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Ralphy Baby
by Dr. Lawrence Nannery
2016-06-15 10:02:34
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Ralphy Baby


What did you say when you called me on the phone that time, Ralphy Baby?
You said you were dying of a brain tumor.
ny01_400_01Took my breath away.
I couldn’t calculate. I said:
“Don’t say that, Ralphy.”
So you said: “And what’s up with you?"

What else did you say to over the phone that time, Ralphy Baby?
You asked me what the hell you had done wrong.
“Why haven’t you called me in three years?”
I answered truthfully, but would you believe me?
“I was tired of boring you with my never-ending troubles.”
And we picked up from there, like nothing had ever happened.


Your life was a dark beginning, and cliffhangers every year, every month, every day throughout.
Your end was a sad fate, disasters predicted continuously in between.
You suffered every rejection known to man; expected nothing; were always very loved.
And why would that be, Ralphy Baby?
It was because you were a light, Ralphy, a frigging lighthouse.
Sliding trochaically into early eternity, you fooled them long enough to spread a lot of joy.
Amazingly gentle, putting up with everything, never bitter (hardly ever), you were
The very best of friends, a blind man always looking out for the others, doing for others.

You always knew you would have to go early, and you resolved on stiffening for the big hit,
The end, that would take you away from all those you loved.
That I guess is what we loved.


Of the things I need to say, Ralph, here is the best part.
The kids were the one thing where you came into your own.
After many and many a year of the barrooms, and the demimonde, and strange encounters,
And undeserved disappointments, here was one thing, the normal thing, a main thing
Against all the odds, and expectations, all advice, you became a father and sired a home.
Soon however, as though God desired to rob of what He had so strangely given.
The child fell to symptoms that seemed to be ready to take her life, and maybe yours with it.
The trouble required the resources of everybody, and Ronald MacDonald House, and tension and uncertainty –
Once again, the unfairness of it all.

But that passed and in a year there was a little boy too.
And then began the satisfaction for the first time in your life.
Nice sight, Mister Ralph and the clambering kids.
Like puppies they climbed all over you, took you the way you were, never questioned,
So that you could just sit back for the first time in your life and be yourself.

The laughter, the clamor, the good cheer, the belief in their daddy –
No could be more in love than you were those days,
And no one could have deserved a longer life to continue the rounds round-and-round,
Ralphy Baby, but you only got a few years, three or four.

With these things there is never enough.
You felt weird in your happiness, I know.
But yours was the hardest earned of any I ever knew.
Who’d have ever predicted your role there, Ralphy,
And who’d ever have thought you’d be the best in all the world.

It’s whacked.
After the funeral I saw those kids only a few times
And it wasn’t fun. I was full to talk to them about you
But they were not interest, and their questions were perfunctory,
Proving how short is the glow of true love in this world, my friend.
But anyway it still glows.


Well, then there were your relatives, and I hope that I never see them again.
They didn’t do you proper, Ralphy, they didn’t do it right.
One was too warm, the second too cold, and the third was in outer space.
And those were only your brothers. The rest were even worse.

I didn’t know what gave you the strength because I never knew
Until after the end how you counted every day as something extra,
Something not given.
You had from a child been a sage.
And a sage is someone who can at any moment be stopped in his tracks
Be wonder. And wonder you did, and bless things you did
And leave me with more than you look, you did.

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