From: United Pet Supply, Inc. [unitedpet1@comcast.net]
Sent: Saturday, December 21, 2002 12:03 AM
To: rwardlow@cortnet.com
Subject: Good Times Past and What Lies Ahead

It is difficult for eveyone Russ knows, and the ones he has touched with his kindness, his sense of humor, and charm to see him in his present condition.  As a long recovery lies ahead for Ruben (I have always referred to him as Ruben after the character, Chevy Chase's son in the movie Vacation, and to Bob and George Ann as Clark and Ellen Griswald), I mean Russ...none of us could possibly imagine the pain that George Ann, Bob, Jennifer, and the rest of the family must be feeling.  The little progress points offer hope for recovery, and everyone's thought, prayers, and stories about Russ growing up will make him laugh, even in his present state.  My wife and I have had quite a few laughs with Russ over the past 17 years, and we look forward to many more to come.
 
I met the Wardlow family in 1986, when I was managing a Pet Store at the Menlo Park Mall.  George Ann was working part-time there, and we worked mornings together.  She would wander in at 9:45 - 10:05am (hard to believe, huh?) after getting the kids off to school.  We became friends and talked alot in between helping customers.  I was invited to their house on my Birthday in 1986, It was my 20th birthday, a few months before I started dating my wife Rhonda.  I got directions from GAW (she signed everything with her initials in those days), and headed toward Hopelawn from Colonia.
 
When I got there, I said hello, and was introduced to Kelly, a beautiful Irish Setter who did this trick, that at the time seemed like the best trick ever...Jennifer came into the living room and said hello, then vanished upstairs.  Then Russ came into the room, armed with a handfull of video game cartridges for the newest video game system on the market, Nintendo, and a game called Super Mario Brothers, among others.  I had an instant pal...this kid was all over me.  He showed me every trick in the game, and inspired me to get my own Nintendo System (I was a little embarrassed at the time, just turning 20, and becoming addicted to video games, playing with this lil' kid).  I think we officially became pals that night.  At 8:30, George Ann decalerd that it was time for him to go to bed, and he protested, as he apparently always did.  But now, he has a secret weapon, he had found himself an AGENT...ME.  "C'mon George Ann" I would squalk, "Give the kid a break, he's almost a man, he should be able to stay up until at least 9:00"...."GO TO BED" she would grunt with clinched teeth.  Russ would say, "C'mon Mom, Chris NEVER had a bed time"...I would then be the victim of the DAGGAR STARE from her, and she would begrudgingly allow him an extra half-an-hour to hang out with me and play a few extra lives at Mario, gather a few extra coins, and squash a few extra umpa-umpas, or whatever those things were called.  This little bedtime game lasted until high school as I recall, and I remained his trusted agent like David Faulk takes care of NFL quarterbacks.
 
One summer, Bob asked me to help him coach Russ' Little League Team, translated: "I can't control him...he doesn't listen to me".  We coached his Hopelawn Baseball Team from April to June, won a few games, lost a few, and umpired a few along the way as well.  Russ is very competitive (yeah, he really is, I know, it's hard to believe, but it's true), and I was umpiring a game that he was up, I think there were bases loaded, and 2 outs, game on the line kind of situation.  Now I'm the umpire, and this kid, who I think about like he's my little brother, is in the 'ol 2out3on scenario that kids across the country dream about.  He looks at a ball right down the middle.  "Strike" I bark from behind the plate.  He looks back at me in stunned disbelief, steps back in the box and takes a practice swing.  The next pitch comes before he's set, and I yell out again, "Strike Two!".  Now, he's on the verge of tears, and I'm feeling like a real knucklehead myself.  The next three pitches are strikes, he looks at all 3 of them, and I call all 3 of them balls.  Now, I have half the parents ready to slit my throat...I call time, and step over toward Russ and tell him to swing at the next one, "If it's in the dugout, I'm calling it a strike.  He looks like he's gonna kill me, but he straightens his helmet, and steps back in the box, and hits a dribbler back to the pitcher, the ball was 5 feet over his head, and he swung, because he knew he was going to be out if he didn't.
 
The Pitcher grabbed the ball and threw it into right field.  2 runs scored, game over, Russ had his moment in the sun.  After the game he was mad at me.  I asked him what was wrong, he came through, he won the game.  He said that I made him swing at ball 4, he could've walked to first base instead of thinking he grounded out to the pitcher (by the way, when he hit it back to the pitcher, he didn't run until the ball was thrown away), then had to scramble to first as the second run scored winning the game.
 
That's the Russ I know.  He's intense, he doesn't settle for 2nd best.  He's a one of a kind-fighter who, even when faced with adversity, finds a way to come through when he needs to.  Boy, does he need to now.  And he will, that's the kind of kid he is, and the kind of man he has become.
 
From Baseball to Tennis, to Golf, among his other interests.  Russ finds a way. 
 
I remember swimming at their house and him pestering to be thrown in the air in the pool.  So I did, over, and over, and over again.  One summer I felt like I had thrown him a million times.  We lit fireworks together on the Fourth of July, every single year for Ten Years.  One night in June, he must have been 10 or so.  Me and Bob did our annual trip to Chinatown, and who was at the livingroom window when we got back, Russ, waiting to see our score.  We got this new "hellicopter", and Russ was so excited, he nearly peed on himself, and he bugged us for hours, "c'mon guys, let's just do one hellicopter, I know it's a week away, just one".  Finally, Bob and I aborted our game of Leisure Suit Larry In the Land of the Lounge Lizzards (a game Russ later mastered), and headed outside with Russ, it was pitch black outside.  We walked across the street to the basketball courts, and tried to figure out how to place the helicopter so it would fly.  I sent Bob back to the house to get a jar to place the hellicopter in (big mistake, they are meant to lay flat on the ground).  The thing stood on end inside the mason jar or whatever contraption Bob came up with.  We thought it would get a better start that way.  Russ begged to light the thing, but unsure of what it would do (genuis' we were), we denied him this moment.  I told Bob, "go ahead, let 'er rip!", and he did. 
 
The Hellicopter lifted 6 inches over the bottle, hovered for a second, and headed straight for his neighbor's picture window, about a hundred yards away.  Well, Russ just thought this was the funniest thing that had ever happened, and he fell to the ground hysterical laughing, as did I, while Bob went in an all out sprint, I mean faster than Carl Lewis himself, and began stomping out the fire in his neigbors bushes as colored sparks flew out from underneath his franticly stomping feet.  It was a classic, and we just talked about that night this summer, enjoying cigars in the Hot Tub, talking about all those good times, and, making plans for more good times to come.
 
I feel honored to be a part of Russ' life, although for the past 8 years have been busy with my own family, building a relationship with my own sons, and having Bob and George Ann tell them that they should'nt have to go to bed at 8:30. and giving them the daggar stares like they once did to me.  I've enjoyed watching him transform from little-boy, to teenager, to College Student, to Business Professional.  And I look forward to playing golf with him in Myrtle Beach, and Card Games, and enjoying a fine Cuban Seed Cigar while talking with him about life, love, and the great things that lie ahead, while giving him my somewhat distorted oppinion on things, whether he wanted it, or not.  If anyone can beat the challenge that lies ahead of him, it's Russell Wardlow, my friend, my little brother.
 
I have about a hundred more stories just like the ones I've shared here, and I'd be happy to keep typing.  But I think I'll save the rest for the next time that Ruben comes over to play basketball in our pool, or enjoys a fine Cigar in the Hot Tub with me and his Dad, or when we tee off on a beautiful morning when he gets better.  And he will get better.  He's an extraordinary young man.  And I'm proud to be his friend.
 
So get well soon Ruben, we've got alot of stuff to do still.  I'll make the reservations, all you have to do is be there, and you will. 
 
Your Friend and Biggest Fan,
 
Chris Brooks
 
 
Bob,
 
Attached are a few pictures.  One is Russ and Christopher in March, 1994, the other is me and Russ chillin' at Jennifer's Wedding.
I hope the stories I've shared make people smile, especially Russell.  Our love and prayers are with you!  I just know that we'll make that Myrtle Beach Trip, maybe a little delayed, but we'll make it!  Chris

Russ and Big Chris at Jenn's Wedding

Russ with new born Chris in 1994