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Bad things happen

Rick Ryckeley's picture

With four boys, one girl, and Dad, Mom was always in a constant state of movement. To be honest, I really don’t remember ever seeing her sit down — except for dinner.

But even then, she sat only for a couple of minutes. That was about how long it took until one of us knocked over a drink, dropped something on the floor, or gulped down our food and asked for seconds.

Between washing endless loads of laundry, preparing countless meals, and shuffling us from one school event to another, Mom had more energy than a hummingbird. It would be safe to say she was a perpetual motion machine. Still, with all that energy and movement, there was one event that always stopped her in her tracks — one of us getting hurt.

All the kids who lived on Flamingo Street either went to Mt. Olive Elementary or Briarwood High, Home of the Mighty Buccaneers.

Twin Brother Mark and I, we were in Old Mrs. Crabtree’s third-grade class. Also in her class were most of the kids from Flamingo Street, along with one resident bully in the back of the room. That first week, his fists introduced themselves to my face.

When I got home after school, Dad was worried about my torn shirt. Mom was worried about my bloody lip. Me? I was worried Down the Street Bully Brad would jump me again the next day after school.

Dad did what most dads of that day did. First, he gave me a lecture on the high price of shirts. Then, he showed a few blocking techniques, quickly followed by a demonstration on how to throw a right cross. By the time he was finished, Dad was sweating almost as much as I was after being beaten up by Bully Brad.

After school the next day I followed Dad’s instructions then discovered something really important. Blocking then throwing a lame-duck right cross wasn’t nearly as effective against a bully as running away as fast as you can.

Another torn shirt, another bloody lip, and more advice. Only this time the advice came from Mom. As she tended to my wounds with a cold washcloth she said, “Son, sometimes bad things happen to good people.”

Despite what my brothers or sister would say now, I guess I must’ve been an extra good kid. During the seven years we spent growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, Bully Brad must have pounded on me at least once a week. He also pounded in me a resolve: Never to treat anyone the way he had treated me.

After moving from Flamingo Street, there have been many things I’ve forgotten over the years. How to block and throw a right cross are just a few, but I’ve always remembered what Mom said to me that day: Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

Being a firefighter for the last 27 years, I’ve seen a lot of bad things happen to good people. What I’ve never understood and Mom never told me is why.

She was right so long ago. Sometimes bad things do happen to good people and for no logical reason. The bombing at the Boston Marathon is just such an example. Once we find those responsible, I propose a new bit of advice.

Bad things should happen to bad people.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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