Happy Birthday Chuck

On March 25th, 2022, the world lost a man that those who met him will never forget. I wanted to put to paper some of my thoughts on my dad as quickly as I could. In the months since then, I’ve started and stopped this more times than I can count. Maybe because I feel like when I’m done with it, then it’s really goodbye. Since today is his birthday, I couldn’t put it off any longer.

–What will I remember?–

He always seemed larger than life – 6 foot 5 meant he looked down to most people, but he never looked down on anyone.

I remember his fearlessness. Almost nothing seemed to bother him. Hornet’s nest over the front door? No problem! He grabbed a paper towel, and snapped that sucker right off the door frame and threw it in the trash. The rest of us were hiding under the bed until the whole thing was over.

As Eric Scott so perfectly worded, no one else we knew was so widely imitated or quoted. If something is too loud, there’s no way I’m not thinking about “turning it down just a shade”. There has to be dozens of quotes like that one.

He always said his years in the army were the best time of his life, but he’d never want to do it again. He loved talking about his high school buddies, too.

And he would eat any food in the world except for pumpkin pie and applesauce. Give him some corn on the cob, and he’d be wearing half of it. A trick that seems to have been passed on to his granddaughter, I might add. Artichoke heart? Truly a spiritual moment watching him eat those.

If you met him more than once, you probably had a nickname. This nickname would be announced to you upon every meeting.

I remember his strength. He could throw us kids what seemed like 50 feet into the air whenever we’d go swimming.

Sometimes I think he didn’t feel pain. I remember him coming down the stairs after shaving with a river of blood running down his face and neck, and he had no clue. Like how?

No one could whistle as loud as he could. That sound would summon every 4-legged creature in the neighborhood to go home when that went off!

If there was a bigger music lover, I sure can’t think of one. I remember when the record collection gave way to a CD collection. Pretty sure Columbia House had to end their 1-cent CD program because of him. He had so many, even he didn’t know what he had. Sometimes he liked an album so much, he’d just buy it again.

How about upsy-daisies? Where did that come from?? A skull-crushing two-handed hair raising that usually ended up with a house-wide chase. And if you did one to him? Haha, “Let me know you’re gonna start.” Guess you had to be there.

There’s no denying he appreciated beautiful women.

He savored the simple things in life. There was a 90% chance of the answer to “What are you up to?” being “oh, just feediddling.” Have a puff on his pipe, read the paper, stare at the landscape, didn’t matter.

I remember being his golf caddy for at least one summer. How cool that was – just the grass, the sky and great conversation. All that time out on the course, and didn’t learn a thing about golf but I loved every minute of it. I bet those golf score cards are still laying around somewhere, too.

I didn’t think of it until Joni mentioned it, but they used to get up early and go on Dad-Daughter breakfasts. I bet that was awesome.

–What did I learn from him?–

Life is too short for cheap cigars. That it is.

Brag about your kids – who cares if it sounds boring.

Say it to your kids – you’re proud of them. What an infusion of good energy that makes.

Look someone in the eye when you shake their hand. Never anything but firm.

I will never hear a song by the Traveling Wilburys and not think of him.

There’s no such thing as spending too much on good music. And I mean time or money.

When people laugh at you, laugh with them. If they think it’s funny, it probably is.

Have a den. Make it yours.

–What was he like?–

He HATED the cold and everything about it.

I dare you to find a more stubborn guy.

Formalities are for suckers. Mr. Grace? That’s his dad. He’s da Chuck.

Stood his ground. Much easier when you’re 6 foot 5, but have the personality to back it up.

He kept his pain very private. In fact, just about anything unpleasant could be saved for another conversation.

He never EVER wanted to go to the hospital. He’d rather be uncomfortable at home than in some sterile hospital ward.

GAWD that laugh. There was no mistaking it and nothing but joy in it.

Loved his Kansas City Chiefs, golf, “Jimmy Bond” movies.

–The End–

I know his last waking moment was at home. He wouldn’t have it any other way. He held on for a little while after that, in spirit only, maybe so that we could all be there for him. And we all came out to be there.

It was a special week, in a way that’s impossible to describe. It was the worst of circumstances, but we spent the time talking and laughing, which is exactly what he would have wanted us to do.

In the first day or two of our visit, when we weren’t sure of his prognosis, one of nurses said she tried yelling at him to wake up. Which was actually pretty funny, because one sure fire way for him to ignore you was to yell at him.

At the end, we each said our goodbyes. I know exactly what he would say if he could have – the same thing he said to me most every week that we talked : Take care of that wife of mine and those grandkids.

It was obvious when you looked at him that he was ready to go. He wasn’t in any pain, but it wasn’t where he wanted to be at all.

When it was time, Barb and I watched him pass. I’ve never seen it before, and it was so peaceful. He made several expressions with his eyes closed, but one of the last ones was a smile. I think that was the moment and I’ll never forget it. All his loose ends were tied up and he could take off. He left the world on his own terms.

I feel like we handled this to his liking. He would never want us gathered in a room with stiff clothes for a funeral. Tears and Kleenexes are for other occasions. What a life he had – he fought for what he had, and made sure he took the time to enjoy it.

I bet he’s enjoying a bottomless glass of scotch, a cigar and reading the news right now. Maybe on a golf course, keeping tabs on all of us, watching his grandkids grow and laugh.

He lives on through us, his grandkids that can show just as much as stubbornness as he did, but also a passion for having fun whenever possible.

I’m damned proud to be his son. I love that guy and will miss him terribly. I know a lot of people do too. Happy birthday!