Addendum to the Barbwire of February
27 Feb 2003
We spoke during Guy's memorial service. I told you I would send you the text for my speech when I returned home. I hope you can use it. Guy was my "stunt-dad" as he called himself. I met him in 1990 and my life has never been the same!
Memories of My Stunt-Dad
Today we celebrate the life of guy, whose death leaves us feeling all the poorer. Guy was an incredible husband, father, grandfather, friend, artist, and a mentor. People may die, but the love they bring to this world does not. And Guy brought so much love to his world.
Guy's love found its way to everything from animals to children, to art and creativity, to Judaism, and above all else to his family and friends. Guy never stopped learning, education for him was a lifelong goal he was always curious, determined and very disciplined.
I will miss the hours in which we sat and spoke about virtually any subject. No topic was taboo. The philosophical exchanges at times became hotly argued but they were always challenging and rewarding. I will miss his timely sense of humor. He had that knack of finding humor and using it in almost any situation.
Guy taught me so much about love, particularly the love he shared with Zoe.
Theirs was a respected partnership, a trusted friendship, and an unending love that could be seen every time they were in a room together.
But make no mistake about it his love of family did not just end with his immediate family. All of us here are living proof of this. Guy used to say to me that Friends are the family we make for ourselves.
I hope you will understand that no words can do justice to the love someone brings to this world. So as I stand here today, all I can do is struggle to share with you some brief expressions of this love.
What continues to give me some comfort is that while guy may not be on this earth, his love willalways be a part of our lives.
And to the angels that are accompanying him now, we ask that they watch over him, guard him and protect him.
Guy, your memory is a blessing to us all.
Remember to Share Your Best Gifts
We make such a big deal about loving others of the opposite sex these days that so many of us have forgotten the love of a simpler more innocent time. I am remembering the kind of love you feel for someone that is brotherly, gracious, and heartfelt. This is the love I have for Guy Richardson. This is my story and how he changed my life forever.
Fate took hold one day, as she so often does. I was enrolling in a 101 type English class. The representative frowned at me, negatively assessed my skill and told me to get in another line. Unfortunately I wear my feelings like a transparent mask and disappointment was written all over it. I decided to forgo the long line and get something to drink and come back later. When I did, a different teacher was there.
She said to me. "You don't need that remedial class, I can tell by the way you speak, that you don't. Enroll in my class, I will give you any help you need." She smiled and added, "Oh, by the way, I heard you mention journalism, you needn't wait to sign up for that class, the school paper is in desperate need of good writers and we have a great teacher and editor....You will enjoy the class and learn more about the real art of writing than you would in any basic English class. I can tell, you will love it, don't wait to sign up, if the class is full, show up on the first day and tell Guy, I sent you."
Up till that moment I had written a few stories in classes at another community college, Even hesitatingly entered a writing contest and almost won. My Grandfather had been an editor of a New York newspaper. My Aunt and namesake had written for Newsday for 30 years. Dad had written speeches for Governor Grant Sawyer and worked in public relations. But in our typically dysfunctional American family, you didn't compete with the matriarchs and patriarchs because it was a no win situation.
My writer's imagination took flight. Maybe this man, did she say "Guy"?. I looked at the class schedule.... called the appropriate call numbers and was in. I imagined a tall, square jawed, gray at the temples, professor type in a worn cardigan, briefcase; with a pipe and stacks of great literature in the background. My first day of class would be a revelation.
I was relieved when another student, Alyce, one closer to my age attended class. I was a little nervous among the Clearasil and beer set. After all I was in my, ahem, mid thirties and immersed in real life 101 with 4 of my 5 kids at home. Going back to school was a feat equaling Joan of Arc openly testifying of talking to deity. Imagine my amazement when into the class walked this shorter man.
I thought "I have two children taller than him."
He was whiskered, he wore suspenders that either had rainbows or some cartoon character. He had on a shirt that didn't go, faded jeans, and old fashioned basketball shoes (the black kind with white rubber circles at the ankles) round glasses, and kind brown eyes, that saw everything. He made eye contact with everyone in the class, smiled. Asked everyone to get comfortable and did a round-robin and had everyone tell what had brought them to journalism.
As I said, Fate had taken a hand. This man who stood before us, didn't look like any prof I had ever seen. Although I suspected that he was some rebellious hippie. In fact the first lesson I learned from Guy, was that we all have prejudices. I bristled at first, having thought of myself as quite liberated. Be he taught me, teaching me to peel back the layers of my own consciousness. To question my values and to be able to see both sides of a situation. I would like to think I inquire more and judge less. To this day the voice whispers "What are your preconceived notions about this?"
Next we learned that every person has a story to tell (Guy's Hallmark). We interviewed one another and practiced our who, why, what, when, where, how with the best the world had to offer. We studied our style and libel manuals. We, as a class would have weekly meetings at his home. We soaked up what he had to say, we learned from his companion, Pennye (Zoe Rose) about political correctness in the media. We absorbed Zinzer with pizza, and Elements of Style with root beer. We learned how to cover politics over pretzels and the school administration over chips and salsa.
Guy did something, teachers and professors rarely do. He listened to us. Louisa May Alcott once wrote about Professor Bhaer. "He was modest, in his own conceit."
Here was this man who seemed to be a combination of Mickey Mouse, Einstein, and Mr. Miyagi. He seemed to be unaware the inertia he was initiating. He always gave the best gifts. Everyone had their day with him. When my turn came, I sat alone in the classroom with him. We sat at the layout desk, I trembled like a convicted felon going to the gallows as he quietly read a rewrite of an assignment I had been given and told to write it in a comedy genre. I regressed. I felt that if you weren't gifted, you should chose another profession. I had put hours of writing and rewriting into this. He had peeled back the layers in me . I had written with joy and not held back.
Just the same, judgment day was here. I knew he would be kind, even encouraging. I sat there physically sick. I began to sweat. I wanted to cry and run out the door and scream, "Forget it! I donít want to know!" and run away. He turned, and looked at me, pity covered his face. "Oh no!" I thought. I must have looked GREEN.
He stood and put his hand on my shoulder, are you all right? He laughed "It's not that bad, relax." I must have let out a heave instead of a sigh, because his next words were, "Breathe!"
"Okay, are you ready?" he said. The color flooded back into my face as he smiled. His eyes always had a knowing. They glowed like embers on a cold night ...and you knew that he knew. "YOU have the gift," he said quietly and deliberately. "Whuu?" I responded dully? His face lit up like he was sharing a juicy secret.
He looked at me face to face and said, "Reina, hear me, YOU HAVE THE GIFT!" He went on to list my attributes of description and being able to write comedy. He said "That is the real gift. Most people can be taught the mechanics of basic writing, but the ability to put mirth, and humor or to see the absurd is a gift."
I have another friend who is an ultra talented musician, voice coach, singer, and conductor in his own right. I asked him once, "You are so incredibly talented, you could be with the San Francisco Opera or the New York Metropolitan, why don't you pursue that?" His answer surprised and satisfied me. He said that there was plenty of talent in the big cities for those markets, but it is the smaller towns like Reno that desperately need quality people in the arts. He felt his gift to humanity was better served here, and his being HERE was the better gift.
I feel that was Guy's gift. He had been offered positions at the university, but that was not his way. He wanted to get to the students who needed and wanted the real basics to become good, even great writers in an environment that was casual while their intellect was still supple.
He was truly a mentor. He is the one I went running to with my first paid story. He was the one who gave me the hand up to write it, another mentor who fills another place in my heart, was on the receiving end to pull me up. It was a milestone. If I had won the Pulitzer I couldn't have been more filled with pride or happier than to see my name in print, at that moment. I was full of myself. Fate had become Fame, Albeit too brief.
I graduated the community college with my five kids standing on chairs yelling, "Go Mom!" I took on 4 more kids to help find their way (and their father also, to help him find his way) Their need for care necessitated me leaving school in my senior year. After graduation the group of us used to meet for lunch occasionally. Fate and life has taken us different directions. I consider myself lucky, even though we drifted apart, great people are ever in your heart.
I saw Guy when I dragged my poor husband to the opera. He was running the computer that produced the English subtitles. I gave him the 30 second rundown of what I had been doing, that I had finished my Internship in a little town in the Sierras. I told him how grateful I was to him, and what he had given to me meant to me. We agreed we'd all get together when I got moved back into town in February. When I heard of his death on January 14th, I cried like a baby. I was inconsolable.
My friend Alyce and I still meet and talk about school, she is finishing up her master's thesis, probably will go on to her doctorate. Me I am still up to my elbows in laundry, mortgages, football and basketball schedules. Some days I stand alone at the kitchen sink, elbow deep in grease cutting suds, wondering if this is all there is.... a few tears flow unchecked while I wallow on my pity pot. Is this all I am worth? It doesn't take college to produce sparkling underwear!
A soft voice whispers, "Don't forget, you have the Gift."
I see a kind face. Tennies, red suspenders, and knowing eyes appear and I thank God that He sent the Gift.
Guy is the Gift.
Guy has a small brass plaque over his doorbell. On it is an inscription attributing the love and laughter in their home to his parents. I think I will go out and buy a plaque this week. On it I will inscribe:
To Honor My Friend, Teacher and Mentor
May all who come and go from this home:
Remember to share the best gifts
I have a plan when I go. I want put on my marker, "I am not dead, for you will see me in the eyes of my children." I have thought about that this week. Loss of a dear one forces us to face our own mortality. I believe that the gift theory holds true for all that I write.
Guy is with me an all those he has shared the gift. Guy is not gone: For we will see him in the words of our writing. I have no doubt when I walk through the Pearly Gates he will hand me an assignment to write about my own death as a comedy.
Reina Quantrell Gates
February 22, 2003
Please forward your personal memories of Guy Richardson and I'll post them here.
Copyright © 1982-2003 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
Site composed and maintained by Deciding Factors (CWA signatory)
Comments and suggestions appreciated. Sign up for news and bulletins.