A Birthday Card to Me

Rick BilliesOn this day 66 years ago I was born at St. Mary’s Hospital and the grand city of Brooklyn, New York. I was the first child of Richard T. and Rose I. Billies and would be followed by four other siblings. I would be their only child until November 1952 when my sister Barbara was born on Election Day.

In my 66 years of life, I have experienced many things, both good and bad. My childhood in Brooklyn was generally normal. We went to Breezy Point every summer where I learned to paint at about age 6. My nieces and nephews probably won’t believe this but prepping our summer bungalow each season was a full family affair.

Like the Marines where every marine carries a rifle, every Billies carried a paint brush or a roller. When my sister’s then-husband bragged that he painted the whole bungalow, I replied “22 more years and you catch up to me.” He admitted that he had a way to go.

Other families went on vacations to national parks or far-flung vacation destinations. The Billies Family bonded by painting and going to the beach. I didn’t leave the continental United States until about 1974 when I was 26.

I married a wonderful woman in 1977 and believe it or not we’re still married. My friends actually questioned why she was marrying me. She’s put up with a lot of crap over 37 years but she still sleeps next to me. I found that I don’t sleep very well when I sleep alone. I wonder what that means.

Our daughter Elizabeth was born in 1980. She was a beautiful little girl with a vivid imagination. She once told a farmer who was selling Mother’s Day flowers that she had a brother who had a tail. The look on his face was too much but I quickly interjected that she was talking about our dog Sam the Beagle.

Liz has always made her parents proud as an honor student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a member of the law review at Villanova Law School. She’s still making us proud as a national-recognized Family Law Attorney by a number of organizations.

I had a serious heart attack when I was almost 39 and I guess that I’m lucky to be alive. I had one blocked artery which they cleaned out but it spasmed two days later. My doctor said that I probably wouldn’t be able to run the marathon. I quipped that I couldn’t do it before. My heart condition and now Type II Diabetes is a daily struggle.

My wife Sandy told me about ten years after my heart attack that before my angioplasty she visited the chapel at St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee. She prayed to my late mother to intercede. My mother was the most religious person that I knew. She once had an accident in our garage in Brooklyn with a new car while trying to go the daily mass in Lent. After Sandy told me I started to think of her as St. Rose of Oradell.

I retired about three years ago and now I write all day, everyday about my observations of the world. You can read my stuff at the sites that are linked below.

I’ve seen the Brooklyn Dodgers win their last pennant in Brooklyn. I’ve seen men land on the moon six times and every one was wearing the American Flag on their sleeve. I’ve seen a President killed, his brother killed and a man of peace killed all in the space of three years. I’ve watched the ebb and flow of American politics and wondered how we have managed to survive. But we’re still here after all these years.

Now that I’ve reached 66 (two-thirds of a century) I look back and wonder how I got here in one piece. But I guess the Good Lord was watching over me or maybe he had a little help from St. Rose of Oradell. Thanks mom for getting me this far. I think of you and Dad every day.


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