"Remember how we used to move the benches back to the side of the building after we ate lunch in fourth grade. Maybe it was fifth grade. There were only a few guys who could carry a bench all the way by themselves. I felt so good that first day I carried one by myself. Then I turned around and I saw you carrying two benches, one under each arm. I was impressed."
I don't remember any of it. If there was an exaggeration on Charlie's part, it would be that I was carrying the benches rather than dragging them.
Charlie Quaid and I had known each other since fourth grade. He was very cute in his blue cub scout uniform. He had the sweetest smile and, when I look back, the kindest regard for people, which perhaps he didn't know he had. That, I think, contributed to why he was well-liked by both sexes throughout his life.
Charlie was one of the smartest kids in our class, and, I think, one of the most liked. He was the kid that got some teachers frustrated because he couldn't be appeased with the rote answers. He had to know "how come?" I recall sitting behind Charlie in sixth grade and Charlie asking the teacher one too many "How come?" The teacher, eyes wild and furious, strode down our aisle, grabbed a fistful of Charlie's shirt, literally pulling him out of his seat, and growled at him to shut up. I was impressed how Charlie kept his cool. Charlie didn't remember this incident at all.
I lost track of Charlie after high school. I saw him at our 10th reunion, which was the first time he told me the bench story. Fifteen years later, I ran into Charlie at our 25th class reunion.
Charlie was the kind of person who most people liked instantly. Elderly women, such as the Mama, "adopted" him into their family. Charlie was intelligent and street-smart, charming and respectful, curious and resourceful, fun and dependable. He ingrained the cub scout message. He worked hard and played hard, knowing when it was time to do both.
Charlie and my friendship began as adults, soon after our 25th high school reunion. It was around the same time that the Husband and I were young in our relationship, so the Husband had the fortune to become friends with Charlie, too.
The ultimate adventure that Charlie and I shared was dropping out of a plane at 18,000 feet in our hometown. We waited for more than four hours for our turn to board a plane, hook ourselves up to instructors, then jump (or be pushed) out of the plane and free fall for about 90 seconds, after which we slowly descended to the ground. When it was all over, Charlie, sporting a big grin, said, "Thank you, Susie. This was one of the best experiences I have ever had."
There are so many things I liked about Charlie, for instance, how he brought his mitt to baseball games, ready to catch that fly ball. And, every time I saw him, I learned something new about him. At one our first hikes, I learned about the tiny notebook in his pocket that he whipped out every time he wanted to remember something to look up.
I loved how he loved his Lisa. Both the Husband and I noticed at the same time how Lisa's and Charlie's eyes met when they passed each other at the first party they hosted. It was a kind of wonderful. Later, Charlie said to me, "If I were ever to marry, I would marry Lisa." He did, several months later.
A few years ago, Charlie was telling the Husband and me that he doubt he'd see his 60th birthday. He'd done the actuarial numbers on himself, he said, basing them on his many years of substance abuse and poor lifestyle choices, as well as a recent heart attack. Charlie was matter-of-fact about it all. "You're healthier than you've ever been," we said. He shook his head. "Too late," he said.
I don't know if Charlie truly believed the numerical prediction. As far as I know, Charlie continued being Charlie. Nothing extreme, just living life with gusto. . .going to a job he enjoyed. . . riding his mountain bike. . .being curious about the world. . .getting ticked off at inhumanity. . . .hanging out with his friends and family. . .and adventuring through life with his Lisa and their dog Clive Alive.
On January 1, 2013, Charlie and his Lisa and their Clive Alive were walking on their favorite beach when Lisa and Clive Alive got caught in an ocean wave. Charlie ran in and saved them. Then, just like that, Charlie was hit by a wave and swept away. Witnesses said they saw him bobbing for 15 minutes before they lost sight of him. Charlie's body was eventually recovered. He was a few months shy of turning 60.
I miss Charlie.
I'm participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this month. To check out other participants, click here. See you tomorrow.