A Love Story

My Dearest Alivia:

love_storyI need to tell you a story. As you know, there are many kinds of stories. You have heard stories from the very beginning of your life. Some have been told to you in words that you only hear and some stories have been read from stories printed on a page. The joy of stories and books will be yours forever and that is a lifelong, wonderful gift.

The story I will tell you today is a Love Story. It has a beginning and an end. Both are sad but the middle of the story is happy. This is the story about a man named Richard. Your Great Aunt Susie and he spent fifteen of their life years together. These were especially poignant and happy years for your Aunt who had come from many years of unhappiness and sadness. These years helped her to grow and helped Richard to grow. For many years they grew together and then . . . apart.

Richard was raised in an abusive, alcoholic home and ran away when he was sixteen years old. He became wise not because of book learning but from living on the streets and fending for himself. In his early twenties he fathered a child and for a while seemed to be happy with new responsibilities. Then the alcohol characteristic took over and he returned to the streets.

Your Great Aunt spotted him one day, sitting beneath a tree. He was waiting to be picked up for a day of labor in the nearby Texas fields. She tells of that first time she saw him and thought he was good looking and also asserted a different independence than the group of men around him. She continued to see him each day in the same place, eventually initiating conversation.

Time passed, her loneliness prevailed and she invited him to her sparse, shabby home. They lived together, sharing love in the poverty-ridden neighborhood. They went to a local food pantry on a frequent basis and met some new — and to be life-long — friends. These people took them in and witnessed their faith to Susie and Richard. They began to attend a small, local Christian Church. Many of the parishioners had addiction problems and mental health issues. These common situations bound an otherwise unique congregation together.

Several years later, Richard and Susie married. She helped him build a small landscaping and construction business. With her physical strength and her love Richard blossomed with new confidence and for the first time in his life was productive, discovering talents in wood working that he did not know he possessed. They also had a successful painting business, earning local admiration and a growing clientele.

During this time many things were happening in Mamie’s life. Your Grandfather was ill and his treatments took much time and emotion. Susie, Richard and I kept in close touch and they were with me to help ready our house for the funeral luncheon after Papa died. Richard did all the things Papa would have done in honor of him and I will always appreciate his help.

For the next three years I went to visit them and they came to see me in Glen Ellyn. Then after I met Jack, they were there at our wedding, standing next to us as we repeated our vows. Your Aunt was radiant the day we were married and she and Richard had lots of laughs, sharing this new found love in my life. It was a good day.

The years passed by and shortly after your Great Aunt Susie’s sixtieth birthday, Richard started drinking again. At first, just a little and then more heavily and eventually on a daily basis coupled with the use of drugs. Hard for all of us but especially for your Aunt. He got into trouble with the law, each incident becoming more serious than the previous. Prison became his home for two years. Aunt Susie drove every Sunday to see him and her heart broke with embarrassment and sadness.

For a short time after he was released from prison he was okay but then the drug abuse began again. After much heartache, Susie divorced him. He had started frequenting the same places he had before he had gone to prison. He soon died as a result of an overdose of heroin. That marked the end of his life and the end for all who knew him. A life torn apart by addiction and demons.

The message I want to leave with this story is this. People come into and out of our lives. Some leave permanent imprints on our hearts. I believe Richard did this to me. He made my sister very happy in the good times. He had a softness in his voice and eyes that I will always remember. IA thank him for his listening ears when I went through depression and I believe that his impact on my sister’s life was a forever thing.

I write this with no knowledge of where Richard was buried or any idea how his family handled this. I do know that he left in his trail a good heart that was overcome by the demons of addiction, a daughter and granddaughter who will never really know him and the memory of a deep love with my only sister.

He was a simple man who was complicated. His laugh was infectious and his intentions sincere without the drugs. But he was weakened by their power and could not live without them.

I have great faith that God welcomed him. I know that finally he rested in loving, caring arms and was cradled by the love of Christ. In my garden this morning I found a newly-opened lily from bulbs Susie had given to me for my last birthday. I will enjoy these fragrant, fragile blossoms that are similar to Richard’s short life. I will call them my Richard Blooms and know that comfort finally is his as he shares heaven as his final home.

Alivia . . . I wanted to share this love story with you.