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Moments of clarity

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Whether they recognize it or not, everyone has moments of clarity in their lives. One of the first I can remember was in Old Mrs. Crabtree’s third-grade class at Mt. Olive Elementary School.

• Bad people do bad things.

It happened during recess that first week when I had the distinct honor of becoming a punching bag for Down the Street Bully Brad. Bradley McAllister pounded me into the ground, and then simply walked away. No explanation was ever given. The only thing he said was, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” That’s when I realized that there are just bad people in the world and they don’t have to have a reason to do bad things.

• Bad things happen to good people.

Another moment of clarity hit me a lifetime ago on a snow-covered street near Auburn, Ala. A student at the time, I’d been called to the scene of a horrific car crash. A drunk driver crashed head-on into a much smaller car, the occupant of which was my roommate.

After my roommate was rushed to the hospital, the emergency room doctor gave him little chance of survival. But survive he did. I realized from that moment on, as tough as they were growing up, brothers won’t live forever. That roommate was Twin Brother Mark.

• Small things are really big things.

A huge weight of responsibility was placed on my shoulders when the nurse placed six pounds in my arms. As blue eyes looked up at me for the first time, it became suddenly obvious. I must put away childish things.

All the things Dad told us kids as we were growing up came rushing back in an instant of clarity. All the rules, all the speeches, and, yes, even all the punishments were to prepare us for this moment. It was clear to me. As The Boy wrapped his hand around my finger, I felt woefully unprepared for the event. Today, The Boy will be 25. Happy birthday!

•Silence can be deafening.

We’d hiked the trails for over an hour before the woods finally parted. The narrow trail hugging the mountain we had taken led us down to an outcropping of rocks wedged in at the base of Bridal Veil Falls. The Wife and I were so close to the pounding water that I never actually heard her answer after I had dropped to one knee. But six months later, at the front of the church, it became clear. We would spend the rest of our lives together.

• Not everything can be controlled.

The Wife actually helped me see this one. Good and not so good things are going to happen to us throughout our lives. That is a certainty. Most of the time, we have no control over what happens to us. But all of the time, we have control over how we react to it. I must admit – yours truly is still working on this one.

• And finally, when you’re driving late at night and blue lights bounce off the interior of your car, you suddenly realize speeding through our little town wasn’t such a good idea after all.

At least, that’s what The Wife called and told me yesterday.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for over 26 years and a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His book is available at]

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