Monday, April 21, 2014

True Heroes: R for Radical Red...

True heroes are all around us, in our every day lives, but some people stand out. During this A-Z Challenge I hope to share several of my real life heroes, and invite you to share yours in the comments.

andy Hicken, AKA, Radical Red Randal. I cringe when people are awkward around special needs kids. I've had the privilege to work with a number of them, and yes, it can be difficult to interpret their behavior initially, but these are the most loving, precious people you will meet.

One of them was my brother.

People ask me occasionally why I have such a love for CHEESE. Well, it's not all about food. Cheese is family culture primarily because of my older brother, whose grin was so huge it could only be described as the true definition of cheese. Oh, and cheese was his favorite food. We'd often catch him in the kitchen slicing a 1/2 lb wedge of cheese off the block to munch on.


Yes, Randy had special needs. He drooled most his growing up--like he should have worn a "beware of slobber" sign--and he was occasionally forceful, but the thing that set him apart was how much he loved everyone.

You were Randy's friend. You couldn't not be. He'd ask your name, shake your hand, and forever thereafter he'd introduce you like this: "This is Crystal, my friend."

Randy's natural optimism never got old--like Olaf the snowman. He was a ray of sunshine.

He passed away at the age of 30, and I can't go a single day without thinking of him, without wanting to be like him. The cheese is Randy's legacy, his reminder to me to be myself, to love everyone, and to see the good in life.

If you'd like to read a brief, and touching tribute to my brother with a few laughs and odd stories, you can read more HERE.


Nine more days to get MOONLESS at $1.99.

Jane Eyre meets Supernatural

An excerpt: 

Alexia lowered her eyelids to keep him from witnessing the forming tears.
Kiren stepped nearer, tucked a hand up under her jaw, and pressed his lips to her brow. Warmth radiated from the connection. She accepted it, trying to be grateful for the simple reassurance that—despite his reluctance toward romance—he did care for and would protect her, even from himself.
He sucked in a breath through his nose, and forced her chin upward. His lips crashed down over hers.
Shockwaves rolled through her, her knees going limp. His arm slipped around her back, pressing her to him. His fingers tugged through her hair. She surrendered entirely to the cataclysmic torrent tearing through her body.
The only things that existed were he, she, and the storm ripping through them. She clung to him. The only reality was this—this incredible connection. She wanted him, and nothing else. She wanted this, and nothing more. She wanted him, and he wanted her!
He pushed her back, holding her arms against her sides.
Panting.
Eyes closed.
She reached for him.
He grimaced, released her, and stepped into the shadows, vanishing.


Have you been inspired by any special needs individuals? Who is the most optimistic person you know? Is there anyone in your life who has influenced you whole way of life?

113 comments:

  1. So sorry you lost your brother. Based off this post alone, I can see why he'd brighten your day. He sounds like such a loving guy! (And now I finally understand your love of cheese a little better, heh.)

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    1. You know, I've come to the point where it's sad, but it doesn't sting anymore. A good place to be, right?

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  2. Such a nice post, Crystal! I like knowing where the love of cheese comes from. :)

    Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption
    Minion, Capt. Alex's Ninja Minion Army
    The 2014 Blogging from A-Z Challenge

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  3. So sorry for the loss of your brother. I know what it's like. My sister died at the age of 50 after a long battle with breast cancer. Glad you have happy memories of your time with him and your love of cheese to remember him by.

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    1. It's sad, but such a blessing they're part of our lives, eh?

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  4. Oh, Crystal. Thank you for sharing with us the true meaning of 'Cheese' to you. It makes it incredibly special. As do most special needs people, it sounds like he enriched your life in unforgettable ways. Amazing memories ...

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  5. I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your brother, Crystal. He sounds like he was a terrific person and brought so much good to the lives of those around him. My Uncle Alan was a person of special needs as well, and one of the best people I've ever known!

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    1. That's awesome. I wish my kids could have met Randy, but at least they have the family stories.

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  6. What a tribute to your amazing brother. And the way he'd introduce people...brings tears to my eyes.

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    1. I know. If only we could all be that genuine and amazing, eh?

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  7. Very sorry for your loss - but you were definitely blessed to have this great guy as your brother. Sounds like he was the life of the party. :)

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  8. A loving tribute to your brother. So sorry for your loss. It sounds as if he touched your life profoundly.

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  9. Dreadful to hear your brother died so young, but it sounds like he lived the fullest while he was alive. My best friend has a special needs brother who just turned 18 this past year. Though he doesn't really talk, he's quite the character. :)

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  10. I never knew that was the reason for all the cheese, and it's certainly a good reason. It sounds like he was a great guy, and a wonderful brother.

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  11. Oh, that just made we all teary-eyed. What a sweet tribute to your brother. May the cheese be with you!

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  12. Such a beautiful tribute to an obviously very special guy. I'm sorry you lost him so young, I can't imagine how difficult that must be.

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    1. It's not as sad as you might think. I've got a full range of wonderful memories with him.

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  13. We have a special needs kid in our church and he drools all the time:) He is super sweet and funny! Thanks for sharing your brother with us.
    That excerpt--he walks away! Love the suspense and the surprise ending to that scene.

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  14. What a beautiful tribute to your brother. He sounds like he was an amazing person. It's so great to know what (or I guess I should say "who") inspired your love for cheese. Sweet post.

    My husband is probably the most optimistic person I know-he's a great example to me. :)

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    1. I love that. Your hubby must be amazing.

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  15. From this post and others, you sure have an awesome family. I couldn't imagine sitting down to a 1/2 pound block of cheese, though. Red had guts! :)

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    1. LOL. I could totally down that amount in one sitting, and more. I think pretty much anyone in my family could.

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  16. This is a sweet tribute, Crystal. I loved learning about your brother. He truly sounds like an inspiration. And I liked learning the whole back-story to CHEESE.

    Special needs kids and adults inspire me all the time because they are so positive and happy. If everyone could just have a drop of their happiness this world would be a better place. <3

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  17. Now I understand your love of cheese! What a great, infectious smile your brother had!

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  18. Another lovely tribute post! Randy sounds like he was quite a character! Keep a strong hold on those memories you have of him - that way he will always be with you. <3

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  19. Your brother sounds like such a sweet, loving person. I'm glad that nowadays, special needs children and adults are no longer hidden away in institutions or in the attic or basement. My area has a branch of a nationwide group called The Friendship Circle, which partners teens with special needs kids and gives parents of these kids respite and chances to bond. It also offers fun activities for the kids, like bowling and holiday parties.

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    1. I KNOW. I've thought about that so many times--what our lives would have been like if we'd lived in a different age where we were expected to keep my brother locked away.

      I love that Friendship Circle. So cool!

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  20. I'm so sorry your brother is no longer with you. A genuine, loving spirit is so rare.

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    1. I think they're more common than we believe, we just have to take the time to recognize them.

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  21. It sounds to me like Randy served well in his role. I would have been happy to know him. Thanks for sharing this very touching memory and your post in 2010. I enjoyed reading about him.

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    1. I'm so glad. He is definitely someone worth sharing with the world.

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  22. He sounds like he was an amazing man. And now your love for all things cheese has a special meaning!

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    1. It's always had special meaning to me. ;)

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  23. I have a special needs cousin that sounds a lot like your brother. I am so sorry that you lost him at such a young age. That is a hole that can never be filled. Bless you for sharing him with us

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    1. I don't feel like it's a hole. I feel like he filled a hole that will never be empty again.

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  24. I love him. That's proper love in a package.

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  25. i too have had many and continue to be blessed with special people my life---randy sounds like a wonderful person <3

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  26. My precious nephew is autistic and he is a blessing each and every day through all the variety of life experiences he goes through. All my children had learning difficulties and my youngest suffers from ADHD, ADD and is dyslexic. His real age is about 10 years younger than his chronological age. People don't recognise that he has a real problem. Perhaps he was given to me because I would be one of the few to ever understand.

    Your tribute to your brother has me choked up...

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    1. They're so much work, but such a blessing too.

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  27. That's sad he died so young. Sounds like he enriched your lives while he was here. I only know one person like this well. He doesn't say much, but when he does speak he's always very polite. :)

    I can see a bit of the Jane Eyre in this excerpt today. ^_^

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    1. It's actually amazing he made it that long. We count our blessings.

      Yeah? It's in there, eh?

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  28. Hi Crystal!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog this morning. Nice to meet you!
    Your brother sounds as if he was a true gift! I'm so sorry he's no longer with you in person but I know you will always carry him with you. How fun that you can think of him whenever you think of cheese. I always think of my dad when I have a good steak or eat Chinese. He loved food! I guess that's one reason I'm such a foodie.

    Cheers!
    Jen

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    1. What a wonderful gift--being able to remember your Dad through food. Awesome!

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  29. I'm sorry you lost your brother, and at such a young age. You shared some of your most treasured time with him, and I appreciate that, after reading this lovely post. Michelle

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  30. Wonderful tribute, Crystal, and what a lovely and loving person Randy was. I had a special needs cousin, and I understand the awkwardness you describe. I was too young to understand his big heart at the time, but thinking back, yes, he had the biggest heart, offered the most unconditional love to everyone he knew. Sorry for your loss. And thank you for sharing Randy with us.
    Silvia @
    SilviaWrites

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    1. I was glad to do it. Some people are so wonderful they shouldn't be hidden from the world.

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  31. This makes me smile and tear up simultaneously. A beautiful tribute to your brother. :)

    The Immarcescible Word

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  32. Your love of cheese has always made me smile, now it will mean something different. Thanks for sharing your story of your brother.

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  33. Thanks so much for sharing your brother's story. It is so touching.

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  34. Another beautiful post. I loved learning about the origin of your love of cheese, and about your brother. He sounds like a beautiful soul; I'm so glad you shared this.

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    1. He definitely was/is a beautiful soul. =)

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  35. Aw, what a beautiful tribute Crystal! I'm so sorry you lost your brother, but it sounds like he made the world a better place before he left. RIP Randy.
    And you're so right about the amount of love from people with special needs. It's staggering. We can all learn something from the beauty of their souls. One of my daughter's playmates has Downs and I always worry about how life will change as they get older. I hope I can teach my girl to remain a steadfast friend thruout the changing years.

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    1. I love that! Downs kids are SO sweet. Where we're moving, we're going to be able to regularly interact with these adorable down syndrome twins. I'm excited the kids will get to be around them.

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  36. It is always hard to lose people so close to us. One of the best things about reading people's blogs is getting to meet these special people who have passed from this life. I always feel like they are little part of me after.

    Brandon Ax: Writer's Storm

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  37. I'm truly sorry for your loss (but glad to see in the comments that you're at a place where it's not an open wound anymore).

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  38. Lovely post and a lovely smile. Adds a whole new meaning to the expression "say cheese".

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  39. How sweet. And how nice you keep him alive with the cheese...

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    1. It's more like he keeps me alive with the cheese. :)

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  40. Great tribute to your brother. Next time I eat cheese, I'll do a little toast to him with it. =D

    ~Patricia Lynne~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, YA Author

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  41. Your brother sounds like he was a great guy. Sorry you lost him so young. Special needs kids are awesome, but I get how it is hard to get used to hanging out with them at first. Also, Moonless sounds amazing.

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  42. Whenever the kidlet sees the camera come out, he automatically says 'Cheese!' and squints his eyes up. It makes for...interesting pics. ;) I'm sorry you lost your brother so young, but glad he was a ray of light while he was here.

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  43. This made me a little teary. My siblings are such an important part of my life, I can't imagine losing one so young. Thank you for sharing Randy with us.

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  44. That is a sweet tribute. I can tell how much you loved him. Most people need to show understanding for people with special needs. Blessings to you as you remember your brother.
    Play off the Page

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  45. What a beautiful human being. Thank you so much for sharing his spirit and legacy with me.

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  46. You come to mind often about your love for cheese. Now I get it, and it makes the ripple effect you've had even greater. Thanks for sharing. : )

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    1. Ah, now it makes sense, eh? Glad to share the joy, Joy. =)

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  47. Crystal, so sorry to hear about your loss. Randy sounds like he was a terrific person. This is such a lovely tribute to him. Thank you for sharing this post with us.

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  48. That is truly lovely tribute, Crystal. And your brother sure had a beautiful soul and while you and your family were lucky to have him in your life, he was lucky to be born into your family as well. I usually stay away from being too open about beliefs and religion and things like that, but I truly feel that God only sends his wonderful most amazing children to the best family that can care for them and offer them the purest love. If most people had that positive heart your brother had, the world would be a better place. Much cheese love to you and yours! ;)

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    1. Thanks so much! I agree, these very special individuals are sent for specific purposes and it's no accident where they end up. It speaks volumes about my wonderful parents who did the very best they could with this unique and challenging young man. =)

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  49. It sounds like Randy was a very special guy. Featuring him as your R hero was a lovely way to celebrate his life.

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  50. This is quite touching -- thanks for sharing.

    Yvonne

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  51. What a sweet post and I'm sorry you lost him so soon. He touched many hearts while he was here.

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  52. Wow, thanks for sharing. Sorry for you loss.

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  53. He sounds like he brightened the room just by being in it :) I'm so sorry you lost him. I have a weakness for cheese so I can totally see why is was his favourite food.
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings - AtoZ (Vampires)
    FB3X - AtoZ (Erotic Drabbles)

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    1. Because cheese is the best food on the planet. Right? ;)

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  54. So sorry about your loss, Crystal! This is such a loving tribute to your brother. I am sure he is smiling like this at you from wherever he is! *Hugs*
    A Rose is a Rose is a Rose!
    Co-Host AJ's wHooligan for the A to Z Challenge 2014

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  55. You have my condolences. It sounds as if you used to have a good time with him. Another great hero.

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  56. Hugs Crystal. I'm sure he touches your life in some little way everyday. What's more amazing is that his story is a lesson in love and inspiration to people half way across the world! (like myself) Thanks for sharing this with the world.

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Hit me with your cheese!