Posted in Uncategorized  by: admin
June 17th, 2014

If we are very lucky, at some time during our life a very unique person enters and changes and enhances our existence.  In my life it is Charlie.   I watched him being born.  The youngest of seven children.  No cry of dismay upon entering the world on a cold February night.  Charlie was quiet and seemed to know that this was where he belonged.  He was born an old soul.   Charlie is my grandson.  I know what you are thinking.  Of course, a grandmother thinks her grandchild is special, more talented and cuter than anyone else’s grandchild but that is not the case with Charlie.  He is my 17th grandchild (I have 24) so I am past the oohing and ahhing.

Charlie was a content and happy baby but always busy.  He would look you straight in the eye when you spoke to him and if it was nonsense that look would say “you gotta be kidding me”.   So this begins my tale of Charlie.

Charlie doesn’t walk.  He dances. He is in perpetual motion.  He has inherited the Sicilian skin of his grandfather with dark eyes and hair.  He is tossed from one older brother to another like a football.  Charlie loves it and everyone loves Charlie.  He has that one trait that makes him an outstanding human being. EMPATHY!  Charlie always looks out for others first.  He truly gets it.  He knows that everything he does, every word he speaks affects those around him.  Charlie is funny.  Some of these tales may be hard to believe if you don’t know Charlie but hopefully in the telling he will change your life too.

Until he was three years old, Charlie spent most of his life travelling to and from his older siblings’ sporting and school events.  “Get your coat and shoes, Charlie, we have to drive so and so to basketball” his Mom would say.  Charlie heard this so often that when I told him I had to drive to Florida to visit my sisters, he said “I’ll get my coat and shoes.”  When he turned three, Charlie finally could go to school. Well, preschool.  Both Charlie and I are confused on that one.  The summer before he started preschool, Charlie decided to change his name to that of a video game character, Crap Rufus.  Apparently “Rufus” would cry out “crap” when he was demolished in the video game.  From this Charlie got Crap Rufus.  Since we are a large and close family (and a bit strange) everyone called Charlie Crap Rufus that summer.  In September Charlie headed off to his first day in preschool.  There were two things in his favor- his cousin Nicholas (known as Nickel because the Italians name everybody after everybody and we already had two Nicholases) was in the same class and his teacher was a friend of his parents.  With his hair all combed and his new shoes on, Charlie was ready for anything except role call.  As the teacher repeated his name three times with no response, Nickel jumped up and explained that Charlie was no longer Charlie, he was Crap Rufus. The teacher quickly disavowed Charlie of any hope of being called Crap Rufus during the school year.

I arrived home from work that day to find Charlie sitting on my back porch. “How did school go today?” I naively asked.  “Not good” Charlie said, “Mrs. Clark wouldn’t call me Crap Rufus. She said everyone has to call me Charlie.”  I sympathized with Charlie and explained that it was probably for the best.  Crap Rufus had had a long run.  As I walked Charlie across the yard to his house he stopped halfway, let go of my hand and asked “Gram what about dammit?”  “As what?” I quietly asked.  “My name!” Charlie shouted, “then Mom could just yell Dammit instead of dammit Charlie.”  Trying not to laugh, I suggested we go ask Mom.

During Charlies’  third year, my mother-in-law became ill and began to show signs of dementia.  Charlie and I would walk to her home every evening to spend a few hours with her.  She loved Charlie.  He would sit on her lap and tell her about his day and ask her about her day.  He called her Little Grandma, a name she did not necessarily like as she thought she should be Great Grandma.  Charlie told her he thought she was great but she was kind of little.  Every time we got ready to leave Little Grandma would take a dollar bill from her pocket and tell Charlie that he could have the dollar if he could tell her whose picture was on it.  “George Washington, the first President!” Charlie would announce.  Little Grandma would give him the dollar.  This exchange went on for five months.  As we were walking home after a visit one night, Charlie pulled on my hand and asked “Doesn’t Little Grandma know that George Washington is on all the dollars? Maybe we should give her some back.”

When Little Grandma passed away, Charlie and I had a long talk about death and heaven.  My theory is you exist as long as there is someone to remember you but Charlie wanted to know if she was alright.  I suggested that her soul was in heaven and she was happy.  At the funeral Charlie asked me to take him to the casket so he could look in.  As we knelt in front of the open casket, Charlie looked at Little Grandma’s still body and said “Grammy said your soul is in heaven, your body better hurry up if it wants to be happy and remembered.”

When Charlie started kindergarten, all of his siblings and nine of his cousins attended the same school.  If he was bored with what was happening in his classroom, he would sneak out and visit one of their rooms. He quickly became the school mascot, although he did have to report to the principal’s office from these adventures.   I sent the principal a plaque that simply said CHARLIE which she mounted  behind the chair across from her desk.  Charlie is in fourth grade now and the plaque is still there.

My son-in-law has coached every sport there is having six sons.  He is a great Dad and a terrific coach.  He just wasn’t prepared for Charlie.  At the age of six Charlie started playing football.  Nickel was on his team and for the most part their team did well.   They made it to the playoff.  In the final game, fully decked out in his uniform Charlie was playing defense.  He happened to be defending one of his classmates who he liked a lot.  As the young boy ran toward Charlie with the football in his arm, heading for the end zone, Coach Dad was heard yelling tackle him Charlie, tackle him Charlie.  Charlie began running alongside the young boy saying”come on you can do it, you can make a touchdown.”  And he did.  They lost the game.  “What were you thinking?, Coach Dad asked.  “Billy tried to make a touchdown all day, Dad.  He really needed one.  I just tried to help him.” That’s my Charlie.   Charlie hasn’t played football in a few years.

Christmas in most families is a big deal and ours is no different.  We take up three pews in church and someone is always holding a baby in their arms.  I had the good fortune of sitting next to Charlie during the service and listening to him sing as loud as he could.  He was five that year.  When the priest started his sermon, Charlie whispered to me “Do you know who that is on the cross?’   “Yes, I said, it’s Jesus”.  “Do you know who Jesus is?” he asked.  “He is the son of God” I replied.  “I’m glad I’m the son of Dad,” he said with a grin.  He was pretty confident there would be no crucifixes in his future.

My daughter is the disciplinarian in Charlie’s house.  She can raise her left eyebrow and give a look that stops all nonsense.  I was standing in their kitchen one afternoon when her oldest son started to argue with her about a curfew time.  Charlie stood across the table from me intently watching his mother’s face.  When the eyebrow went up he yelled “Run Grammy run.”   He did and I did.  I figured he had a pretty good handle on the impending situation.  I laughed all the way home.

We happen to live most grandparents’ dream.  Almost the entire family lives on what is loosely called the “compound”.  Four of our children, their spouses and 20 of the grandchildren live on the property.  The cousins have the advantage of living in an old fashioned neighborhood where your playmates may be 18 years old or 3 years old.  Baseball, football, tennis and basketball are played by all and sometimes the teams aren’t fair.  Charlie’s next sporting adventure was T-ball.  He was five.  T-ball is not the most exciting game and I am not a very good fan.  However, I do try to attend at least one game for every child in every sport.  So it was that I found myself sitting on a wobbly folding chair at Charlie’s T-ball game.   The ball is pitched 3 times to each batter and if no contact is made, the ball is placed on a tee.  When the game was over Charlie rode home with me because I always stop for ice cream.  “Grammy” he said with chocolate dripping from his chin “I don’t think I want to play T-ball anymore.”   “Why not?” I asked.  “Well its like this” he explained “everyone gets on base, no one is ever out, everyone scores a run and at the end of the game it’s always a tie.  If you can’t hit they put the ball on a post in front of your nose and who can’t hit that?”  “And, he continued, I made it all the way to 1st base and no one threw the ball at me.”   I couldn’t hold in my laughter.  Charlie was expressing my silent sentiments exactly.  Not having the ball thrown at you – well that’s where the unfair teams on the compound come in.  If either team is short a player, you just tag the runner out by hitting him with the ball.  Charlie was a little too advanced for T-ball.  Good-bye T-ball.

One Thursday night I was preparing dinner when Charlie came in the back door.  “What smells so good?” he asked.  “I’m making pork chops” I replied.  “I love pork chops” Charlie answered.  “Call Mom and ask her if you can stay for dinner” I told him.  Here was the phone conversation – Hi Mom. It’s Charlie.  Can I stay at Grammy’s for dinner?  She needs some company and someone to help her eat all the food she made besides Papa.  Thanks Mom.  Oh, Mom what day is today?  Thursday?  Okay see you after dinner.  Charlie set the table and we sat down to eat.  When the dishes were cleaned and the table wiped off, it was time for Charlie to head home.  At the back door he turned to me and said “see you next Thursday, Grammy.”   Charlie had dinner with us every Thursday for 2 months.

In third grade Charlie was having some problems with math.  My daughter signed him up for tutoring.  Knowing Charlie can’t sit still during regular class, I went over to see how he did his first day of tutoring.  Charlie said it was sorta hard and awfully long.  My daughter told him it would be better the next time.  “THE NEXT TIME?”  Charlie said in amazement. “You mean I have to go again? You’ve got to be kidding me.”  On that note I quietly left the room.  Tutoring continued as I knew it would when the eyebrow went up.

Log in next time for more stories of Charlie.






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