It just struck me, just this minute, that I got my license in a car called the Skidchicken. How is that relevant now? Well, it’s not, exactly, except that the Skidchicken — a cream-colored beater of a Chevy Nova or Chevelle or some such thing — belonged to the Radford twins, Tim and Tom, two outstanding young Newport, NH men who were as critical a part of my formative years (or perhaps “deformative” years, depending on one’s perspective) as anyone. We were nearly inseparable through high school, stayed in close contact through college, and since then have been more out of touch than in, but if I’m looking for someone with whom to go to battle, the Raddies remain near the top of that list, and presumably always will.
We shared our first concert (AC/DC, 1983). We shared a secret handshake. We shared an underage beverage or two. We shared many a basketball court and baseball diamond. We shared more bad decisions than I can count. We shared at least a couple of involuntary rides in the back of at least a couple of police cruisers (see “poor decisions”). We shared homes. We shared a high school yearbook page under the heading “Best Friends.”
And we shared families, which is where the events of last night tie in.
You and me, we’ve all got those people in our lives who are unrelated by blood, but are family members in every other practical way. In my world, the Radfords fall into that category. So when Tim and Tom’s mom Linda Radford and cousin Wanda Santti showed up at the homestead a little before 6 yesterday evening for pizza and some hoops, it was as if we were being joined by my own mom and cousin. There is comfort food, and there are comfort people. The Radford family and extended family are my comfort people.
We hadn’t seen each other since — wow, too long — but you know the deal … It was as if there was no gap at all. The conversation flowed.
It helps, too, that these are two of the most genuine and kind and positive people on the face of the earth, sincerely interested and concerned with your kids, your interests, your life. And happy. Despite having suffered personal loss the weight of which no one should feel in a lifetime, Linda’s choice is to smile widely and laugh deeply in appreciation of the many joyful things that remain. Wanda, meanwhile, is a walking inspirational calendar — at least one happy thought a day — but not the hokey kind you roll your eyes at and ignore. Wanda’s inspirations are more borne of real life experience, like her volunteer work at David’s House, or her singing with her buddy, the great Pete Merrigan, or her many road trips. Her Facebook posts are not the ones you hide from, but the ones you turn to.
So there they were, Linda and Wanda, last night, in the flesh … some veggie pizza and then to Epsom Central for some two-ball rebounding that efficiently earned us 1,500 more made foul shots in about an hour and 45 minutes — bringing our total to 431,507 through the iron. And then, in a moment that had a surprise quotient of zero, the two basically volunteered to come as a team once a month through the winter, when we’ll be in the gym on a regular basis and will need help the most.
They’ll be there. After all, that’s the way it works with family.
Love you, Wanda. Love you, Linda. See you again soon.
You too, Raddy boys.