Archive for June 18, 2010

Father’s Day 2010 – Chris Ritchey

Chris and his Dad

This is a man who may stumble and fall but this is a man who tries”

(paraphrasing King and I)

This is very difficult piece for me to write, I want to pay homage to the man, the father of my children, without touching on the boiling . raging white-hot , beneath the surface anger I am feeling towards those that have hurt and robbed him of his peace.

I am not sure if I can do that considering I am a “writer who writes through my emotions and life experiences.”

What I see this week leading up to Father’s Day is a man aging beyond his years, his face creased with pain , scarred by loss and bewilderment , hair that was turning silvery now shot with white. Shoulders that were broad and held his children aloft at parades and festivals now bowed with the great weight of worry re the cancer and compounded by the grief he now carries. He is changed -this man- this father.

He was the quiet parent, never the disciplinarian and the few times he would try to raise his voice to naughtiness his efforts were met with giggles and mock contrition. He never spanked and always put both his children before anything and anyone else.

I look at the pictures as each in turn entered his world.

He seemed too young to be a father, but in actual fact was in his 30’s . We had been married 8 years before Nikki made her presence known- from that day forward this quiet and gentle man was there for his children , always in the picture and never taking center stage.

He was given a son , who was more like his mother in temperament , a temperament never quite understood by the husband but the father tried very hard to understand his son and his ways. He accepted the child, the boy, the man for who he was and was so proud of him.

He treated both children the same – always_ loved them both intensely” .

Never one to be overt with showing his emotions or feelings he expressed his love by always putting them first. Every Sunday the Dad and his two pride and joys would go to McDonalds for breakfast- it was their special alone time and every Father’s Day Nikki and Chris would take him to McDonalds.

He “gave away his daughter” on a cold December day to the young man she had fallen in love with – however he could not hide his emotions that day – although filled with happiness for her he knew that life would never be the same as she left our home but not his heart. Both the bride and her father walked down the aisle with tears of joy and sadness.

He danced with his daughter at her wedding to the music of the pipes- The Skye Boat Song- ironically it was the tune I hummed and sang to Chris in his last hours- I didn’t realize that until I started writing and remembering .

He lost his son on another cold December day, not to happiness and a new life but to the finality of death. He stood wordless in that room of unbearable sorrow looking quietly out of the window to the street below. He had come to that hospital overcoming the phobia he had to be with me and his son. He, since his father died when he was 11, has had a morbid fear of hospitals. We all knew that and Chris knew that for his father to go to a hospital was never good news .

“As long as Dad doesn’t show I know everything is OK- it would take a crisis to get him back to the clinic.

So when the crisis came we kept him away so Chris wouldn’t worry and continue to fight.

For a couple of days he stayed just in the waiting room- he was there as my “emotional punching bag” - I called him back to the hospital just an hour after he had left. I was so tired , very little sleep in days , exhaustion and worry had taken their toll -the waiting room gypsies with their inane chatter becoming more and more a problem for me.

I told the father of Chris’ bride why my husband was coming back- I thought, stupidly, that he would recognize the distress being caused.- maybe he would do something. I told him

“he was coming back because I needed him to be my “emotional punching bag” as I had to be able to let go of my feelings” before I “let go ” period!


“You have to do whatever you feel you need to do to get you through “

I just sighed and said :

you should all be thankful he is coming back because I am not sure how much more I can take and continue to be polite’

Whether it went over his head or whether he is the type that only sees what he wants to see, or a gutless wonder – I don’t know – but he is one father that I will not be wishing has a great day after what he enabled his child to do to Chris’ father.

( ED Note: sorry I said it was going to be hard to suppress the anger)

I knew I couldn’t keep my tenuous hold on politeness much longer- I had to release the feelings building up and I knew Chris didn’t need me to vent at them-

just get through this and when Chris is OK we will talk.


Chris’ Dad spent the next days being my “sounding board – emotional punching bag” and keeping me together for Chris’ sake.

He would do anything for Chris including bearing the brunt of my pain as well as his. He too tried making the deals with God – take me not Chris – don’t punish Chris - etc. – I know -I heard him when he thought he was alone.

He lost his only son too- and out of a self-righteous, sanctimonious self-serving spite he was punished two fold- he lost his son – those not of his blood took his closure - his chance to say goodbye and they dishonored Chris’ father – this kind quiet gentle man who never hurt or did anyone any harm in his whole life.
Punished by “control”

He chokes now on emotions that overwhelm him at times , feelings he can’t express , a wound that does not heal. His Drs. ,in sympathy, worry about his condition and the heart they repaired that is breaking but their medicine cannot help or cure.

Every morning , as I make the bed, I adjust the last picture taken of him and his son that sits on the bedside table , each morning it is turned toward the pillow where he tries to find a relief in sleep and fails, eyes fixed upon a photograph. remembering his son.

Last year Chris planned a Father’s Day weekend for this weekend- four wheeling in West Virgina- even that was tried to be taken from him (imho) out of calculated greed ( more on that aspect another time).

He too received a note in his dead son’s clothes- one he never saw – one he will never see – gone into the flames to protect what is left to him of his son. I couldn’t do much to ease his grief but I certainly was not going to have it added to by the “thoughts of conceit by one who claims to have known his son”She didn’t !-

She wasn’t there at his birth, through his 3 am feedings, his first smile, his first steps, his first words, all the years of school and sports, and Sunday breakfasts, the tears and picking him up when he fell , the successes, the days of big wheels, riding a bike, the day the bike was stolen, karate, soccer, camping in the back yard, riding a camel in Morocco, playing “catch me if you can” in a hallway at Windsor castle, learning to swim , to fish , to pull a bow, shoot, sharing lobster rolls at the Piping college Prince Edward Island, racing down the ski slopes in Vermont, learning to drive, the talks under starry skies, a man and his son exploring life’s adventures together-

She only knew a tiny fraction of “Chris” – the husband for so short a time – but he was a son first and last.

So this father , who continues to stumble and bleed for his son will go on the trip , taking the four wheeler still caked with mud from Chris’ last ride and with him will be a silent rider that is carried in his heart and soul- HIS SON

Christopher David RITCHEY

June 18, 2010 at 10:46 am 5 comments


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