This photo from years ago gives a glimpse of the neighbourhood where I spent my formative years as a child.
Sarnia’s Brock Street was a block full of kids so we had plenty of participants for games, hide-and-seek, the odd prank and secret clubs.
The doors were always open in the neighbourhood to all, as seen here, and we would come and go from each other’s homes often.
In my mind, our neighbourhood had 11 months of summer and a month of winter. It was kind of a special place.
My memories are full of those endless summer days, most of which were spent in the Rivait family’s backyard pool.
We couldn’t get enough pool time and all the kids filled it constantly. Bless the Rivaits for putting up with all of us.
Ron Rivait was the middle boy of the family. He and I hung out in the neighbourhood, were in the same class at school each year and became altar servers at our church.
When Ron received the news that he had terminal cancer, he bravely faced it, providing a lesson in courage.
We had planned a Brock Street reunion two weeks ago here in Sarnia and Ron was looking forward to it, but he became too sick to attend. Our friend from the neighbourhood, musician and singer Sean Hogan, was performing.
We raised a toast to Ron at our reunion and the whole bar joined in. When I sent an email to Cheryl about this, she replied back that my message brought a smile to Ron’s face.
It’s the least we could do as Ron brought so many smiles to ours.
Ron lived in the same house on Brock Street his whole life.
He was an anchor for us.
The rest of us eventually all moved away, but knowing Ron was still there somehow kept us moored. It was a comforting thought to know we could drive through the old neighbourhood again and Ron would still be there.
It meant that maybe some things never do change.
You really can go home again and see the same little boy with the easy smile and good nature in the same two-storey white house with the big front porch from your childhood.
The same boy who would wear bubble gum lip gloss because our teacher wouldn’t let us chew gum in class. He found a way to outsmart her. (When Ron became sick our classmate Sharon took some bubble gum lip gloss to his home.)
The same boy who was game for any challenge and could be mischievous in the best sense of the word.
The boy who always protected his little brother.
The boy who loved lacrosse.
The boy who played superheroes with my brother.
And the boy who grew up to be a superhero in his community: a union leader, who fought for the rights of others and aided my stepmother in her time of need; a manager with Sarnia Ice Hawks sledge hockey; a volunteer with the Heart and Stroke Foundation and other organizations.
This past May he was involved in a community forum for student mental wellness and a couple of years ago he raised awareness about the issue of racism in elementary schools.
Last Monday all the schools in the Lambton Kent district lowered their flags to half in memory of Ron. That’s how highly respected he was.
Two years ago, when we had our first Brock Street Gang reunion, I remember thinking maybe this is what heaven is like – seeing people you haven’t seen for years and being so joyful in their presence.
I hope Ron is in that joyful place right now. He certainly deserves it.
I have this picture of he and I from one of our reunions that I’ll always treasure.
I can still see that little boy in his face and I can’t wait to see Ron’s face again someday.
Ron and I all grown up,