Uncle Ricky was a bit off-kilter and wild most of the time. I never knew him very well - most of my memories come from a caving trip I took with a group of youth from the church. He was chosen to accompany the group as an adult / chaperone. It seemed like an odd choice, given that most of us kids had more maturity in our boogers than Ricky, but none of us were about to complain.
Uncle Ricky always had something goofy to say about everything. It only took a few hours with him before you started to wonder if a word ever came out of his mouth that wasn't some kind of double entendre or joke-gone-juvenile. You could usually locate him by following the sounds of sodas spurting forth from the nostrils of the teenagers flocked around.
I should clear up that Ricky wasn't my uncle. In fact, I'm not even sure if he was truly related by blood to anyone I know, but when you hang out with a bunch of Filipinos, you get used to calling everyone uncle, auntie, cousin, etc. They called him Uncle Ricky, so I did too.
When we made it to the cave, it was already dark outside, so it didn't take long for any and all light from outside to be squashed by the weight of the enormous mountain looming inches above our hard hats.
I started to become rather troubled by the immersive blackness I was descending into. The narrow wedges of dancing dust my head lamp made ahead did little to alleviate my fear, especially when every direction I pointed them in revealed the same cold, dripping rock.
I found myself near the back of the group, hesitant to be at the front of the exploration. When the multi-headed demon monster from the depths of the earth attacked, I wanted to be the last person whose ribcage was collapsed and cracked by its crushing mandibles.
Uncle Ricky had been given the task of staying at the end of the line. His job was to make sure the whole group stayed together and no one slipped too far behind or got disoriented and turned around.
As I fell farther and farther towards the back of the line, becoming more and more freaked out by the claustrophobia that was creeping into my brain, I heard him behind me, singing songs and speaking in silly voices about God knows what. Then out of nowhere, he appeared in front of me, his head lamp shining directly into my eyes and mine in his.
"I have a secret for you," Ricky whispered, his face as serious as full-blown genital herpes. "You don't need to be afraid of anything...I'm Batman!"
With that, he reached up, switched off his head lamp and leapt out of my beam of light, cackling like a madman and hopping wildly into the darkness.
I instantly forgot about the damp, thick air surrounding me and the endless black that lay in every direction. I followed him with my light as he bounced from rock to rock, pausing atop each one in some kind of action-pose before springing off again, his arms and legs flailing in all directions.
For the rest of the trip, Uncle Ricky kept me constant company at the end of the line, telling me jokes and making me laugh until it echoed from every direction. I didn't realize it then, but he knew exactly what he was doing and because of him, I made it back to the surface without experiencing another moment of fear or anxiety.
After the caving trip ended, so did my contact with Uncle Ricky. I heard his name from time to time, usually in the form of "OMFG, did you hear what Uncle Ricky did?" or "Uncle Ricky is insane - you should have seen when he..." but I never saw him again. That was over ten years ago.
Today I learned that Uncle Ricky has two little boys now. "God must have been sleeping on the job that day, allowing Ricky to have kids!" someone joked. Then a story was told about one of his sons who became upset when he learned that his father was Asian, because he had never seen him fly like the Asians in all the Kung-fu movies.
If he's anything like I remember him, he might not be able to fly, but Uncle Ricky is still a super-hero and I'll bet his boys will never be afraid of the dark.