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Nothing to sneeze at

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Sleep has evaded me more nights than I care to count – a severely broken nose being the culprit. Breathing with mouth closed has now become almost impossible.

Trust me; it’s nothing to sneeze at. Not being able to breathe that is – especially at night. It’s something most of us take for granted. At the end of the day, going to bed, sleeping and breathing.

So why would a story about a broken nose from years past be interesting you may ask? Because how my nose was broken, and who actually did the dastardly deed you’re just not going to believe. For you see, you already know his name.

I’ve written about him now for some 11 years.

It all started with a karate tournament 25 years ago. Seems I bobbed when I should’ve weaved and woke up on the gym floor with a broken nose. Two weeks later the operation to put the many pieces back together was performed. The nose was straight again.

The skillful surgeon promised breathing normally would be possible when all the swelling went down. All I had to do was be extremely carefully not to bump into anything for a couple of weeks.

Once home, in tremendous pain, I took a pill, cut off the lights, and lay down on the living room carpet. The world spun around so I closed my eyes.
A moment later is when my nose was shattered for the second time.

The first day we moved into 110 Flamingo Street, Down the Street Bully Brad greeted me in his own special way. For no apparent reason, he rode up on his bike and kicked me into the culvert in front of our house. He sneered, “Welcome to the neighborhood, kid.”

It was the start of a long list of kicks, punches, and downright beatings. I never really understood why someone would take pleasure out of being mean. I guess I never will.

Yes, Down the Street Bully Brad did inflict years of pain. He started that first day on Flamingo Street, and pounded his way through Briarwood High, home of the Mighty Buccaneers. I haven’t seen him since graduation, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t found me.

Was it Bully Brad who lurked in darkness of that living room 25 years ago just waiting until I came home? Did he shatter my nose, and is he the reason why now I can’t breathe at night? Nope, it wasn’t him.

It was another.

When I lay down that night, only 8 months old at the time, The Boy did what he always had done. He crawled over to say hello to Dad. I held him on my chest for a while, and then started to drift off – just as his head bobbled from side to side. Suddenly, the bobbling stopped, the neck tired, and a head butt heard around the world occurred.
Well, at least through our house. Yep, it was my 8-month-old who shattered my nose. A nose I never got fixed.

Funny thing about insurance companies – they don’t like paying for the same operation twice.

Every morning since, the bathroom mirror has been a reminder of that day. Like Bully Brad, the pain The Boy caused me has lasted many a year. But unlike Bully Brad, the pain he inflicted wasn’t intentional. At least, I don’t think so. I’ve really never asked.

I’m scared he may head butt me again.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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