Bee's brother Ricardo was what they called a real maverick. He had been in the Vietnam war for two years and came home after a bullet nearly destroyed his right ear, leaving him half deaf. My father told us that it was impossible to be half deaf because you were either deaf or not. Bee and I dug up books from the public library on Helen Keller and showed them to my father one day after dinner. He had just finished his last bite of my mother's meat loaf and told us that our idea was ridiculous. But this was more than an idea we told him, because we were dealing with a real person. My father told us that Helen Keller was more than deaf but blind too and that if we didn't finish our meatloaf and carrots, we could end up ruining our own sight (which we would not want). Bee and I stomped our feet on the linoleum and our glasses of chocolate milk almost spilled. We got up and put our hands on our hips to prove our point, but my father waved us away and told us to go and watch TV. We rolled our eyes, glanced at my mother who was loading the dishwasher, and ran outside to grab fudge pops from the ice cream truck on the corner, where a crowd had gathered to listen to the piping music and to get ice cream. My mother wiped her hands on her floral apron, asked us to get her an orange ice pop, and said nothing as we slammed the front door. We came back into the house and parked ourselves in the family room to watch Lost in Space where my mother joined us and continued knitting the poncho she was making for my sister, The robot was my favorite character in the show, whereas Bee had a crush on Judy Robinson's boyfriend Don West.
Bee's mother was so broken up about Ricardo and his ear that she started calling him Vincent, after the painter Van Gough who had sliced off his left ear and sent it to a prostitute. Although no Van Gough, Ricardo did suffer from mental illness after the war, despite having no artistic abilities to speak of. My mother tried to teach Ricardo paint by numbers after the war when Sylvie was at work, but truth be told, Ricardo had no attention span and also appeared to be color blind. Ricardo had pictures of naked women taped up on the walls of his bedroom to cover up the chipped paint, and not only did this annoy Sylvie but it insulted her sense of decency and decorum. In all fairness to Sylvie, however, who was not in the habit of making fun of people, let alone her own children, Ricardo really was difficult. After Vietnam, he was arrested more than once for stealing food in the grocery store, more than twice for smoking pot and selling it, and countless times for flirting with underage girls in their Brownie uniforms. Not only was this humiliating to Sylvie and her husband, but it was also costly since she had to dish out hundreds of dollars at the police station to get Ricardo out of jail. Her favorite policeman was Jay, an old timer from Lakewood like Sylvie, who understood the situation since he had a son that had also been in the war. Bee and I found the whole thing about Ricardo funny and decided to start a club called the I love Lucy Club for recovering Vietnam vets and their families. The fact that we only had one member did not deter us, and we put flyers up at local drug stores, bakeries, and bowling alleys. We even went as far as the Point Pleasant boardwalk to put signs up outside the arcades where there were lots of people playing skee ball and pinball. Occasionally, we would see someone walking out with a giant stuffed animal bigger than they were, and we would run up to them giggling and breathless. Perhaps they had a loved one or knew someone who needed help.