April 8, 2017. That’s the day Daddy left this earth. A whole year has passed and it still feels raw and sad and emotional.
At his funeral, I spoke on behalf of the sisters. I didn’t write a formal eulogy and just went off of some quick notes on my phone. Grandmama asked me for a copy of my eulogy because she liked it (and couldn’t hear it well) but I just couldn’t ever get around to writing it all down. So, here’s my best approximation of how it went, one year ago.
I’m Sara Jane, Charlie’s middle daughter. I was elected to speak on behalf of the three of us. It’s an absolutely beautiful day today and I just know Daddy would be hot and ready to come out of his dress clothes if he was here.
The last few days have been filled with lots of tears and laughter as we tell old stories and flip through photo albums. Daddy was truly one of a kind, as I’m sure each of you would agree.
After spending time with my two sisters and Mama, one thing is abundantly clear: little pieces of Daddy live on in all of us. Our personalities, for better or for worse, are all shaped by his. Our quirks, hurts, weaknesses, strengths, jokes and passions all glimmer with reflections of Charlie.
His oldest, Joy, is artistic, adores animals, and when running her own business, kept her customers happy even if it meant she wasn’t making a sale – something we saw Daddy do often during his long and successful career as a salesman. Last night at his visitation, another salesman told us “Charlie was the only salesman I ever knew whose competitors threw him a retirement party.”
One thing Joy didn’t inherit was Daddy’s proclivity for taking risks. On a camping trip one summer, Daddy opened a bottle of ginger ale without a bottle opener. The metal cap popped him in the eye and blood squirted everywhere! In true Daddy fashion, he said, “it’ll be alright. I don’t need to go to the hospital!” Seven-year-old Joy, horrified by this, exclaimed, “I hope you have insurance!”
His youngest, Susie, is fiercely loyal, can make conversation with a brick wall, maintains friendships from childhood and values quality time above all else.
Susie and Daddy spent a lot of time together. As the only daughter even remotely interested in sports, she and Daddy traveled the state for her softball and basketball games. One weekend, while Mama and I were away with 4-H, they had a Daddy-Susie day. He took her to Merle Norman where she got her ears pierced. Needing a second pair of earrings for those freshly-pierced lobes, they went to Belk where, like a grown up, she chose some gold hoop earrings. They dined at Longhorn Steakhouse, followed by dessert from Baskin Robbins and picked up a dozen donuts for breakfast the next morning. Susie counts that day as one of her most favorite childhood memories.
His, middlest, me, Sara Jane, inherited his predilection for making jokes, feeding people, being the center of attention, pride in a gorgeous head of hair and absolutely no patience for completing projects according to directions.
One afternoon while he was home alone, Daddy decided to trim some overgrown shrubbery. Somehow while doing this, he cut off the tip of one of his fingers with the chain saw. We pulled up in our minivan to a carport full of bloody paper towels, a half empty bottle of whiskey and no Daddy in sight. When we got inside, we found him on the bathroom floor with the tip of his finger SUPERGLUED back on. He said that’s the way they’d do it in Vietnam. I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever heard and told the story to anybody who would listen. His finger never even scarred.
Whether you knew him as Eddie the goofy kid, Charlie the Vietnam veteran, the Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient, the jokester, the chef, the animal lover, the reckless, the salesman, the neighbor, the friend, the husband, the father, Charlie left quite an impression on you and I’m sure every person in this room has a go-to Charlie story. We joked that his catchphrase was “Ain’t nothin’ gonna happen!”
I asked Mama to choose her favorite Charlie story and she told us one I hadn’t heard before. On their way to the airport for an international flight, a call came through the two-way radio provided by the Shawnee volunteer fire department. Without a second thought, Daddy rushed to the fire department, chucked off his fancy airplane clothes and put on his fire fighting equipment. As the fire truck pealed out to shoot pond water at a burning home, his brogans, left on the floor of the firehouse, were completely smashed under the tires.
As we spoke with his colleagues and customers at the visitation last night, every single one of them commented on how proud he was of each of us and how much he loved Mama. People we’d never met knew where each of us live, what we do for a living and what we’re good at. I’m so thankful that I got to know and love and be loved by this man for the past 33 years. And I’ll miss him terribly.