Peak Colorado June 2007. At 28 degrees and windy we were Ripley-sickles in this photo

Photos!!  We took a lot of photos!!  There’s around 15 large photo albums of the past 27 years, with roughly 20 smaller photo albums of our vacations.  Connie is to credit for all of these, that and we took photos of everyday life and special occasions.

High school and middle school days

High school and middle school days

 

Did I mention birthday parties…?

Macy and friends...

Macy and friends…Diet Dew and cake

Jordan...with Karalee photobombing

Jordan…with Karalee photobombing

Birthday cake has been usurped by gourmet cupcakes

Birthday cake has been usurped by gourmet cupcakes

Long a tradition in our home...birthday dinners out. We had to make a rule early on that their restaurant of choice couldn't include a place with Happy Meals.

Long a tradition in our home…birthday dinners out. We had to make a rule early on that their restaurant of choice couldn’t include a place with Happy Meals.

Prom 2014 Connie and Macy

Prom 2014 Connie and Macy

Graduations…four of them.  Three high school.  One college.

Macy's high school graduation. 2014

Macy’s high school graduation 2014

As a tradition that our girls started…whenever we have a holiday or event that one of them can’t attend, the absent ones face is printed out and taped to the face of a stuffed snowman…so she can be there in spirit.  What started out as a joke is now kind of a deal for them.

With Karalee in Japan, Macy and Jordan "bring" Karalee to Macy's graduation party

With Karalee in Japan, Macy and Jordan “bring” Karalee to Macy’s graduation party

Empty-nesters.  Nuff said.

Macy moving into her dorm room August 2014. What will we do now...?

Macy moving into her dorm room August 2014. What will we do now…?

Flying the nest…literally…

Jordan graduating from Flight Attendant Training fall 2014 and moving far away.

Jordan graduating from Flight Attendant Training fall 2014 and moving far away.

Traditions.  We have them.  Won’t go too far into them.  One is cookie baking for the holidays.  Here Karalee photobombs with the batter.  I think she’s practicing to take my spot as the family ham…but I’m still firmly on my throne.

COOKIE TIME!!

COOKIE TIME!!

More Christmas…

Who doesn't like a good head-hug from their kid?

Who doesn’t like a good head-hug from their kid?

Uhhh...what happened to my little girls...? Has anyone seen them lately? Furry Barney slippers? Beauty and the Beast pajamas? Wiggling into a spot on the couch with me...? Anyone...?

Uhhh…what happened to my little girls…? Has anyone seen them lately? Furry Barney slippers? Beauty and the Beast pajamas? Wiggling into a spot on the couch with me…? Anyone…?

As I looked back through our family photos I became a little melancholy.  Where did the time go?  I always knew that we were very blessed, but to see it again and again….and again…all of the love, the fun and good times…it makes me feel overly blessed.  Connie’s done a WONDERFUL job as a wife, and mother of our daughters…I couldn’t ask God for a better person to spend my life with.  I couldn’t ask for better parents or in-laws.  They’re the kind of folks that taught us about love, affection, laughter, honor, God, home, a work ethic, family, solidarity, responsibility, honesty and how to be a good parent, spouse and brother/sister.  They taught us without saying anything most days….we just didn’t know it.

Whenever I overhear a young couple say that they don’t have enough money saved up to have a child I tell them “don’t wait, you’ll never have enough money and you’re missing out on the ride of a lifetime.”  Parenthood isn’t for everyone….but it was for me.

Once in a great while…we get all three of our daughters home.  It doesn’t happen very often.  When we do…this is how they act…

Goofy women in my truck

Goofy women in my truck

…but this is how I still see them…

Good times

Good times

Parenthood has made me a better person.  Nuff said.

God bless and thanks for coming along…

R

 

 

 

THE EPIC SAGA CONTINUES…LOVE IN ’88

The third in a series of six epic tales…sure to warm the hearts and souls of those in the upper Midwest…and maybe other places too…but for now…just the upper Midwest.

So 1988 began much like the previous year left off….quietly.  Not.  Much.  Going.  On.  I was just a lonely single dude….lookin’ for love and not having much luck.  Truth be told, I wasn’t much of a Don Juan character.  My total number of dates in the previous five years could be counted on one hand….so yeah….I was PRIMED for SUCCESS!!

A mutual friend got Connie, my future wife, to stop by the store where I was working and meet me.  Needless to say, the vixen that she was/is, went all out that initial introduction and wore baggy gray sweatpants and huge winter parka….HOT STUFF BABY!!  Long story short….we went out on a date, then another (the next night) and by the end of the night…we were discussing the possibility of marriage…to each other.  Thirteen days later…we were engaged.

Back then when you became engaged folks threw you a wedding shower.  In our case….we had shower, after shower, after shower.  Even folks from our workplaces threw us showers.

Sexy undies for me...Connie's quite pumped about them.

Sexy undies for me…Connie’s quite pumped about them.

These "elephant undies" were a hit at our wedding shower...what with it "trunk space" and all....

These “elephant undies” were a hit at our wedding shower…what with its “trunk space” and all….

And…another shower.  This one at the Methodist church in historic Joy Illinois.

I blame my expressions on my brother, Brian, who was egging me on....true story.

I blame my expressions on my brother, Brian, who was egging me on….true story.

A place setting of our wedding dinner ware. I'm pretty pumped...about the cake.

A place setting of our wedding dinner ware. I’m pretty pumped…about the cake.

August 6th 1988. I remembered my lines!!

August 6th 1988. I remembered my lines!!

After our wedding we did the usual sexy young couple stuff….we sat in front of International posters and looked suave…

We actually look like we know what we're doing! Incredible!!

We actually look like we know what we’re doing! Incredible!!

She left me funny and sexy notes. For the sake of my younger viewership I've chosen not include those sexy notes...they're too "hubba hubba"

She left me funny and sexy notes. For the sake of my younger viewership I’ve chosen not include those sexy notes…they’re too “hubba hubba”

Skiing with another couple. Ah...the joys of being "kid-less".

Skiing with another couple. Ah…the joys of being “kid-less”.

...and the "mustache experiment". I rocked it. TOTALLY ROCKED. IT!!!

…and the “mustache experiment”. I rocked it. TOTALLY ROCKED. IT!!!

We went to concerts…Lee Greenwood! Randy Travis!! Kenny Rogers!!  We met important people!

I told you we met celebrities!!

I told you we met celebrities!!

In the mean time we had started on…well, starting a family.  We got close a couplea times…but this last one…we went the distance.  On December 18th 1990 on a cold winter morning we became parents for the first time.  We were green.  Amateurs.  Rookies in the first degree.  I could have gone on for a while…you know…just practicing to get pregnant (HAR HAR) but my bride was born to be a mommy.  She relished and cherished the idea of being a mommy.  Me?  Well ladies and gentlemen…the following photo pretty much sums up my idea of parenting in the early stages….

Dear God....what time is it? This little squawk-box wants food AGAIN.

Dear God….what time is it? This little squawk-box wants food AGAIN.

Parenthood…what was THAT all about?!  I was clueless, but being clueless is something that I seem to specialize in.  Until the next episode…stay warm and classy…like me.

God bless,

R

 

And…they’re OFF!!

It used to be that when my wife went to a teachers conference in the summer months, usually somewhere hours and hours away, I’d take a week of vacation and have our three daughters all to myself. When they were just little kids it was my plan to “run them hard all day” then let them fall asleep early in the evening. It worked like a charm. After breakfast I’d let them watch a little TV or play in their rooms, then a picnic at the park followed up with a couplea hours at the pool. Return home, have them play outside, feed them supper, give them baths then they’d watch a little TV, read then be in bed no later then 8. Easy. As. Pie.

As they grew up and more independent they didn’t need constant “Dad Sponsored Entertainment”. They got themselves out of bed. They read their own books. They fed themselves. They kept themselves entertained and they sure didn’t require “Dad” to be anywhere near the bathroom when they were in it. Truth be told…I kind of miss the old days. They relied on me. Its easy to be a hero when Dairy Queen’s your Plan B. I taught them how to ride their bikes without training-wheels (a steep grassy hill with a long flat area at its base to either crash or pedal around on). I took them fishing. I made a meatloaf in the shape of a cat and made its eyes, nose and whiskers out of ketchup…they loved it. I might have called it “cat-loaf”. Its easy to raise girls when you teach them how to “rassle” on the living room floor. Blowing bubbles and sidewalk chalk on a sunny afternoon. Fireflies to catch and anthills to pick apart. Its easy to be a hero when all you have to do is pack a cooler with ice and Kool-Aid, go to the park and give “under-dunks” so that they feel like they’re flying. Its easy to patch up a scraped-up knee with a Band-Aid when someone’s having too much fun and crashes to the ground…trembling bottom lip and tears give way to a limp that disappears within minutes when the “fun” starts to happen again. Sparklers, Morning Glories and snakes…all good nighttime fun in the backyard or driveway. Bedtime stories told from their favorite books over and over and over again…so much in fact that I started to change the stories and make them better. They liked that. The Adventures of Phyllis and Francine….two little girls who looked a lot like you…but liked to get into trouble.

Presently we just had our middle daughter return from a four month stay in Japan, where she studied….Japanese. Recently we had our oldest daughter move back home with us until she flies out Sunday morning for a two month training period to be a flight attendant with an international company. And not to be out done…our baby of the family will be a freshman at the University of Iowa this fall. Her and the middle daughter will move out in a couple of weeks to start their Senior and Freshman years, respectively, at Iowa. This leaves me feeling a bit melancholy for me…excited for them. I remember when I moved off the farm back in August of ’84. Dad and Mom moved me to my apartment, took me out to lunch then left quickly. I thought that they might stick around awhile longer, but no…they left me to unpack by myself…which was AWESOME!!! I WAS ON MY OWN (on their money mind you). I asked Mom about that moment years and years later…why they didn’t stick around longer that day that I moved out. Her reply was this “When Dan moved out it was hard since he was our first, though we still had two boys left on the farm. When Brian moved out, well we still had you left on the farm. When you moved out…we didn’t have anyone to go home to…it was kind of hard, especially on your Dad.” I get it…now.

Jordan, Karalee and Macy.  Our girls.

Jordan, Karalee and Macy. Our girls.

Jordan, Karalee and Macy.  All grown up

Jordan, Karalee and Macy. All grown up

I’m excited and happy for them. Good Lord only knows when we’ll all be together again, what with Jordan supposedly flying all over the place and the younger two doing their own thing (it took five days to just get them into the same room for a photo even though they were under the same roof). I have faith that they’ll be okay…I ain’t so sure about their Dad…he may just have to leave that “last move” more quickly than the previous two,

Until next time…God bless and peace.
R

Friday Facts (or at least they are in MY world)

#1…Since when did “designer cupcakes” replace good old-fashioned birthday cake? DID I MISS A MEMO OR SOMETHING?!” Two of our three daughters chose to celebrate their birthdays with an assortment of said “designer cupcakes”, which were delicious but seriously…$2.75 for TWO MAN-SIZED bites? What a racket.

#2…My best friend, whom I’ve known since 1984, was recently transferred/promoted to a position that he’s been trying for, for a couple of years. It’s taking him out of a bad situation where he’s employed now and putting him into a job that he’s passionate about. After being told “you came in a close second to the person who we did hire” he finally came in first and I couldn’t be more proud of him and happy to boot. Several years ago I interviewed for a human resource position within our company at a successful store. It was one of those types of interviews where, upon leaving their parking lot, I thought to myself “it wouldn’t kill me if I didn’t get this job…”. Their boss called me a few days later and told me “entering the last day of interviews you were in first place, you were our guy…but then two applicants came in and totally blew us away…so you came in third place.” To be honest, I was relieved. I found out from the person that they did hire that the boss essentially wanted a personal assistant which I would be bored with if I had been hired.

#3…I worked a baseball game last Saturday as the plate umpire. The pitcher was having a tough time hitting the strike zone and was showing his frustration by stomping around the mound and muttering. When he finally did come up to bat for his team I called “time” and brushed off the home plate and spoke to him “you were real close on those pitches but if I count those as strikes then I’ll have to open up the strike zone for the other team as well, and I don’t think that you’d want that.” He looked at me and sincerely apologized for his behavior on the mound. I told him that I wasn’t mad and asked if he was ready to bat, then we continued on. As the game continued I could hear the same voice from the bleachers yelling at this same kid. “CALM DOWN!!” “DON’T GIVE ME THAT ATTITUDE!!” One time I turned around to see a man literally stalk down the fence towards the dugout yelling at this pitcher. I’m going to assume that it was his dad. At times like this I wish that I had a video camera or mirror to reflect what’s going on in the bleachers. The “apple didn’t fall far from the tree” is all I’m saying.

#4…I’m really digging three different songs right now. I wish that I could link them onto this blog but I cannot figure out how to link them, something about “trademarks” and such. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. “Overcomer” and “Good Morning” by Mandisa. They’re real toe-tappers.

#5…Several years ago I was sitting with an elderly gentleman. He had suffered a couple of strokes and when he did speak, his speech was delivered haltingly. Jim Dickerson was his name. The only time Jim spoke without hesitating was when he was telling a joke, and this night Jim was on a roll. “In my younger years I drank a lot and caroused around with fast women. I didn’t keep the same job for very long before my bosses would get tired of my act and send me on my way. One morning I showed up to the construction site, late as usual, and was screwing around with some of the guys when our supervisor came around the corner and asked me if I knew the “THREE UP’S”. I replied that I didn’t know what he was talking about. He went on to say “Dickerson…the ‘THREE UP’S’ are SHOW UP; KEEP UP; AND SHUT UP.” “I never forgot that” Jim chuckled. I wonder how much better our workplaces would be if we all practiced the “Three up’s” a little more often?

Have a great weekend!!
R

New shoes, new tires and old phone lines…epic win!

Maybe its the lowered expectations that come with being middle-aged, like this morning on my day off….I was awake and ready for the world at…(wait for it) 5:45 AM. Or the way that the garage had four new tires on our car in just twelve minutes! (It pays to be first in line is all I’m sayin’). Literally twelve minutes after I walked into their front door I was walking out with four new tires on the car. Incredible!! Or the way that the lady at the shoe store told me why my feet aren’t fitting my normal size anymore (my arch’s are starting to flatten out). Who has two thumbs and didn’t know that was happening?! ME! That’s who. Or…maybe its the way that our cat caught my attention this afternoon…laying in the bright afternoon sun, readying herself for a sweet afternoon nap in the sunbeam and me thinking to myself “THAT…is a great idea!” so I took one too.

Something different did happen today. Our oldest daughter is still looking for full-time employment. She’s applied for and has been interviewed several times by an international corporation. They’re looking for people who know both the English and French languages, which she does. She’s been flown to the company headquarters for an interview, had her background checked and rechecked, and had a number of phone interviews. Today’s interview was done almost completely in French, in our kitchen. The company felt that the interview would be better on a land-line phone…which only old fogies like I and her mother possess…so I got to eavesdrop on her from time to time even though I didn’t understand a word of what was said.

The father in me wanted to pick up the other phone line and tell them “hey…I just wanted you to know a couplea things about our oldest daughter. She’s traveled to and studied French in France not once but TWICE. She’s loved the French culture since she started high school and continued with it in college, earning her major in it. She’s currently holding down two part time jobs and making her college loan payments AND rent payment by herself which is no small feat these days. She’s a good person, a hard worker, honest and her dream is to work for you…so give her a job…would you please?” But I didn’t pick up the other phone line, I folded laundry and kept quiet. I hope that she gets that job, but life will go on if she doesn’t. The problem is…this. This is how I still see Jordan.

This is how I still see our oldest daughter...from time to time.

This is how I still see our oldest daughter…from time to time.

Jordan the international traveler, somewhere in France on a train

Jordan the international traveler, somewhere in France on a train

The world sees a totally competent pretty young lady, whereas I see a goofy little girl who loved to wrestle with her Daddy, read books and had endless energy. God-willing….someone will see the potential that she has and will give her the opportunity to prove herself.

Thanks for reading,
Peace,
R

Estrogen times five OR My life as a hermit

I’m used to this.  I’m married (that’s one).  We have three daughters ages twenty-one, nineteen and sixteen (that’s two, three and four).  Now a fifth has been added into the estrogen line-up…our French daughter, Delphine.  Delphine visited us as an exchange student four years ago and learned so much about American’s from the humble Ripley family that she decided to come back and visit us again on her own dime, er Euro.  Four years ago we were just coming out of the worst flooding in centuries, now four years later…the worst drought in close to twenty-five years.  When Delphine visits us again I wonder if she’ll bring us pestilence or locusts?

Anyway…having five women in the house is kind of tough on the resident alpha-male.  Number one…it’s harder than heck to get a word in edgewise with so many mouths running at such a fast pace…though rarely does any one of them ask me of anything that I might have a snowballs chance in Hades of knowing the answer too.  Wanna know how to change a flat tire, shoot a free throw, tie a tie, climb a ladder and get sticks off of the roof? Ask Dad.  Wanna know who has the lowest prices on handbags this weekend?  Ask any of the four resident females.

Don’t even get me started on their opinions of what I wear.  In a word, they’re ruthless.  I’ve noticed that they never have an issue with what I’m wearing whenever I have to move them into or out of a college dorm or when they require cash for something.  One of these days I will wear sandals with knee length white athletic socks while wearing shorts to their “move in” day at the University of Iowa.  My wife, God bless her, lets me buy my own clothes.  She intelligently picks her battles. I’m swimming in a sea of estrogen.

Just about the only time that I get everyone’s attention is when we’re on vacation and we end up not where we want to be…so I start driving to …”the northwest!”  Then everyone in the vehicle is all about “why are we going this way?!”  And I in my best Indian scout impersonation state “the sun rises in the east, sets in the west and our Holiday Inn Express should be rrrriiiiigggggttttt over this next hill.”  And KABAAM!!!  Low and behold, it’s there.  (It’s true…I’ve done this numerous times after getting us lost in the first place.  Still…it’s a gift.)

I really can’t complain very loudly about being the only male in the house.  Delphine is very quiet, polite and well behaved (so you know that she has to be from a different country and culture).  My wife moderates most of the “head-butting contests” that I and our daughters have from time to time (but when you have a skull as thick as mine you don’t lose too many of those).  And our daughters have taken after their mother and are excellent students and good people.  My wife is wonderful. She’s like many women, she cannot take a compliment.  When I tell her that she’s “hotter than a two dollar pistol” she just rolls her eyes and points out all of her frailties.  I suppose that’s just her being humble, but I love her nonetheless as I wrap my lovin’ arms around her as she scrambles in vain to get away.  The lady doth protest too much.

Don’t feel sorry for me…I’m real blessed.  Greatly and abundantly blessed more than I ever thought that I would be.  I’d continue to write but I need to walk through the living room and ask a bunch of questions to teenagers who don’t want to answer them.  Alpha male.  On patrol.  It’s what I doIt’s the way I roll.

My four females showing the fifth female how we “Ripleys” cut birthday cake. THICK. Delphine must like America…she had some more of her birthday cake for breakfast….and that’s as American as you can get.

Thanks Dad…

 

My dad recently passed away.  He was a good man. A good husband to our mother. A good family man.  A Christian.  I’ve been compiling a list for the past couplea weeks, that even though it’s not entirely complete, I’m posting now. I’d like to take a moment to thank him, in no particular order, for the following:

  • For his love of our family.

 

  • For teaching us to honor our parents and elders by watching him honor his.

 

  • For wrasslin’ us boys in the middle of the living room floor, then years later…wrasslin’ his grandsons and granddaughters in that same living room.

 

  • For leading us in prayer before meals.  You and Mom taught us to pray.

 

  • For playing catch with me until your arm dropped off. Then showing up at our ball games to watch us play, or ride the pine…either way…you and Mom were there if you could be.  For teaching me your “running jump shot” while cutting through the lane.

 

  • For teaching me (and my two brothers) to drive…on gravel roads with a manual transmission no less.  For teaching us to counter-steer when we started to fishtail, and teaching us that if we accelerated then popped the clutch we could peel out.  (maybe he didn’t teach us that….but he didn’t discourage it either).

 

  • For buying me my first car, so I could have something to drive to school and take to college.  It wasn’t Camero or Mustang, but it sure beat walking.

 

  • For letting me use your cologne when I started dating.  Cedar & Scott counties women were never the same after that.

 

  • For providing for our family, both with your city job and on the farm.

 

  • For teaching me and my two brothers how to pick out a woman as a wife; to love, cherish and respect her.  Dad and Mom were married for 55 years.  He adored Mom.  He backed Mom’s decisions (at least in front of us boys).  He and Mom were a team.  Teams sometimes have disagreements…but at the end of the day….they were still a team and they still loved each other.  I remember a time when Mom left for a week to help with the care of one of our newborn nephews.  Upon her return to our farm Dad had made a big banner that said something like “Welcome Home Marcy!! I love you!”  I was a teenager at the time and thought to myself “Jeez…the old guy still has it going on for Mom.”

 

  • For welcoming our fiancées into the family as genuine daughters that he and Mom never had.  Both Mom and Dad made our wives feel accepted and loved, because they were.  It’s a true testament of that loved returned when I saw my sister-in-laws & my wife sitting with Mom at Dad’s bedside at the hospital and at the nursing home.  When the chips are down, love shows up and waits it out.  Love.

 

  • For taking time to listen to me, and encourage me when the situation called for it.

 

  • For letting us know that being “disciplined” is a form of love.

 

  • For teaching your sons a strong work ethic.  One’s a captain on the fire department with 30+ years of service and a medal for valor in the line of service.  The middle son travels the world for the company that he works for, and has several patents in his name and has worked  20+ years for that company.  And me…I’ve worked 22 years for the company that I’m employed by.  I may not have the technical brilliance or book smarts of many others, who surround me, but the good Lord gave me a quick wit and enough commonsense to stay out of trouble….and that’s been enough up to this point.

 

  • For saying to an eight year old Rich Ripley “sure you can try my snuff!  Take some!”  For anyone who hasn’t tried snuff…it’s horrible tasting finely cut tobacco that burns your mouth and gets into every crevice, makes your nose run and your eyes water.  I couldn’t wash it out of my mouth fast enough at the barn water hydrant!  I haven’t touched the stuff since. Lesson learned Dad.

 

  • For allowing me to try alcohol at home.  I found out that it, too, was nasty tasting stuff.  And when I was old enough to drive he’d square up with me, look me in the eye and tell me “if you’re going to drink tonight, call us….we’ll come get you.  We love you.”  I doubt that it was reverse psychology…my parents never made any bones about telling you what was on their mind and what they expected out of you, but when Dad said that, I was usually home, sober, by ten at night. 

 

  • For being a super Grandpa…dollhouses and toy farms built for our kids.  For wagon rides behind the lawnmower for our kids. 

 

  • For Dad and Mom showing up and helping out at countless moving in’s and moving out’s at colleges, first apartments, first homes and second homes. 

 

  • For the free technical advice/service on home and car repairs. 

 

  • For loaning, sharing or just giving us whatever Dad and Mom had that we needed at that moment.  Whether it was a hug, advice, a loan or some kind of tool….if you two had it….we could use it.

 

  • The interest-free loans in college and life from Mom and Dad.

 

  • For the advice…whether we wanted it or appreciated it at the time.  It was given out of love and concern.   I know that now.

 

  • For the love of hitting the road early when leaving on vacation.  I don’t remember how many times we’d leave on vacation in total darkness.  Mom and Dad in the front seat, my brothers and I piled into the back seat.  One of my fondest memories is waking up, a couplea hours later, the sun rising, smelling coffee that Mom was pouring from the Thermos for her and Dad to drink.  I don’t necessarily like to travel far for vacation, I didn’t inherit this from my parents….I don’t know how as my two brothers love the open road.  In my childhood Mom and Dad drove us to Disneyland in California, then four years later drove us to Disney World in Florida (from Iowa) There were other trips too, though I was too young to remember, but old timey super eight movies prove that I was present…a scowling tow headed toddler that looked none to pleased to be away from his dog and cats on the farm.  Mom and Dad drove us to places far and wide in either a pick up truck camper or in a ’72 Ford LTD with Aristocrat trailer in tow.  Lots of miles behind the wheel for his wife and boys.  I’d go back to school in the fall and tell the other kids where I’d been and what I’d seen only to find out that they hadn’t gone anywhere.  I realized at a young age that I was blessed to have these parents.

 

  • For serving our country during the occupation of Germany after World War II.  His love of our country was wide and deep.

 

  • For letting me know how proud Mom and he were of their sons and their families.  Some people never hear those words come from their parents, but I heard it just about every time I saw them. 

 

  • For comforting me as I tried to comfort him in his final days.  Try as I might….I couldn’t not cry as I told him “it’s okay to go Dad.  We’ll take care of Mom.  You’re work is done here.  You and Mom did a great job of raising us boys.”  He’d look up at me, hold my hand and whisper, “I know.  I know.”

 

  • What gives me great comfort is a conversation that we had a couplea years ago.  I was taking him for a drive one morning, out in the country.  We weren’t talking much; just me driving, him looking out the window at the snowdrift covered farm fields.  I asked him “how are you doing spiritually Dad?”  He replied, “Jesus is my Savior.”  That’s what gave me comfort then.  It’s what gives me comfort now. Thanks for showing us the way Dad.  We’ll see you later.

Love,

Richard

 

Things I’ve learned. Totally free marriage advice for newly weds

The richripley marriage advice hot-sheet

for all

newly married couples

Congratulations on your wedding.  Here is some advice for all newly married couples….totally free of charge to you.  You can thank me later.

  • You’ll both do stupid things that will irritate the crap out of each other.  Neither of you is perfect, learn to deal with it.
  • Learn how to compromise with each other.
  • Don’t do stuff that will hurt the other one. (Sounds simple enough)
  • Spend less money than you bring in.  Having some money in the bank is a good thing (don’t worry…something will come up that you’ll spend it on like: brakes for the car, a broken arm, etc)
  • Pay your bills on time.  You’ll need a good credit score when you need to buy a car or house.  Start small, pay it off on time.
  • Life is rough, stay close to each other and family.  Go to church together, get involved in a small faith group or at least pray together.
  • Even if money is tight…plan a “date night.”  Picnic.  Rent a movie and have pizza; get together with family and friends.  Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you can’t be happy.
  • Trust your spouse.  Forgive your spouse.  Do right  by your spouse.
  • Don’t rehash his or her failures.  Learn from them, move on.
  • Celebrate your victories.
  • Did I mention earlier that you’d both do stupid things that will irritate the crap out of each other? 

 

  • You might not always agree with each other, and that’s okay.
  • Sometimes he’s/she’s right and you’re just being too sensitive.  It probably won’t be that big of a deal a couplea weeks from now.
  • Sometimes he’s/she’s right and you’re just too proud to admit it.  Admit your mistake, apologize, hug and move on.
  • You were single once, that life is gone.  Focus your loving attention on your spouse.
  • Just because you’re married doesn’t mean that you stop romancing your spouse.  Take care of yourself.  Wear their favorite cologne/perfume.  Ask them what “trips their trigger” and learn to do it well.  “Practice makes perfect” is what I’ve always heard.
  • Your parents aren’t as stupid as you once thought.  Suddenly…overnight…they sound like freakin’ rocket scientists!
  • Mothers & Mother-in-laws make great babysitters, holiday meal advisors and usually already know the stuff that you’ll need to learn.  Keep them on “friendly terms.”
  • Fathers & Father-in-laws are usually great guys who know a lot of people, know how to do a lot of cool stuff and will offer an occasional rational opinionOccasional, like everytime you speak to him.  He means well and he’s been known to be right more often than not. 
  • Guys fart and belch a lot (and find it amusing).  This isn’t a character flaw; it’s inexpensive entertainment for him.  Get used to it.
  • Gals take way too long to get ready to go anywhere (it doesn’t matter if you’re going to the grocery store, video store or to England to meet the Queen).  Move up your “leaving time” by half an hour, then when she’s thirty-five minutes past that time you’re still only five minutes late.  Get used to it.
  • She always knows more than she’s letting on.  Tell the truth.
  • He’s really not ignoring your half anniversary, half birthday, anniversary of your first date/kiss/pizza shared together…whatever; guys don’t remember three quarters of the stuff that you think are “monumental events” worthy of celebrating.  He’s not insensitive, he’s a guy.
  • Surprise each other with stuff.  Cookies.  Flowers. A date.  Stuff your spouse loves to do/eat/watch/read…whatever.
  • Being married can be a boring, listless, dull relationship OR it can be full of romance, fun, joy, laughter, love, excitement & wonderful memories.  It’s your responsibility now to make it what you want it to become and it’ll probably be all of the above during the course of your lifetime. 

Good luck. 

Rich Ripley