GUEST COLUMN: Growing up Reichley

Kristen Reichley Hollaway
Kristen Reichley Hollaway

For those of you who read my dad, John Reichley’s, biweekly column, you’re aware they have been notably absent as of late. For those of you who don’t read them, well, you’ve been missing out on interesting military history facts, introductions to some amazing men and women in uniform he’s met in his lifetime, and, of course, his humorous anecdotes thrown in from time to time. Considering the fact that he began writing for the Times when I was 8, and I’m now 44, I’d say you’ve got more than a little light reading to catch up on.

I really don’t think he’s ever missed submitting a week of columns in that time period. But I haven’t checked my facts, like he’s taught me a good journalist does. I’d say he has a pretty solid excuse for his current absence, recovering from a double bypass, arterial valve repair and a post-op hemorrhagic stroke.

So what was it like growing up with him for a dad?

It was living in expectation of pop quizzes at any given moment on history, current events and geography, all some of my worst subjects to his dismay. As soon as the evening news finished, we’d hear my mom say, “Supper's ready.” As we sat down at the table, the quizzing would commence. 

“Pass the grits, please” might be answered with, “Which president’s favorite food was grits?” (Answer: Jimmy Carter). Or he’d launch into a story about one of the many allied officers they sponsored and ask, “Where is Turkmenistan? Bonus question: What’s the capital?” Thankfully, he never withheld our supper until we answered correctly because I would probably still be sitting at their kitchen table to this day.

Growing up Reichley is learning to decipher his made-up acronyms, as he had been accustomed to communicating in military ones for much of his life. He’d always ask for the LHSLRR (Leavenworth High School Lunch Room Report), which was his way of asking how our day at school had gone.

It was having to talk him out of wearing his red, white and blue bowtie when he gave me away on my wedding day, June 6, 1998, of course, June 6, being the anniversary of D Day. I think he might have been more excited about this historical tie to my wedding date than my actual wedding.

It was us doing something noteworthy (or ridiculous) and him saying in a singsong voice, “I feel an article …” I've made an appearance in a few of his columns over the years. And I find myself doing this same thing with my family. Just substitute “article” with “Facebook post.”

It's smiling when he comments on those Facebook posts about his grandchildren and always ending with “luv gpj” for “Grandpa John.” I haven’t let him in on the fact he doesn’t need to include that because we already know the comment is coming from him. He’s learning to embrace 21st century technology and was thrilled when I set his cell phone ringtone to “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

It's getting a newspaper clipping of something he thought would interest me every time I see him. Or a comic strip he’s cut out of the paper that made him think of me. I suspect half the town has received something along these lines from him as well, or a small gift or trinket that reminded him of you. I’ve decided that’s part of his love language. Tucking away reminders to himself about everyone he meets and what their interests are. At Christmas, he even buys and wraps presents for all of us on his own, which have come to be known as “Grandpa John’s whimsies.”

One of my presents to him this year is already wrapped and waiting. A “This Day in Military History” calendar. Sure to be used for many a column in 2021. So really, it’s a gift for all of you. You’re welcome.

He loves this town. He loves the people of the this town. So much so, he left his southern roots in Alabama to return here as a civilian after retiring from the Army.

And I proudly watched him waving to many of you as the co-grand marshal in the Veteran’s Day Parade last month. Truly a highlight of 2020 for him, and for me.

In one of my favorite pictures of me as a toddler, I’m clutching my cherished stuffed monkey and wearing my dad’s bedroom shoes. While I’ll never be able to fill his shoes, I do enjoy following in his footsteps through writing and giving friends and family little whimsies of my own. And having that singsong voice in my head as I thought about what to submit while he recovers, “I feel an article …”

Kristen Reichley Hollaway is the daughter of John Reichley.