In my memories of Charlie
Sep 29, 2013 | 4102 views |  0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print

From the window I  can see a white cat strolling across the patio.

In the early-morning light, the cat heads for the hedgerow. I set a cup of black coffee on the desk, turn on the computer, bring up The Anniston Star, and go to the obituaries.

It’s a ritual as common as plain flour, the beginning of another day on Arrow Avenue in Saks.

The first obit is short. On the monitor screen it is just two lines, 26 words total.

I look at the name, briefly, and move on . . .

It is then that the name registers. I lean back in my chair. A slow sorrow is growing inside me. I read again:

Ohatchee - Services for Mr. Charles A. Ward, 80, of Ohatchee, will be announced by Chapel Hill Funeral Home. Mr. Ward passed away Friday at his residence.

I knew the rest of Charles A. Ward’s going away would be in the next day’s paper. It was, telling those who read that he had married, had been preceded in death by his wife Betty. It said they had two daughters, Cindy and Terri, and that he was a “native of Calhoun County and a lifelong resident of Ohatchee where he graduated from Ohatchee High School, he was a member of Victory Baptist Church and had served in the U. S. Army.”

Then, watching the day come . . .

Memories of Charlie . . .

I’m not sure when Charlie came into my life. I think I was in the ninth grade and he was a year ahead of me, maybe two. I’ve forgotten that, too.

I do know Charlie fell in love with a girl in our class, a sort of sultry, pouty beauty by the name of Betty Jean Martin. She had dark hair, sort of greenish eyes, and spoke her mind without apology. You never had to guess what Betty Jean – we called her by both names – was saying.

That, to me, was sort of neat. In addition to her looks, that may have been one of her attractions to Charlie. From the day they began courting until she went away a few years back, Charlie always knew exactly where he stood.

And the standing must have been pretty good  because Charlie just about always had a nice smile on his face. And when he mentioned “Betty” in conversation, there was warmth in just the way he said her name.

 Charlie, at one point, was a center on the football team, but he never made All-County or anything like that. He was just a solid kid who showed up for practice every day, did his job on Friday night, and held hands with Betty Jean.

Memories of Charlie . . .

He was not – as the obit said – a “life-long resident” of Ohatchee, but other than the time he spent in the army, he never got far from his hometown. For several years, he and Betty Jean lived on Saks Road, just over the hill from our house. Their two daughters, in those years, were in the same age range as our two sons. Like their parents before them, they were classmates.

There was, from time to time, visits. It was usually a quiet supper, a time of keeping up with each other’s kids, wondering whatever happened to so-and-so, have you heard from them lately, things like that.

Memories of Charlie . . .

The last time I talked with Charlie was at the Lenlock Wal-Mart, maybe six or seven months ago. It was after he had lost Betty and I asked how he was doing.

He said he missed Betty, but didn’t get all weepy. But we did talk a while. He told me about his kids and grandkids, I told him about my son and grandsons.

As we parted, he turned back and, with that old “Charlie smile” from other years, said “I’ll see ya.”

Sadly, that didn’t happen, but that is also not unusual in the course of human affairs. Good intentions too often are just that . . . intentions.

Memories of Charlie . . .

The blonde, a few weeks back, ran into Charlie at a doctor’s office.

In the conversation, Charlie pulled pictures of his daughters and his granddaughters out of a shirt pocket and did a nice bit of “proud” in showing them off.

That is just one of many things that said Charlie was all about family.

But in his 80 years of being a good and decent man, I suspect Sept. 21 was the only time Charlie ever got his name in the paper.

Charlies deserve more than that . . .

But one other thing is Charlie was one of my heroes in the tender years. I can’t tell you why . . . he just was.


George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or e-mail: gsmith731

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