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It is 6:59 in the morning on a nice fall day. The sun is out; the leaves have already begun falling and the temperature is in the mid 50s. It is Saturday and the weekend is already looking bright. A minute later there is an alarm clock blast and Richard quickly turns it off. His room is always cold but for some reason that’s the way he likes to sleep. It could be the middle of winter and he will have the fan on. He sits on the edge of his bed, puts his glasses on and stays there for a few minutes—patiently waiting for the cobwebs to leave his tired, aching head. Finally he gets up and gets dressed, putting on a pair of clean, faded jeans, a T-shirt and a zippered hooded sweater. Richard then proceeds to go downstairs to the kitchen, where his wife of 47 years, Vera, already has pot of coffee brewing. The strong, rich aroma has quickly enveloped the room. “Dick, did you sleep well last night?” Vera asks. As Richard reaches for the medicine cabinet, he replies, “No, all night long my allergies felt like a locomotive was running through my head.” Richard starts swallowing some pills, some for his allergies and some for his diabetes, slightly throwing his head back with each pill as if to insure it would go down quickly. Richard talks to Vera for a few more minutes, small talk, nothing much. He is a man of few words.
He walks outside to feed his horses. The air is crisp and as he strolls he can hear the crunching of leaves beneath his feet. In the barn, the sun is shining through the cracks in the roof. This makes him feel good and alive, knowing it is a great day to view the country on horseback. Richard comes back in the house, sits down at the kitchen counter and starts watching the news. “Hey Dick, do you want to wake Michael and ask him if he wants to go with us to Darrell’s for breakfast?” “Yeah, I’ll just finish my cup of coffee.” It is now close to 8 o’clock and Richard goes and wakes Michael and asks him. Michael replies, “No, Pop, I’m tired and I have a football game later.” As Michael is saying this, he reaches over to make sure his alarm clock is off, and as he does, his sleeve comes up on his arm, clearly showing a tattoo.
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Richard Cunningham, the second youngest of five children was born December 16, 1931 in Buffalo, N. Y. to Irish immigrants. Richard’s family couldn’t afford to put him through college. This didn’t bother him much. He was not fazed by the idea that you had to have a degree to make a respectable living. Richard enlisted in the Coast Guard shortly after completing high school and was a veteran in the Korean War. For the most part his family would tell you he enjoyed his time in the military. He seemed very enthusiastic when his oldest grandson, Michael, wanted to enlist in the military. Shortly after being honorably discharged from the Service he met Vera, and they married in 1957. They have two daughters and one son, whom he named after himself. He also has seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Each one of the grandchildren calls Richard “Papa” instead of Grandpa. Richard is very close to his grandson, Michael, who has been living with them for the last couple of years. When Michael started grade school, Richard had a Transformer or some other toy waiting for his grandson every time he would come to visit. It wasn’t long before Michael began to look up to his grandfather as role model figure. Richard worked for the A T & T telephone company as a Telephone Office Installer and later became a Technician. He retired from A T & T at age 59.
Richard is liked and respected by many for being calm, competent, determined, reliable, and well-read. He reads daily: books, fiction, non-fiction, and newspapers. This gives him competency in talking to others. Most of his friends like him for his humor; sometimes dry; sometimes, cutting. A few don’t understand it. For those, it just goes over their heads.
Richard, however, isn’t without faults, according to his wife. Richard uses logical reasoning and Vera relies on mood and feeling when dealing with certain situations. Vera often complains that he does not really understand her. His wife has come to realize that she cannot change his persona, after all. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, she says. It is six o’clock in the evening. The sun has already started to set, the temperature outside has dipped down the low 50s and there is a slight gust of wind blowing in Richard face. Richard has just finished unloading the horses from a long horseback ride with his wife and few close friends. Even though Richard has an exhausted look on his face, he lets Vera know that he is leaving to go to Michael’s football game. “Oh Dick, be careful driving in the dark.” “I’ll probably only stay until half time depending on how close the came is.” Richard is not too fond of driving in the dark, especially during this time of year when deer seem to run rapidly in front of cars.
Richard arrives just in time for Mike’s football game. He never has seen so many people at a high school football game before. Richard sees his grandson just finishing warming up and calls over to him. “Hey Michael, good luck tonight; if you guys start blowing them out I’m going to leave at half time.” “That’s fine Pop, thanks for making it out here.” Richard and Michael finish up the conversation with a handshake; he is not big on hugs.
Michael’s team, the Barker Raiders, was up 14-0 at halftime. The game was actually closer than what the score indicted. Richard knew this and decided to stay for the whole game. Richard was already proud of his grandson for scoring one of the touchdowns and it wasn’t before long that he saw his grandson score another one. Michael returned the opening kickoff in the second half for a 90 yard touchdown run. Richard was one of many cheering his grandson on as Michael raced down his team’s sideline for the score. As soon as his grandson steps into the end zone, Richard noticed that one of the refs threw a yellow flag. It’s getting called back, a clipping penalty.
Richard was in disbelief and knew somehow that this was going to affect the outcome of the game. He was right. The Raiders lost in over time 23-20. The Barker Raiders perfect season is no more. Immediately after the game, Richard sees his grandson walking over towards him holding back tears. Richard embraces Michael with a hug “Pop, I gave it my all tonight.” “I know you did, I’m proud of you.”
Richard’s continuing support for his Grandson means a great deal to Michael. Michael knows his grandfather is always going to be there for him. He knows that his grandfather will never holler at him, or judge him. Richard will always be there to support his grandson whether it’s for football, for body building, and especially his car problems.