February 5, 2018


I have always been blessed by my family. We not only love each other, we actually like spending time together. Growing up, all the cousins, aunts and uncles gathered each month to celebrate one of our birthdays. As the family moved into another generation, and the number of children and birthdays grew, we found less time to be able to gather. But as the visits became less frequent, and probably as I grew older to know better, they became more important.

And there was always the week together in the summer. For a couple of decades the annual trip was to Sun Lakes, and now it has been about as long in Crescent Bar along the Columbia River. Thirty or so of family and friends carving out a week to spend with each other. Because we wanted to.

As time passed, less time was spent skiing on the water and more time sitting on the shore just talking. Since we saw each other less often, that was just about perfect. 

Chuck was sort of my third brother growing up. Chuck was just a couple of months older than me, and my own brother was just a year younger. Our other siblings were a good five years older or more (a chasm at that age) so it was always us three hanging out together when the family gathered. I can remember playing pool in his basement, hoops in our backyard, or playing on our bitchin' Atari 2600. I suppose what I see now looking back is that he was guy that allowed my brother and I to get along for a brief period. 

Chuck also gave me my family nickname, "Na" when he couldn't pronounce Sean as a toddler. The name has stuck and my Dad or brothers will still occasionally call me Na fifty years later. When I was younger and my friends would hear this nickname, they would begin to tease as kids often do. I liked the name and when I told them so, the teasing stopped when they saw they couldn't get a rise out of me. I suppose Chuck's nickname taught me an early and valuable lesson.

Though he was just a couple of months older, Chuck seemed to always be more together in high school and a step or two ahead of me on life's schedule. He got married, had three boys and got a responsible job with adult things like health insurance and retirement benefits. His boys are now grown and it has been nice getting to know them as adults the past few years, and not just as Chuck's kids. 

Chuck found out he had lung cancer not long after our Crescent Bar trip last summer. The cancer had progressed quite far, and though he fought it with all he had, Chuck passed away yesterday. He leaves behind his three boys now men, but all too young to have to say goodbye to their father. He leaves behind his four siblings, their closeness I have always admired and have tried my best to emulate, and their spouses who are just so much Chuck's brothers and sisters as well. And he leaves behind his extended family and other friends who will feel this loss and hole in their heart and lives in a hundred different ways great and small.

I know there will be more specific memories popping up in the days and years to come that will remind me of Chuck and what his loss means, but this morning it is just tears on the keyboard.