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Rich - Page Text Content

FC: Rich | by Dan Ghizzone

1: My mother recently told me that most of the people she meets in her support groups cannot even say the name of the deceased person. She, on the other hand, can't shut up about my brother. I have found I feel this way too. This is a collection of memories I have of my brother Rich.

2: By observance of the code of conduct between brothers, Rich and I were enemies; always at war; always at each other's throats. However, anyone observing us would notice we weren't enemies at all. We were brothers. We were family. We were friends, best friends. We spent every day of every summer together. We went to school together. We played soccer together. We were in Boy Scouts together. We even played in a band together. We didn't do these things together because we had to.We did them because we wanted to. He didn't know it then, but I needed him there to do things so I could assess the situation and see if I wanted to try it. There's the big advantage of having an older brother. Rich did everything first. If anyone wants to know why I was so good at everything I did it's because I watched Rich do it once already. We started small with things like riding a bicycle and fly fishing. Then came more grown up things like driving a car and dating girls. Rich seemed to have conquered both easy enough. As for me, I probably could have concentrated a bit more on the dating thing. Oh well... As an adult I watched Rich get married and go back to school to get his degree. I've since married and going back to school is not entirely out of the question right now. Did I idolize him? You bet I did. 1

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4: The Scouting Outing Once on a scouting weekend to Sandy Hook, N.J. a group of us scouts decided to go on a little adventure down into one of the gun artilleries built into the shoreline. These things were built for storing ammunition during the war. They consisted of a platform at the beach which narrowed into a corridor that went way, way into the earth. It was a maze of tunnels and rooms all concrete and steel that went on for what seemed like miles. We trekked as far into this one as we dared then decided to check out one of the small rooms off the main corridor. This of course all by the light of our flashlights since it was pitch black in there. No sooner had the whole group entered the room when the door swung shut with a rickety clang followed by the metallic click of the lock being set from the outside. Someone tried the door and it was stuck. I felt my way to the door and all I could feel was rotten, rusty metal. By now I couldn't breathe and my legs were starting to sway. I have claustrophobia. What the hell was I doing in here anyway? And who the hell shut the door on us? The most uncomfortable few seconds passed in what seemed like an eternity and all I could think of was "we're all going to die in here." I was all set to start screaming when all of the sudden the door flung open. Someone was saving us! 3

5: It was Rich. He wasn't in our little group that decided to go on this little adventure in the first place. He came down on his own. I think he came to save me. The Bachelor Party I remember the year was 1986 because the Mets were in the world series and probably the best baseball game ever was on T.V. the night of my brother's bachelor party. What a night. We had had a good size crowd out in some cabin in the woods somewhere in Freehold Township. There was plenty of food, plenty of liquor, and one very brave stripper who had a hard time competing with the baseball game. Of course everyone had to "buy" my brother a shot and within no time Rich was drunk. Shitfaced more like it. At one point the manager of the hall came up to me and said that my brother was in the bathroom throwing up. "why are you telling me?" I wanted to ask him. "his father is here. So is his uncle. And some very, very close friends." Resigning myself to the fact that it was my party and I was responsible, I decided to go check on him. Most of it I guess made the toilet but there was still vomit over every square 4

6: inch of floor and on three of the four walls. "Saying goodbye to single life are we?" I asked. He didn't look so good. I locked the door, rolled up my shirt sleeves, and got the paper towels. To this day I have no idea how I was able to do what I did in there. I wasn't disgusted. I didn't complain. I wasn't even mad at him. In fact, I've never felt closer to him. The bathroom got clean of course. But it was the taking care of Rich that stands out from my memory of that evening. Washing the puke out of his hair and applying cool towels to his forehead were things I did simply because I loved the guy. I would have done this for no one else but him. The Bully Why anyone would want to start shit with me is beyond my grasp. As a kid I wore the right clothes. I had the mod haircut. I carried the current lunchbox. I didn't say "boo" to anybody ever. So one day on the bus home from school, this older kid decides to harass me. I was mortified! I really thought he was going to hit me. And I think I would have let him. He was way bigger than me. Before the assault escalated to punches, I was taken by surprise by my brother 5

7: stepping between the two of us. Mind you, the assailant was even bigger than my big brother. That didn't seem to matter to Rich. He hauled off and belted the guy right in the face. Bammo! Just like in Batman. "That's my brother. Leave him alone" was what I heard as the biggest smile ever crept across my face. "Wow", I thought. "This is the stuff legends are made of." No one has ever given me a hard time since then. Ever. The Jump Why we do the things we do will always be a mystery to me. Most of the crap I've seen my brother do I have long since stopped trying to make sense of. With that said, one typical summer afternoon the bunch of us (Me, Rich, Mike Handler, Mike Harrington) were passing the time by running through the house and slamming doors. A game we loved almost as much as "melting stuff in the oven". Running through Rich's room I could see the window was wide open. "Oh gee", I thought. "He's going to let me slam a window!" Where was Rich anyway? "Has anybody seen Rich?" Me and the two Mikes poked our heads out the second story window of Rich's bedroom to see Rich flat on his back lying in the grass. Laughing. 6

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9: "Please tell me you didn't just jump out your window?", I pleaded. More laughter. "It must be head trauma", I said to the two Mikes. We got a good laugh out of that, but I really didn't think it was too funny. If it were me I'm sure I'd have to go to the hospital. Oh, well, good times. Good times. High School My first day of high school was extremely stressful. What I wear, what I say, who I hang with, who I sit next to, it all molds my future. To make matters worse, I was shy. I just wasn't good at talking to people I didn't know. Little did I realize that because of my brother, everyone already knew me. Upperclassman Olga came running up to me in the hall one day. "you're Rich Ghizzone's brother right? I love Rich. He's so cute!" Well, I thought, she is wearing glasses. Maybe she doesn't wear them around Rich. And as luck would have it, my entire homeroom saw the two of us talking. Who's the rock star now? In the freshman bathroom I met up with several older student who were in there to sneak a cigarette. "Hey dude! Olga says you're Ghizzone's little brother. Have a cig with us. Rich is cool man!" I didn't know if "cool" was the word 8

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11: I would use, but I made a mental note to stop referring to him as "jackass". Now it's roll call in English class. "Are you Rich's brother?" the teacher asked me. "Only by relation" I responded quickly enough. As beads of sweat ran down my forehead I hoped there was no animosity between Rich and this teacher. "Rich is one of the finest athletes in this school. As a sibling you probably have similar attributes, yes?" "Not really" I replied. "I'll be at all the games though." Marching Band was great fun. Which reminds me of one time Rich showed up to see a home game. He found himself unable to get in because he had no money and unable to get home because we lived so far away. It was just a few minutes before the band made its way into the stadium and onto the bleachers. Thinking quick I strapped a bass drum over his shoulders and gave him a mallet. "March next to me, hit the drum on one, two, three, and four, and no drum solos!" I told him. He had such a good time he actually sat with us and played along with our Souza Marches for the whole game. There is no Santa Claus The upstairs of the house Rich and I lived in when we were kids was sort of 10

12: not the kind of place grown ups would hang out in. There was no real furniture and if I remember correctly, the floors were just unfinished plywood. Rich and I, however, spent a lot of time up there. One day of one particular December we were upstairs listening to records and one of us opened the closet door. We couldn't believe our eyes! All of our Christmas wishes were stacked to the top of the closet. There was no mistaking that this was the loot destined to be under the tree come Christmas morning. What to do. Our four and five year old brains went into hyper-drive trying to rationalize why our Christmas presents were stuffed into the upstairs closet. After several agonizing moments we decided that our parents and Santa were both involved in this caper. But we were just too young, too naive, too green to see any deception here. All would be well on Christmas morning. We decided to have faith in Santa. "We can't tell mom and dad", Rich said to me. "If they know we've seem this they'll tell Santa and he won't give us anything!" That's all I needed to hear. My lips were sealed. That was of course until my mother came upstairs to call us for dinner. "Why are all our toys in the closet?", I asked her. I honestly can't remember what hurt more...my brother punching me in the arm or my mother telling us there was no Santa. 11

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14: Wilderness Survival One of my least favorite weeks of the summer when we were kids was the week we spent at the Forestburg Scout Reservation in New York State. I went every year. Rich seemed to love it. I went because Rich went. Rich went every year. One of the many activities we signed up for during the week was the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge. Like the title implies, we had to "survive" one night in the wilderness with nothing but a fish hook, a trash can liner, and a tablet that changed lake water into drinking water. Good Lord! Was the Basket Weaving roster full? Both Rich and I signed up for this excursion and we both paired with a friend to share the experience with. We all got hiked out way into the woods and were left pretty much alone to fend for ourselves. Not one hour into this nightmare it began to rain. My partner and I decided to share responsibilities to make the best of what little time we had left before it started to get dark. I was to pitch some sort of "tent" with the trash can liner and he was to catch us a fish or two for dinner. Simple enough, right? In the end my tent was about a two-foot square tied between four 13

15: trees. With the rain coming in sideways it really didn't matter if you slept under it or not. My next project was to start a fire..Let's see...all the wood and sticks were wet. And I had no matches. Perhaps sushi for dinner? My partner finally came back with one sunfish about four inches long. "Throw the damn thing back in the pond!" I yelled at him. "I'm going to sleep. The sooner tomorrow comes the sooner this thing will be over!" As I lay partially under my trash can liner tent soaking wet and starving I wondered if my buddy was as miserable as I was right then. At that moment I heard my brother and his partner stumbling into my campsite. "Where's your fire?", he asked us. "Where's yours?", I came back with. His hand came from out of his pants pocket with a lighter that he flicked on with his thumb. "Right here", he said. Within minutes he had a little fire going from all the candy wrappers he had in his pocket. "You guys brought candy?!", I screamed at him. "We brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches AND candy", he replied with a "tell that to the scout master and I'll pound you into the ground like a tent stake" tone in his voice. After giving us each a snickers bar he and his friend vanished into the darkness. Once again, my brother has saved me. 14

16: tHE T | FFFFF FF F | The Worm Rolling around on the grass and getting dirty are just things boys do. My brother and I certainly had our fair share of that. One spring day we were playing soccer on the back lawn and Rich was goalie. We called this "shots on goal". I tried to kick the ball between the two trees we used for goalposts and Rich tried to block it. If Rich missed, he would have to run down the driveway and into the street to retrieve the ball. Rich didn't miss a whole lot. Each time Rich caught the ball he would go down and roll a few times on the grass before kicking the ball back to me. I've never played goalie, so I don't know if this was a standard move or he was just hamming it up in front of me. Nonetheless, he did seem to spend a lot of time in the dirt. While taking a break and sitting on the ground Rich ran his hand through his hair. He kept it rather long and I'm not sure he ever ran a comb through it. "What's this?", he asked with a bit of disgust in his voice. Then slowly and steadily he pulled a full grown earth worm out of his hair. 15

17: Disney's Medical Emergency One year Rich and his wife met us in Orlando for Christmas. We rented a two bedroom apartment for the week and they drove up on Christmas Eve. It was an early dinner then off to Pleasure Island for a night of club-hopping and all the other activities tourists do when they're in Disney. What fun we had! We danced in all the clubs; ate some pizza; drank a lot of beer; and even ended up in a recording studio to do a video of the latest Pink single. We tried not to stay out too late since we were planning on spending the entire next day in the parks. And we needed to get there by noon because we had heard that's when they shut down the gate because of too many people. It was Christmas Day. My brother hasn't had enough alcohol in his life to make himself at the very least a "seasoned drinker". During breakfast we could tell Rich was dragging his ass and although he said nothing , we knew it was from drinking too much the night before. Oh well, we had a plan and we were sticking to it. By nine o'clock we were in the car following the arrows to the parking 16

18: lot of Epcot Center. How exciting seeing mile-high Mickey telling us we were almost there. Then mountainous Minnie telling us to keep our seat belts buckled. Around the time gargantuan Goofy was reminding us to keep our headlights on the rear passenger door flies open and my brother hangs his head out of the car and vomits onto the pavement. Families drove by, faces pressed onto the windows, pointing in horror. Someone even snapped a picture. It felt like we were the first attraction of the theme park. "Keep moving people!", I yelled. "Next show's in ten minutes!" We park the car and make it through the gate in good time, but it's clear Rich isn't going to make a day of walking around Epcot. If we weren't on vacation 1,400 miles from home we certainly would have gone back and chosen another day to do the park when Rich was feeling more up to it. Instead, we walked Rich to the building with the big red X for first aid. And we left him there. We left him there for five hours. That was about the time it took us to walk through all of Epcot Center and stop to eat lunch in a French Cafe on the Lake of the World. When we got back to the big-red-x-mini-hospital Rich was hanging out with the nurses and probably telling them we would be back shortly. 17

19: Fresh Air Fund Ralph The Fresh Air Fund was a program which let inner city kids spend time in the country with more privileged families that had kids about the same age. Seems like a great idea right? We heard of the Fresh Air Fund through neighbors that God sent to teach us to be better Christians. They were given this terrific underprivileged city girl who got along with everybody and seemed to really appreciate the chance to spend time in the country. We got Ralph. Ralph was destined for a lifetime in jail for at least drug charges. The one thing about Ralph I remember was that he was bigger than my brother. Ralph was just a series of bad choices, a total lack of discipline, and fearless to the point of stupidity. I liked him. I saw him as a weapon to use against my brother when I couldn't fend for myself. Ralph and I became friends. Ralph and Rich hated each other. There were fistfights. I couldn't help it, but the chance to rout for Ralph when the shit hit the fan was overwhelming. Eventually my parents called the Fresh Air Fund and had poor Ralph sent back to whatever rotten city neighborhood he came from. 18

20: It was much later I asked Rich what his problem was with Ralph. His answer surprised me. He didn't like how I idolized such a jerk. And I shouldn't be friends with people that are so far beneath me. Wow! Thanks for caring bro. Almost Spitting My brother had this talent. He could send a drool of spit out his mouth almost all the way to the floor and then suck it back up into his mouth without loosing any of it. I know, pretty incredible, right? Now imagine that talent put to work on his little brother while he had him pinned to the floor sitting on his chest. I was horrified. For no reason at all he would pin me down and make me say stupid things like "Ozzy is great!", or "I love Katrin Wessner!" and the drool would come out of his mouth and dangle right above my eyes. Not once did he actually ever spit on me. His control was amazing. And I know he was never being malicious. It was just his way of letting me know who was boss. And that was fine. When it came to music, cards, chess, bumper pool, monopoly, scrabble, crosswords, math, art, soccer, 19

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22: and just about every other damn thingI could run circles around him. So let him almost spit in my face every once in a while. Fair trade. Miss You Bro If nothing else Rich has taught me to look out for myself. If there's something I want or need, I have to go and get it. His life was full of rewarding challenges and it has been inspirational for me to see him acquire so much. No one was more awestruck than me when he got his Masters. That took an incredible amount of determination, fortitude, stamina, and vitality. These are traits I have learned from him. Thanks, Rich, for being there when all I needed was a big brother. 21

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