A Place for Rick

Three weeks ago on April 5, I lost my Uncle Rick. Mom’s older brother. He’d been fighting cancer for a long time. While it went away for a while, it came back with a vengeance, as it does. Though he kept how bad it was mostly to himself. These past several months, it was hard to get a hold of him. I left a few messages, texts, and sent him a copy of Midwestern Gothic. His 80th birthday was in March. I texted him, and then never got a hold of him. I regret not trying harder, but what you can you do? When we learned things were really bad, we heard he wasn’t taking calls. I tried calling to at least leave a message in hopes that his caregivers would play it for him. But the call never went to voicemail.

Cousin Mary, who lives in California a few hours north of Rick let us know she was driving down and would read any messages we emailed her. I was back home for my niece’s birthday, and was finishing up my email sitting at my dad’s kitchen table, when my Aunt Diane called to tell me he’d passed. This was also the three year anniversary of my Uncle Charlie’s passing, so not a good day for my aunt already.

I sent my message to Mary anyway, and these few weeks later, I thought I’d post a slightly edited version here.

A few other things. Rick was a big deal in the dog world, judging dog shows all over the planet. He’s written several dog books including Rottweilers for Dummies (kinda cool, eh?!) Check out his Amazon Page! He hosted a Tournament of Champions dog show in Detroit for several years around the time I was in high school. He knew Betty White.

His house in Malibu was next door to Olivia Newton John, but I didn’t see her when I was out there. Before that, he lived on the same street as Bob Dylan. When The Wallflowers broke in 1996 and my crush on Jakob Dylan was at its most intense, Rick told me how he remembered Jakob riding around the neighborhood on his Big Wheel. Awesome.

Maybe there’s more I could say, but this is good for now.

So here’s that message. Thank you Rick. 🙂


Hi Rick. First off, THANK YOU. For everything. For being part of a pretty stellar line up of uncles: yourself, Charlie, Terry, Ron, and Gary. Pretty awesome there.

Thank you for taking care of Mom, in whatever way you needed to in a given moment. You took care of her growing up. And also rescued her from her houseful of crazy boys. Well maybe not so much from ME, ha. Okay, that’s a lie. The Me part. I know that the adventures you went on together enriched her life like I’m sure they did yours. Thank you in the end for being my “co-eulogist” when it was her turn to go. It was an honor to share that with you.

Thank you for making your visits such events—even if at first that meant you took us to Toys R Us and let us pick TWO toys!

Thank you for being there for graduations and other events. For sending me cards (and cash) when I was a broke college student just starting off on that crazy adventure.

Okay, early memory time: Summer 1978 when Mom, Steve, and I stayed at the Malibu house. You were there part of the time before going on your travels. Steve couldn’t stop running fearlessly toward the ocean. Me, I held back, content to digging in the sand because Jaws was going to get me. Once, I got carried away, flinging sand as I dug. You were sitting downwind, reading. Sand kept blowing at you, and you told me to stop. Probably with a stern look like Grandma. A small moment, but it stuck.

Thank you also for being an inspiration both as a gay man and a writer. Having you to look up to and talk to as I was figuring myself out I think made it much easier. Probably for Mom too. Thank you for being a part of mine and Ernie’s ceremony (10 years ago next month!); for sharing some of your stories, for connecting me to a part of that history. I only wish we lived closer together so we could share more of our stories more often. As a writer, I am definitely aware of this family tradition we have going on here.

(Side bar: I love how many years ago, Ernie and I were flipping through his TV in his studio apartment and when we hit Animal Planet you and Ron Regan Junior were giving commentary at a dog show. What an awesome and beautifully random moment!)

So, the writer thing. Our subjects and approaches may be different, but I love how we both found our ways in (though I suppose I’m still figuring that out.) Thank you for your support in all my creative endeavors. Having you at the show I did in Chicago that dreadfully cold February in 2006 was very cool.

Thank you for that awesome October adventure a few years ago: my triumphant return to California after 32 years! The talk, the wine, the fresh air, my “brush” with Jack Kerouac at Big Sur.

As an uncle now myself, I hope I’m half as fabulous as you’ve been.

Thank you again!!

Love, Michael

2 thoughts on “A Place for Rick

  1. David Swartwood

    he was an exceptional man and the dog world held him in such high regard. A kind soul and brilliant writer, we will all miss him, You were lucky to have such a wonderful Uncle.

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