He could charm the chrome off the bumper of your daddy’s 1957 Chevy. And he knew it.
The first time he ever called our home, BigBob answered. He told me later that he instantly recognized the distinctive voice that began the conversation this way: “So this must be BigBob. I hear you like to pop a brew and watch ol’ Clint Buchanan.” They chatted as if they had known each other their whole lives. When I got home, Clint and I spent another two-and-a-half-hours talking long distance, getting to know each other. (I previously wrote about how we came to know each other here and here.)
For the past three days, I have been resisting the urge to dial his number, hoping against hope that he will answer. But he won’t.
My friend, Clint Ritchie, died this past Saturday.
I am a writer, but I am utterly incapable of describing how sad I am that I will never again pick up the phone and hear him say, “Honey, how are you?”
I will miss his laugh more than anything. He loved to call and tell me terrible jokes. And when I feigned disinterest or disgust, he just laughed more heartily. He’d say, “Now make sure you tell BigBob that one,” thoroughly amused by his own antics.
As I thought about what I most wanted to write in tribute to my friend, so many memories came flooding back of good times spent together in New York City or at his cherished Happy Horse Ranch. But the word that would not leave my mind was friend. Clint had a big heart and he was loyal. I always had the confidence and security of knowing that if I needed assistance, Clint would “have my back,” unwavering and steady. In the vernacular of “Grey’s Anatomy,” he was “my person.”
When I was undergoing treatment for a detached retina, I was blessed by the support and encouragement I received from friends and family. But Clint was the person who called most regularly to check in and cheer me up. I was required to lay on my stomach for more than two weeks following the first surgery. I was only allowed to get up to use the bathroom and eat, but had to keep my head down at all times. Reading was impossible, so BigBob put the television and DVD player on the floor at the foot of the bed so that I could pass the time watching movies or my favorite programs with my good eye. He would leave the telephone there so that I could make or receive calls, and then go about taking care of the boys and house. The days seemed endless. I was uncomfortable and could barely sleep because of the fact that I couldn’t do anything so I didn’t get tired, not to mention the fear and worry I was experiencing. Clint called me nearly every day — and several times on some days. He would say, “Honey, you are going to be fine. I don’t want to hear any negativity. You are going to get through this. I am visualizing your recovery now. I want you to visualize it, too.” He told me corny jokes and we chatted about what was happening in the world. He made it a point to call at 1:00 p.m. so that we could watch “One Life to Live” together. We discussed how the show had changed in the years since his retirement and he shared stories about his former co-stars. His steadfast presence helped get me through those frightening days.
We sometimes finished each other’s sentences. It was not unusual for him to call me at the precise moment that I was thinking about him — or vice versa.
So I did not rush to the hospital to visit him in his final hours on earth when his voice had been silenced; he could not respond. I knew he wanted me to remember him as the self-proclaimed “good lookin’ sum-bitch” that he was. And remember the way he always laughed when he said that.
I envision heaven as the kind of place we most enjoyed being during our lifetime, surrounded by the people, animals, and things we loved. If that’s the case, Clint has embarked upon an eternal journey through green pastures filled with beautiful horses, reunited with all of the animals he loved so passionately, especially his faithful companion, Lucky, forever exhibiting the charm that so endeared him — on and off-screen — to the many people who, like me, will always miss him.