Monday, August 6, 2012

Charlie H

Outside my office, on my route to go most places is a tree that has a plaque beneath it.  It reads "In Memory of our father, Charles H".  I'll leave out Charlie's last name here.

The placement of the plaque and the tree is such that I see that sign almost every day as I go and come from where I sit when I am not coming and going.  I knew Charlie, not real well, but when I first arrived at Northeastern he was in charge of room scheduling.  I would go to see him if I needed a different classroom for one reason or another.  He was also a regular racquetball player and, at that time, I was as well so I would see him as we got ready for our noon "lunch" matches.  Affable, humble, a young guy--maybe early thirties when I met him.

A few years after our initial encounters, I ran into another acquaintance and asked if Charlie was still in charge of scheduling. This fellow somberly told me that Charlie was "very sick." The way he said it, I knew that whatever he had would end his life prematurely.   I was not surprised when I read a notice in the internal university newspaper about his passing.

I can still see the guy clearly and it is his image that flashes into my consciousness whenever my beat takes me by that tree.  Sometimes, irrationally, I say "Hi Charlie" when I pass by.  Most times seeing the sign is a sobering reminder as he was such a young man when he succumbed.

So I wonder what Charlie might say to me from the base of that tree where the sign from his daughter sits.  "Seize the day" would be the short version, I am sure.  But more specifically, what would he say?  Play more racquetball? Eat good food?  Root for the home team?  I don't think he would waste his time with such suggestions.  I think he would talk about love and friendship.

 Find your true love, never let your true love go.  Never. Rule number one.

Stay close to your family. Flood them with affection.

Find time to spend with the friends who you know you can depend on and make sure they know they can depend on you.

Remember, we are all connected.

As I got ready for work this morning I turned on the Olympic basketball channel 930 on your comcast system--a concept, 930 channels, that Charlie H, could not have comprehended.  I was watching Tunisia play Lithuania and Tunisia, inexplicably was winning.  Eventually, they succumbed but for most of the game Lithuania who played the United States evenly on Saturday almost lost to Tunisia a team that had lost to the US by about thirty points.

When Lithuania played the US they laid it all out on the line. They played with emotion, intelligence, as if the forty minutes of the game had to be realized because afterwards, there would be no other opportunity to play with emotion and use its collective intelligence.  It was a brilliant display of basketball. Today, playing Tunisia, they did not bring it--until the end when they began to play with energy.

If Charlie H could talk to me each time I walk by his tree, I think he might say:  Listen up, there is no tomorrow. Play like Lithuania played against the US on Saturday and you will die without the regrets of someone who provided themselves with rationalizations to not give it all.

In his poem, "If", Rudyard Kipling wrote:  "If you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run"

 I think Charlie H would never tire of reciting this line to every person who passed by his tree.

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