Richard W. Phillips died suddenly at his home, on February 3, 2011. He was 56 years old. The night before he passed, I dreamt that I gave him a big hug and thanked him for all that he taught me.
I was 15 when Rick and I met. I lied to my mother about an urgent girl scout meeting and instead, sat pretty in the back seat of my best friends, boyfriends car - a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro convertible, bright blue, with a wide double white stripe down the front, and pearl white interior. Damn that car was pretty.
We were headed to a drag race. His opponent drove a plum crazy purple, Plymouth Duster. It was souped up, loud, and in my opinion, ugly.
It was summer and I was shivering. They were racing title for title. I still remember the piercing sound of dueling engines, and the sick feeling in my stomach as they tour off down the road. When it was over, the Camero came in a distant second. The winner approached us and said, "Keep your car, I'll take the girl." To my surprise, he was pointing at me.
It felt like a scene out of a movie. Boy wants girl, boy gets girl. Only he was no boy. He was bold, strong, confident and determined. At 20, it was clear to me that he was a man.
It was the first day of spring when we married. Rick wore a forrest green tuxedo. His hair was parted just above his ear and slicked straight across the top of his head. His brother Joey was his best man. I miscarried our child the week before. We cried for a long time after that.
Rick taught me how to drive and bought me my first car - an orange, Ford Pinto. One summer, as I was driving backcountry roads with the windows down, wearing nothing but my bathing suit, I was pulled over by the police and questioned on being a communist. When I asked where they got their information, they pointed to the upside-down, red white and blue, "USA 1" Chevy license plate on the front of the car - Ricks way of expressing his distain for the baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet brand.
Rick taught me how to fish - which meant more than just catching the fish. He made me hook the worm, hold the catfish with my bare hands, and remove the hook even if he swallowed it.
Rick taught me how to play cards - how to bluff and when to bet it all.
Rick taught me patience, how to sit in silence, how to breath deeply, and how to appreciate life's simple moments.
Rick taught me kindness. He was considerate, generous and loyal. He defined what a good man meant. Because of him I expected these qualities in all men, later realizing they were few and far in-between.
Rick was a good man, a good husband and a good friend. We lived together for less than two years but we stayed married for almost twelve. Our deal was simple - we'd leave things as they were until the next big bite. The time it took to finalize a divorce would give us time to make certain it was right.
Rick was the first to remarry. I never met his second wife. I wouldn't see him again until 1997. By then he was single. We were at a bar and his brother Paul was playing the guitar. Later that night, Rick and I talked for hours in the parking lot. We were honest about ourselves and about the mistakes we made along the way.
Other than his hair, Rick never changed. He remained true to himself. When I saw him in the summer of 2009, he was happy, he was in love, and the eye of his attention, Phyllis, was at his side.
The last time I saw him was at a Forth of July party at his house. I showed up with my dog, a 5 pound shi-tzu, and a big smile. I'm almost certain I was invited but I'm not certain if he knew I was coming.
Again, it felt like a scene from a movie. The country cozy home that was once his parents, remained vibrant - only the color had changed. True to form, Rick was surrounded in loyalty, laughter and in love.
Sandy, forever his right hand man, was by his side. Mocha, his chocolate lab, was at his feet. Phyllis was gracious and attentive to everyone, including me. His nieces and nephews were playing baseball in the backyard and everyone wanted Uncle Ricky on their side.
The last words Rick said to me sum up our relationship perfectly. With a butt in one hand and a beer in the other he said, "Tell your dog to stop chasing my rooster or I'll sick my cat on her."
Rick... thank you for the laughter, for the lessons we shared, and for a lifetime of memories.
I noticed there is a 1972 purple Duster for sale on Ebay. It's listed at $25,995.00. WHAT a deal!
February 7th, 2011
Rick's brother Paul sings Fishing in the Dark in Rick's memory
Phyllis and Rick
Last time I saw Rick - with his best friend Sandy by his side
and Mocha at his feet.