He Was Running for Me

Growing up we had 42 children on our block. We ranged from college to newborns. And if there were two people with the same name and you were the youngest, you were “Little” insert name. Little Richard was my neighbor. But he was always Little Richie to me. Of course he’s older now and not so little, but I can’t change that tag.

Little Richie was 4 or so years younger. He was always in our games and our ‘playing’. Nothing was going to keep him from being a part of the ‘big guys.’ Since in our age range I was a ‘big guy’ I always put Richie on my team for front yard football. One other boy my size was my teammate. Richie lined up behind us and off we went. Knocking the other team out of the way. Richie was our running back and touchdown scorer! We never lost.

His running style was a little different. Full leg braces on both legs kept his gait to a hop-run-hop. But he was 100% in. Richie had polio. The Salk vaccine was too late for him. As it was for large numbers of children and young adults in the 1950’s and 60’s. My beautiful cousin, Kay, was taken from us as a baby. She was 6 years old. My last memory of her was in an iron lung in her home.

So, Richard is all grown now. Never was a quit in his life, and there were times he could have chunked it all in. As a child his parents took him to the Shriner Children’s Hospital for an operation to help straighten his legs. The doctors broke both legs. Put him in traction and he stayed that way for weeks. His mother told me later that Richie just lay in the bed, let tears stream from the pain and never complained.

I don’t know what lessons you were given in your life. This is a big one for me. I’ve questioned my resolve and wanted to throw it in when it gets tough. Who hasn’t? Little Richie didn’t, and I’m not going to let him down now. Funny, I thought I was blocking for him in those front yard games, so he could excel. But he was running for me. So I could learn, grow and excel. So I could have a hero later on.

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