This time last year we came home from a car show- only to take the first steps into fighting cancer. What a ride it’s been. I have several mental pictures of my Charlie through the last seventeen years together.
The first time I really noticed him was the day I found out my Dad died. I went to lunch like always but couldn’t eat. Charlie who was the General Manager for Subway in St. Petersburg, Florida came flying across the dining room as he saw me throw away my lunch.
If you have ever met me- you know I NEVER throw away good food. He met me at the drink station as I refilled my tea inquiring if my lunch was alright. I broke down in tears and fell into his arms. Poor man, little did he know what he was in for!
Several weeks later (and a couple of dates later) we went to Sarasota to the Ringling Museum of Art, Ca’d’Zan (John Ringling’s home) and the Museum of the Ringling Brother’s Circus for a lovely Sunday day trip. He had lived in Sarasota where he met Becky whom he married. Becky was (and is) a fantastic artist and gave Charlie his beautiful daughter Rachael- who lives in Texas now. I remember him telling me about Becky- how talented she was. How he loved living in Sarasota and that she was his first love.
As he drove I looked at his profile and thought what a totally handsome man he is.
The day he asked me to marry him was Easter weekend. He had the whole scene romantically set up in his head on how he was going to ask me. But I put a kibosh on that! I had invited my daughter over so he had only a few moments to ask me. He even got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. That Easter Sunday we went to a fantastic brunch where I got to show off my ring-
When we moved to Tennessee it was like the world opened up. We really began working in the county with events- becoming members of the Maury County Fair Board, Charlie joining in political meetings, making his voice heard to leaders.
His retirement has been hard for him in that he is a “Type A” work alcoholic- even on vacations he would take phone calls from his managers and stores:
so it has been hard for him to stay home when I have to go out to work. Just as it seemed he got both feet going into a direction in local politics we went to the American Vet’s Car Show last June. He talked to car people about his main love… cars. He danced with former City Commissioner Sue Stephenson under the trees. The sun was bright and all was wonderful in our world.
Then we came home and he found blood in his urine. He came to my office white as sheet telling me to drive him to the doctor’s office. I knew he had cancer from the beginning. A 71 year old man who hasn’t been over night in a hospital since the 1940’s, only been really sick once in our 15 years of marriage doesn’t just wake up one morning with blood in his urine without it being bad news.
It still didn’t take any of the shock out of the words when Dr. Marshall told us it was, indeed, bladder cancer. Doing research, talking to others I was armed with information- but Charlie is- in fact- Col. Charlie - and had his own ideas on how to conquer this newest invader to his quality of life. We kept up on going to County Commission meetings, we did the Maury County Fair, and we have gone on some small excursions to keep our minds busy. He still keeps up with the house work for me. He still makes me great omelets on Saturday mornings. He still mows the lawn with his riding lawnmower- something he wanted to have when we lived in Florida.
We still eat popcorn in bed as we watch “House” or “Judge Judy” before we go to sleep. I like to torture him by playing “Bridezillas” for him just so he remembers how lucky he has it that he has me… and not one of them.
So this month we come to the end of the journey in one way or another. In the middle of June we find out if the newest treatment has worked on the tumor in his bladder. If it has not; then in July we have the bladder totally removed. His surgery date is tentatively set for my birthday… that man will get out of anything so that he doesn’t have to give me a birthday party! It has been an interesting journey this past year. He has gone from shock- to unbelief- to anger- to depression- to distrust- to laughter: but never submitting never claiming defeat.
Paulo Coelho said, “But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams then to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for.”
Charlie knows what he is fighting for. For those lovely fall days when we drive about town and see the fall colors on the trees. For those wonderful spring days when every day is another colorful adventure of budding flowers and trees and he gets to mount up on his mower and cut the grass. He fights for his political beliefs and supporting those who fight for him in Maury County, Nashville, Tennessee and Washington D.C. For all the new friends we have made since we moved to Columbia. For those wonderful evenings when he takes me to the back yard to see gatherings of bunnies, skunks, deer and wistful fireflies who are traveling through our neighborhood.
I know that our struggles aren’t done. This past year both of our son-in-laws has faced major medical issues. Charlie’s oldest daughter died of cancer leaving three children. However, I find comfort that we are together. While I am 20 years younger than Col. Charlie he told me that he married me because, “One, you are cute and two to take care of me as I grow to my dotage.” Well, Baby, we have made it through the first year and our first hurdle. You sure are an inspiration to me. I love you…