(This is among many accounts I've written that should have but never made the pages of the paper. As many know, I write about everyone I meet and everything that happens to me)
Charles (his friends call him Chuck) says he doesn’t worry when his defibrillator goes off.
It does this about once a day at least sending 800 volts of electric into him to keep his heart beating.
“Only if it goes off twice in a row do I need to go to the hospital,” he says, but also says that the frequent jolts have him concerned.
At 69, this staunch
native has lived a charmed life, a sports coach for most of his long years
whose body has betrayed him.
Two years ago, he suffered too deadly strokes in a week; either of one should have killed him.
The back that he survived brought him back to his Catholic faith where he recently became a Eucharistic minister.
“I haven’t been here in 30 years,” he says, believing that his surviving the near-death experience was an act of God he doesn’t question.
Although heart ailments struck when he was still a young man, he only learned after his stroke that his heart was a blood-clot making machine, firing deadly bullets at his brain – one of which may some day put him to rest.
Chuck, an Irish Catholic, if full o stories and recounted several sporting events in
during the 1960s when he discovered I hailed from that neck of the woods as
well. In one instance, he was a coach and recalled splitting his pants before
half time and was forced to officiate that way for the rest of the came.
Another time – somewhere around 1967 – he made his way to the Thanksgiving Day game between rival
football teams, Eastside and Kennedy, where he was scouting for talent.
“I was sitting high up in the stands around the 20 yard line,” he recalls. “I looked around me and saw nothing but black people. I guess that made me a little nervous. But it wasn’t until I started to take notes that some guys to my right started to give me a hard time, demanding to know what I was doing. They had a real attitude. Then some guys on my left told them to shut up and explained how I was scouting. After that, we all got along just fine. They even passed me a bottle of wine so I could stay warm, and I drank. When I got back here, someone asked me if I minded drinking out of the same bottle as them and I said `No way.’”
Chuck thinks about death a lot because death is always with him.
“The other day in the Acme near City Line I was getting some ice. The staff had put up a sign saying to be careful about the wet floor and I was except when I turned around I fell over a cart someone had left behind me. I landed on the floor hard. I kept thinking that after all I’d been through, I was going to die because some jerk left a cart there.”
He thinks a lot about God, too, and has become more and more involved with his church. Last year, he asked the priest if he could become an alter boy knowing that the school from which the church recruited was closing.
The priest laughed and told him, “Sure, but I can’t promise you the other alter boys won’t beat you up.”
Yet the preset saw something in Chuck and a short time later asked him to administer communion.
“While I might not be a devil, I’m not saint,” Chuck tells me. “I didn’t know if I was worth and asked the priest if I was. He told me only I know if I was or not. I told him I would think about it – and did, and later, I said I would give it a try.”
Chuck trained for a few months, learning what he needed to do to perform one of the most sacred rituals in the Catholic faith.
“Then I got a note from the priest that I had to attend Mass on Dec. 24,” he says. “I asked him what this was about since I always attended that mass anyway. He said this time I would be helping him with communion. I felt so humble. I still feel it, humble and yet proud.”