When I was a kid, maybe ten, I was falsely accused of saying something I didn’t by the parents of one of my friends. Pretty horrible, too. They were wealthy, respectable folks in my neighborhood and my parents had no reason not to believe them. They came to our house, sat down with my folks, retold their perspective of the events and then left. I got the spanking. Truth was their son had said it, not me. I could never convince them of that. Nor my folks. A few months later, my sister falsely accused me of pulling down another girl’s panties when I hadn’t. The accusing sister had. I got the spanking. My sister batter her eyelids and said, “No, daddy. Charles did it.” Then a few months later, a kid I didn’t know waved me down, stopped me in the middle of the street on the way to the movie theatre, seemed friendly enough, and asked to ride my bike -- the bike I’d spent eight months saving for -- and since I was trying to do like mom and dad said and treat people like Jesus, I said ‘yes’ and haven’t seen him since. I remember standing in that street calling after that kid, asking him to bring back my back.
I walked home, and climbed up in a chair. I was in a bad way. A knot tightening in my stomach. Fists clenched. Bitter. Angry. Bubbling hatred. Self pity thrown in for good measure. You could smell me coming -- I was Ripe with unforgiveness. Just inches from the dark side. And, I had every right to feel that way. Pretty soon, the dam broke and I cried from the bottom of my belly -- the angriest cry I’d ever known. I remember shaking and being unable to catch my breath. For minutes at a time. If you want to see what I looked like, pour gasoline in a styrofoam cup. That was me...
This morning we buried my grandfather, Tillman Cavert. I was asked to give a portion of the eulogy, so I did. I think he would have liked it. Several who heard it asked for a copy -- I've included it here.
Florida State University. Christy’s apartment. I was starting my Senior year. Christy, her junior. We, along with her roommates and a few other folks, were cooking spaghetti. I think Christy was standing over the sauce pot stirring. The phone rang. Christy picked it up,. Her face lit. “Oh, hey John.” Followed by about five minutes of silence and a growing look of genuine concern.
Enter John Trainer. The Trainers and Christy’s family have been friends since Christy was a kid. They’d vacationed together. Holidays. Dinners. In the three years that Christy and I had been dating, John and I had never met (they lived in North Carolina) but I’d heard bits and pieces about him.
Christy spent five minutes on the phone. Listening. Nodding. I couldn’t hear what John was saying but I could tell from the verbal barrage, that he wasn’t pausing or coming up for air. He needed a friend. Christy looked at me and shrugged. Finally, she said, “John, I don’t know but here...talk to Charles.”
This note brought me to tears. Good tears but tears, nonetheless. I asked her permission to share (absent her name) and she kindly agreed. When folks ask me what I hope my books accomplish...I can't really say it any better than this.
Note: One of my favorite things to do is a workout called Fightfit. When all the words start running together here, I'll push back, run up the road and work out. Sweat is good for the soul and not a bad tonic for the stories either...
Six years ago, my three boys and I started a process which culminated this weekend with the earning of our Black Belts in Taekwondo. You can see the pictures here. Now before you make too much fun of the old guy, i.e. me, just remember that I'm 43 and what you see me doing is pushing the limits of both my flexibility and equilibrium.