Lesson of my life: “The Dream”

Rich and Alex Lee


Sunday, Oct. 7, 2001


            Rich is my oldest brother.  Throughout our childhoods Bud, my older bro, and I would play and fight.  Rich left us alone until somebody cried, then we would hear,”Hey!  Cut it out or I‘ll come over there!”  He was 5 years older than me and 2 years older than Bud, but our real concern was his size and strength.  We stopped fighting for a while, and then it all began again.  Sometime during my 5th grade year Rich added onto his role as an enforcer.  He drove me to soccer or tennis practices first while his friends complained about having to stop before going to the beach or practice as a band.  He would say,”Hey!  Cut it out!”  He didn’t have to ad that he would “come over there” anymore. 

            I didn’t really get to know him until my freshman year in college.  I spent Thanksgiving Break in New York City with Rich and Karen at their second apartment.  We just finished dinner, that time after you’re done eating and not ready to move onto something else, and sat around talking. 

Rich said,”You know dad isn’t feeling so good with aunt Lila passing away and his health so poor.  He asked me to look out for you.”

“Okay.”  I replied.

“You know I am pretty direct so …why are your screwing up at school?!?”  Rich continued.

“I only try hard in the classes I like.  I don’t really care about the others.”  I explained.

“What’s wrong with you!?!  You know dad only wants you to take advantage of this opportunity!  Use your head.  Why do you do that?”  Rich scolded.

“There’s nothing driving me to do so.”  I said.

Rich calmly said,”This is what I do.  I have a dream.  Any time I lose focus or begin to get tired I imagine my dream being taken away.”

I replied,”Do you mean like money or a woman?”

Rich continued,”I picture Karen and I living in a home big enough so each of our kids can have their own room.  There is a yard to play in and an area for people to eat and talk.  We would have a dog and I would have my own office.  The home would be close to the beach and our families.  Any time I find myself messing around I picture my dream being smashed.  What’s your dream?”

“I don’t have a dream like that.”  I sadly said.

“Then get one.”  Rich said.


Four years passed.


I was so excited to talk to Rich.

“Rich.  I have a dream now.”  I said.

“Really?  What is it?”  Rich leaned forward on the kitchen table and put down his magazine.

“I want to become a teacher.  I want to create …”  I talked and noticed that Rich slowly leaned on the back of the seat, interlocked his fingers and put them behind his neck, and smiled. 

I finished and he responded,”This vision you have should make it easier to do the things you don’t like to do.  You have to do those things in order to achieve your dream.” 

I nodded.  I finally got it.


July 4th, 2001 – Rich’s 34th Birthday


We frequently spoke about our dreams and where we were in achieving them, but this was the first time I asked him about his dream.

Rich responded,”I’m living it.”

I cautiously asked,”What’s it like?”

Rich replied,”You’ll find out soon.  You’re on your way.”


To one of the greatest teachers I have had,

            Rich, I love you,

                        I miss you,

                        Thank you.