Richie Mylar, Let Your Gentleness Be Known

December 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Richie Mylar (Richard E. Mylar) sat across from me in the fourth grade. In our odd, round, experimental school house, rooms had open fronts. In those rooms, we were often clumped as grouped desks or tables that divided us into 3′s or 4′s. In my and Richie’s case, we were two.

To me, Richie seemed a wild animal. He pressed towards me across the table on his forearms, fists made into balls. “I’m going to kill your mother,” he told me. “And your cat. With my .22.” His sea-blue eyes cut the air between us. Unattended red hair spiked from his head in dull tufts. No one had combed it. No one had cared for his clothes. How did this boy even make it to school?

From across the table, I saw a boy’s face. It was hungry, dirty and full of rage. Even to my young eyes it was clear: no one was caring for this child. My world was soft. The difference terrified me. Day after day, he leaned into me to describe his plans. The stress wore me down. Finally, I told my mother.

My mother entered that classroom like the blade of a knife. Her eyes burned a path as she headed for Richie. Moving sideways on her crutches through an isle of desks and tables, her target was clear. Richie had made a terrible mistake. He had entered a grizzly’s den.

Of course, I had no idea what happened between them. I only knew the sight of my own mother frightened even me as she maneuvered down that isle. When I turned to see her coming, I was scorched to the gut by the burn of her fixed eye. She spoke directly to Richie, and then escorted him away.

After, there was a sudden peace. Richie didn’t pick on me anymore. He didn’t even behave strangely toward me. It was just over. For the rest of our school years, Richie raised a friendly arm to me and met me with a genuine smile. In fact, I shortly grew to like him, and he me. Nothing had changed in his hard life, but he brought no grief to mine. He was a friend, though distant, and he offered real warmth.

Actually, the incident in fourth grade was an isolated one. The year before he had made the friendly offer to share some crawdads. Secreted under his third grade desk was a pot borrowed from his home kitchen. In it were countless crawdads that he had caught. He whispered to me about the various colors and sizes he’d discovered. His little scientist marveled at their differences, displaying them with pride. I took home three, a gift from Richie.

My senior year was irregular. Forced to change schools for twelfth grade, I was separated from Richie, and the rest of my class. At the end of our senior year, luck crossed our paths for one last moment before we thrust ourselves into the world.  In a gas station in Paden City, suddenly, he was next to me. His sea-blue eyes hung on a backdrop of red, and his smile was ready for me, along with a hug.

“You know, I still have nightmares about your mother!” he said. “I dream about her coming after me with those crutches!” I looked into his face and swam with worry. “Richie, please, take care of yourself. Stay away from drinking. Stay away from drugs.” I don’t remember the content of his response; but it was delivered with a hug, a shrug and a blessing as we drifted apart and into the world.

I worried so much about what would happen to Richie. Alcohol and drugs are common ways that young people self-medicate when their lives are full of fear and pain. It often leads to addiction. To me, he was the neglected boy from fourth grade. A fragile child had been brutalized, and then abandoned at the edge of life’s road. What kind of miracle would life demand from this one? Never taught the skills of life, how does one survive?

Whenever I talked to someone back home, I asked about Richie. When I got news, it was never good. Richie struggled with drugs, sometimes stole to support his habit, sometimes shared a stash for the very same reason. Everything about him was defined by the degree of trouble he was in. Never violent, never cruel, Richie’s path was more painful for him than anyone else; yet, the neglected child that grew into this man was forgotten. Now, he was just a villain.

In 2007, I was running for my life. More than for me, I was running for the lives of my boys. Arthur and Erik were stirring inside me, and I wanted safety more than anything on earth. Back in West Virginia, my rattled nerves reverberated off of the tight gaps in the hills. I kept my hand to my stomach, soothed my babes, and held on. I hoped to see Richie; but I didn’t.

Life plucked those children from me, one by one. From deep in my grief, I reached up with a desperate hope. I created J. From abuse, to NICU life, to grief, to new motherhood, to grief, to expectant motherhood, again: I felt so broken. I was happily pregnant, but I was worn.

My feet rocked against wooden floor of the TruValue Hardware Store in Paden City, where my aunt worked. My pregnant belly was robed in checkers as my worried eyes darted around the room. Abuse had made me cagey, while motherhood had made me calm. In the middle of my half relaxed, half tensed state, Richie walked in.

I froze, and I gaped. “Are you Richie Mylar!?”

His smile awoke like a flower. His voice, husky with time, said my name. I started to cry.

I cried as he hugged me. I saw that young boy. I saw his dull, red hair clumped over his eyes. I heard all the rumors and relived the articles from the paper. Sweet Richie. Look what life had done.

He gave me his phone number, but late pregnancy and new motherhood filled up my world. When I went to look for Richie, he was gone.

An article in the Tylar Star News from December of 2008 describes his sentencing hearing. Richie was going back to prison for attempted breaking and entering. It wasn’t until after he was gone that I heard. His brother happened to become my neighbor. He told me where to send a letter.

When I heard Richie was coming home, I sent word with his brother. “Stop and see us!”  He never did. I wasn’t surprised. I know how hectic life can get. Still, I worried.

Then, last Christmas, I ran into him in the store. “Erika!” his sea-blue eyes fell right on me. I felt a full, round touch on my soul. We touched shoulders and gripped forearms as we spoke, exchanging bits of news and our personal lives. “Have you been working?” he asked me.

When I told him no, there was a break in our chatter. Richie reached for his wallet, without pause.

“Merry Christmas, Erika,” he said, pressing money into my hand.

I protested, but Richie would not take it back. It was fifteen dollars. There was little green left in the brown leather folds of his wallet after he gave it to me. “No,” he said. “Please.”

In life’s shuffle, five of those dollars were spent. The other ten stays folded in my wallet, just as he handed it to me. I won’t spend it. This is a reminder of a gift. It is a reminder of the touch of Christ that came to me through Richie Mylar, and a tie back to our beloved friend.

I heard recently that Richie is back in jail, this time, for selling prescription drugs. I looked up the article in the Wetzel Chronicle. The accompanying photograph made me snort out a bitter laugh. A bit of money was spread around to look like a lot. A few pipes for smoking marijuana were pictured, along with a small bag of weed. There were also five pill bottles. Richie did have legitimate prescriptions for some things. I know friends with far more bottles than he. What I saw in that picture was an addict’s stash, and a few pills slung to maintain it. This man needed compassion, love, treatment and life skills, not more wasted time in jail.

After searching the internet, I found an article about his 2008 arrest. He was worried about returning to jail because the last time he was incarcerated they had denied him his cancer medication. When I read that, I burst into tears.

Tonight, I talked with a friend of Richie’s son. She told me about Richie from her perspective. With the skills that come only from the heart, he had loved his boy. Even if he didn’t always know how to be the perfect father, he was a father. He was present with love. That was more than Richie had ever known, but he had found a way to give it.

This Christmas, Richie will be in jail. How many Christmases has he spent there? What were his Christmases like as a child? How many tiny ones are following in his footsteps, right now?

In Richie’s hometown, they seem to revel in maligning him. Where he came from is a thing of the past. He is, as he has always been, an easy target. Yet, let’s think about Jesus for a minute. What kind of people did Jesus hang around with? What seed of goodness did he see in their hearts?

When I am feeling all out of hope, I take out that ten dollar bill. I see Richie’s face, and see the warmth of his eyes. In his act of love, he was lifted. A life like Richie’s is full of forgotten moments like that. Sometimes it’s a few crawdads, sometimes it’s a few dollars, but every time it comes from a place deep inside that he’s learned to tap on his own. It comes from a place that is pure.

Please, this Christmas season, let’s remember Richie in our prayers.

And if you have a moment, please send him a hand written note to let him know he is not forgotten. GREETING CARDS ARE NOT ALLOWED BY THE JAIL

Richard E. Mylar
Northern Correctional Facility
RD 2 Box 1
Moundsville, WV 26041


Luke 23:32-43

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[a] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[b]

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”