Run For Rita 

Another Run for Rita? you never know 

My Sister Rita, By Timothy Bickett


             Hindsight is 20/20.

You only get one chance to make a good first impression.


This is my Rita story.  Well it is not really a story, but more of a conversation if asked the question randomly “What did you know about Rita?”  So if you reading this, and this is the first time we have met, “Hello. Nice to meet you.  I’m Tim, one of Rita’s brothers.” 

These are my ‘stories’ drawn from my memories of Rita and many of these will be shared with others.   We all see the world through our own eyes and what follows is how I saw my kid sister when she walked this earth.  



The Conversation

Rita was my kid sister.  We grew up numbers 6 and 7 in a family of 9 with 2 years 1 month and 12 days difference in age.   I recently had a conversation with my mother and a friend and as we explained the size of our family my friend asked “ Are you Catholic?” To which Mother replied cheerily “It had nothing to do with religion I just love kids.”  With that being said I often wonder if my parents were just trying to get the perfect kid and that is why after Rita was welcomed into this world number 8 didn’t come into the scene for another 4 years.  They thought they had the perfect little girl and of course the perfect last son.   The spoiler in this analogy is that 8 and 9 did come and I don’t know what I did to change my parents mind about my perfect status.   


Rita was welcomed into this world by the aforementioned family on August 18, 1974.  As laid out before I was just over 2 years old at the time enjoying being the youngest of 6 so I wonder just how welcoming I was at the time.  I am sure of one thing regardless of how many times I may have tried to poke her eyes out in the first days I never succeeded as evidenced by the fact that Rita had wonderfully warm, bright cheery eyes.   An interesting aside to this date in history is the fact that earlier in the day prior to Rita’s arrival I was nearly lost as a family member due to an odd event that had me rolling out of the family cruiser into 4 lanes of traffic and nearly ran over by oncoming cars.  If you don’t understand my line of thought now you know why and to understand all you have to do is jump out of a moving vehicle and land on your head. 


Time moves on.  We grew up in this wonderful family in SD in a old farmhouse of modest size 6 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath with a fully functional haunted basement.  The ½ bath comes from the fact that they only were fully functional ½ the time hence the need for the outhouse.  As for the outhouse lets just say….ya plan your trips.   Yes your math is correct.  We poor chillin’s had to share rooms with our siblings and yes you can stack 4-5 kids in the same king size bed and as long as you force them to labor long and hard enough they will sleep soundly.  


 This farmhouse was situated in the middle of about 20 acres.  We had a grove a trees to the north with some cool abandoned cars in the grove, a pasture to the west and another grove to the south with an apple tree that I think was planted by Noah just after he got off the ark.   If you have ever read Shel Silverteins book The Giving Tree, this was that tree except we didn’t make a boat out of it we burned it to heat the house.  I can remember in the last years this old apple tree was blown down in a storm the previous year and we thought for sure that we had gotten the last apples from that tree and sure enough it produces for two more years just hanging on by a thread. 

Ok, thanks for the geography lesson Tim.  You see we got 3 channels of television on a good day and when commanded to “Go outside! Everyone Outside!” you went and the lay of the land was quite important.  So on those days there could be races with the cars, cars as battleships, hunters on the plains or just good fun like tying a sibling to a tree and leaving them to rot until their wails could be heard from the house.   On certain days in the late summer when the sun was just right the boxelder bugs would be all over the house and front step.  Rita always denied this but I remember very vividly her and me sitting on the front step of the house admiring the pretty bugs and deciding to see what they tasted like.   It was curiosity not necessity, heck we even all had shoes during the summer!


Rita and I shared the bottom of the totem pole and yes it does run downhill.   Even with 8 and 9 there they were to young to do any chores so the Buck stopped with us.   Which was more so just with me but I could often convince Rita to help me, always the giver.  

This is were things get fuzzy, my records have this kid sister and then all of a sudden high school, college and then kids and, thankfully, in that order.  I have to say that the fuzziness is contributed heavily to the fact that from the time I was 15 my life was fairly consumed with work on a neighboring farm to which I dedicated 15 years of time to.   To fill in the blanks go to the Rita Stories tab on this website and see what other people Rita touched had to say about this timeframe.

  I share the connection with Rita of being involved in sales.  Which for someone who loves to serve others, there is not a better way to make a living.  Everyday you get to help someone find a solution to their challenges and most often can make some great friends along the way.   Getting paid to help others and meet new friends everyday, pretty great.   Now I am not to bleery-eyed to know that there are some that don’t deserve be anyone’s friend and to those you simply cop a duck attitude and let their negativity just roll off your back and move on after you make the sale of course.

 To make an analogy of how Rita lived and how those around her felt I think of a big motorboat.  Most of us live life so that we are barely a ripple in a smooth lake.  Rita was a big boat on the lake of life with her waves of love just washing over us continuously.  Like all things even the waves from a boat eventually subside, but the lake remains and every wave that hits the shore forever changes the design. 


The old apple tree.  In the book The Giving Tree, the tree gives to the boy not only all that he has but all that he is.   This is how Rita lived always giving, always more concerned with others than herself.    The giving and concern were not self serving attitudes, Rita did it not for her personal gain but because she loved to serve and how.  The apple tree at our farm bore fruit even when we thought that it was no longer possible.   It is fitting that apple trees need bugs like…butterflies to continue to give.  




The final chapter



On December 23rd 2005 I ended my work day in Miller SD.  As I was wrapping up my conversation with my customer a brief rain shower moved in and a minute later to the east made by the setting sun one of the most beautiful vibrant rainbows appeared.   I thought to myself I will need to remember this day.   Rainbows in December just don’t happen in SD.


As I headed for home I called home to let Stacy know where I was at and when I would be home and we talked about her visit to see Rita earlier that day and she suggested that I stop in Sioux Falls and pay a visit.  I arrived at the hospital at about 7:30 and made my way to the room.  Which happened to be the same room in which Stacy’s grandmother Betty Rose last days were spent.  I stayed with Jeff and Kristen Tuttle as we talked to Rita and let her know that we were there for her.   Jeff had started Rita’s playlist of songs on the computer and when Alabama sang “I believe there are angels among us” Rita took her last breath. 


The next morning when I got to my home in Worthington, Stacy met me at the door and told me that she had a dream about Rita and that she was arm and arm with Grandma Mullaney and Grandma Spyksma with all her hair smiling and waving goodbye.  Stacy during each of 3 pregnancies had the same dream about her mother holding the yet unborn child in which she learned the sex of the unborn. 


I believe in miracles.  I got the sense God was saying to me “ How many times must I knock at your door here are 3 signs for you”.   I know that the events in my life surrounding Rita’s last day was the good Lord’s way of letting me know that I have her, she made it home, no need to worry.  The rainbow a sign of God’s promise, the song to let us know that there were two angels among us Grandma Mullaney and Grandma Spyksma.   Grandma Mullaney had passed away 10 years previous on the same day.  The dream just confirmed what I already knew.


“You never know when it will be your turn to be somebody else’s angel”

“Never forget to tell the people that are important to you how really important they are”

Dennis, Rita and Tim