Born into a prominent family but tribulations of life and a bent for the hedonistic life-style pushed him out to the edge. An enigma. A mystery. A question mark. At times garrulous and other times moody, he could be the life of the party or suddenly kill the mood with an unprovoked outburst. Long, tall, lanky and handsome, his looks gradually gave way due to a fancy for strong booze, pills and unhealthy living. A supper of potted meat, right from the can, a healthy body fails to keep. He slept under the counter in a place where he worked.
Even though he had a sense of humor and a great personality when his mood was right, he ruined many a relationship and alienated a some friends. Add to that poor-paying jobs and so many DUIs that he could never drive again further separated him from friends and family. Finally, all this did him in and he landed in the hospital with more tubes, valves and gadgets than one body should accommodate. Don’t know the how, but he ended up in Intensive Care in a coma and on life support. He remained in this state for months upon months.
During this time, I’d go to see him. Asked the nurses if it was okay to talk or sing to him and they said that although it wouldn’t hurt, he probably would not respond. One time as I was leaving, a nurse stopped me at the door. She looked at me and held my hand. “You seem like a nice person, and you must care about him since you have come often. No one else does. His sister doesn’t either and wants to have him taken off life support. She won’t return our calls and he has no other family. I don’t want to sound depressing but I just don’t think you should get your hopes up.” I thanked her and said I’d keep coming until it didn’t matter any more.
He was moved to a rest home many miles away. Went to see him once and had planned to go again for one last time before the end. Thought it would be depressing, but the rest home was also a rehab center and the staff was wonderful. They took me to his room. It was quite a shock. His eyes were wide open but it didn’t look as if he could see. His mouth was open in the shape of an O. He was down to less than 130 pounds – a mere shadow of his former self. I talked to him and tried to sound like he was capable of hearing me but it was difficult. Before I left, I started singing to him. Ran out of things to sing so I sang “You are my sunshine.” I know it sounds silly but I couldn’t think of anything else. When I looked down I could see the sheets moving and realized he was trying to get his hand out. I moved the sheet and he grabbed my hand with a force that almost broke it, staring into my eyes with a look of the dead. The staff thanked me for coming and I made the long trip home.
That was months ago. The other day I received a call from Charlie. He was full-voiced and lively. Somehow he had come back from the brink. He told me that as soon as he got things worked out to come home, they would release him and a friend would come pick him up. The friend failed to come or to even call. Charlie phoned again and asked if I would be able to come pick him up. I called back to say that I only come the following monday. He said “My own sister wanted to pull the plug on me!” I replied that I knew and that I was sorry. He started talking faster and faster and then became unintelligible. I realized then that he was crying and could barely make out what he was saying through the uncontrollable sobs. “You were the only one that came, man…..the only one…. and you sang to me… don’t remember the song but you drove all that way to “effin“ me a song man!” “It made me see I wasn’t ready to go. I had to hang on because things needed doing and I needed to do them.”
My Mother used to say that someone is always watching and to try to be the light when others lose theirs. Thank you Momma. And Charlie thanks you too.
*This is a true story. His name has been changed to protect his privacy.