DJ Badger:  The News and the Journal

Entry One Hundred Fourteen.
Thursday, 2009.12.03, 1:47 AM CST.

Bon voyage, Chuckie.
Current Mood:  A little on the tired side.  Current Scent:  None.

Earlier this week, I was privileged to go to the memorial service for an old family friend of mine named Chuck.  The service was very long and very Catholic, but I felt happy to be able to make it.

Chuck was a Navyman - a World War II veteran who was actually at Pearl Harbour during the war.  He'd been a friend of my parents' since long before I was born, and had known me for my entire life.  At the time of his passing, he was 89 years old.

I obviously knew Chuck during my earliest years, and even as a toddler, I picked up on some of his traits - especially his methods of speaking and laughing.  Chuck had an extremely distinctive, low-pitched, friendly voice, that came out with an occasional stutter, especially when he was really excited about the subject he was discussing.  When he laughed, it just boomed out of him.  There was no faking that type of laughter for him - you could tell in the tone of the laugh how genuine it was.

Chuck was one of the few friends my dad had who really seemed to enjoy interacting with me.  He would ask me questions and seemed very happy to communicate with me; he didn't just see me as an accessory to the surroundings, he saw me as a little person.  He entertained me, he made me laugh, and he got a kick out of it.

Well, back when I was 4 or maybe 5 years old, Chuck played the part of Santa in a nearby rural Christmas carnival/festival thing.  I climbed up in his lap and we discussed what I wanted for Christmas (I don't remember what that was), and he listened and he laughed.  He laughed that big, booming laugh that I loved hearing so much.

I recognized "Santa's" laugh, put it together with his voice... and immediately told him, with the honesty of someone my age, "You're not Santa!  You're Chuckie!"  Chuck kept up the front and tried to avoid the fact that he'd been found out, but it was no use.  I knew who he was and there was no way of hiding it any further from me.

I earnestly don't remember what happened between that point and the subsequent discussion I had with my parents about Santa needing "helpers" around the world, and how, yes, Chuckie was one of Santa's "helpers."

As time went on, Chuck continued to be one of my favourites among dad's "old friends."  My parents and he kept in touch often, and we kept track of his many medical issues; for some reason, I specifically remember him getting his hips replaced.  In 1987, I even got to go to his wedding to his second wife, whom he married over thirty years after losing his first wife to illness.

The last time I saw Chuck was at my mother's funeral in August of 2007.  By this point, he was wheelchair-bound, and his health declined significantly shortly afterward.  It is my understanding that during the last couple of years, on his "good" days, he still made every attempt to be as joyous and fun-loving as he did in earlier times.

Chuck died on Thanksgiving.  Here's hoping that he was accepted with open arms into the gates of Heaven, and that God blesses his family with as much peace and understanding as possible during what will prove, I'm sure, to be a very somber holiday season for them.

So long, Chuckie.  God bless you.