Monday, May 30, 2016
Today I am grateful for Roman Leicht. Romy sat next to me in high school, remedial English class. . .and he was my friend. That was back in 1968, folks, when I somehow felt less-than because I was hopeless at diagramming sentences. So did Romy. Now I don’t care. . .for both of us. Because Romy died in Vietnam.
I imagine he must have had a difficult childhood, with poverty involved because he never smiled with his mouth open because of bad teeth. But I’ll never forget his smile. Did I have a crush on him. No, not really. I just liked him, not liked-him-liked-him. And he liked me, though his hood friends would tease him about it. We “got” each other. We knew we weren’t stupid, just confused and frustrated, each with our own particular learning disability that landed us next to each other in the “dummies” class.
But Romy wasn’t dumb. He was smart. Because he knew that kindness and humor could take you anywhere. He knew that his options were few so he joined the service. He didn’t know he wouldn’t come back.
He would never know that I visited his name at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC, or that I think of him often, especially on Memorial Day. He doesn’t know that I smile when I imagine him trying desperately to not let his teeth show. He doesn’t know that I still remember the twinkle in his eye when he made a wise-ass comment to the teacher.
Romy wouldn’t know how hard I cried when I learned of his death. . .and sometimes I still do.