The eternal gift of Charlie

My son Charlie and I spent some quality time together in the months before he was born.

I lugged him with me in utero on a 90-mile commute to my job and he often thanked me for my hospitality by generously tossing my breakfast back up to me as we hurtled down I-55. I kept plastic bags in the car for the occasion, which I regularly deposited in a garbage can outside the Streator Times-Press offices when I arrived.

Still, I remember the exact moment I understood how incredibly cool the eternal gift of Charlie would be.

It happened as I sat in a booth at Oogies Restaurant, idly munching on the Oogies Special (hamburger, fries and coleslaw). I had the table to myself and I felt a little lonely as the lunch crowd chattered around me. But, I remember looking down at my very pregnant belly and getting so excited to meet the little person within.

“You and me, kid,” I said. “We’re going to have so much fun!”

And we have.

Today, on Charlie’s 33rd birthday, we have 33,000 reasons to celebrate, enough to stretch all the way from our house in Wisconsin to New Jersey, where Charlie has been quarantining with his fiancé Tara and her family.

From a happy, energetic baby who gamely and endlessly entertained us, Charlie has grown into a thoughtful, admirable man. Like many in his generation, he consumes information voraciously — reading books, listening to podcasts and watching documentaries. But, he also allows himself time to ponder and this indulgence gives his conversations authenticity and depth.

I know this because I speak with him several times a week, often as we are both walking similar (though 943-mile distant) routes.

I have a theory that men like Charlie, his father and grandfathers, who quickly grow tall and broad, are keenly aware of the space they take up in the world and therefore more empathetic. They learn to shift just a little to better someone else’s view. I know this for sure about Charlie. He has taught us all that humility equals strength and self-reflection courage.

Happy birthday Charlie and thank you for being my friend.

This is me when I was pregnant with Charlie, (Photo credit Vince Biskupic)
This is also me when I was pregnant with Charlie. (Photo credit Vince Biskupic)
This photo turned up in my dad’s wallet, which my mom recently found. As you can see, I was pretty excited to get that kid out of my tummy and into my arms.
These days, we take our energetic walks around lakes and rivers nearly 1,000 miles apart. Last year, though, I got to join Charlie for a walk around Culver Lake and it was sublime.
I haven’t seen him in person since Christmas, which is a big bummer. But I like to make sure he remembers where home is.
This picture makes me laugh because I took it at my son Vinnie’s rehearsal dinner last year. “I feel like I want to cook dinner for my friends and family,” he said at the time. Of course, big brother Charlie and big sister Katherine ended up doing most of the cooking. That was a really fun weekend too!
He’s currently on hiatus from his day job as a producer for the Dr. Oz Show, but it was fun to see him in his element when we could.
Also fun to tool around New York and New Jersey with Charlie and Tara. We’re looking forward to doing that again some day.

3 thoughts on “The eternal gift of Charlie

  1. Laura,
    Janet Carlson sent me your Blog of August 10 about Charlie and Tara’s wedding and then, as a second thought, sent me this one from July. It was a joy for me to read both. Charlie, except for being more “tall and broad”, is still the same person I remembered from third grade. The words you wrote above rang so true to me and how I still remember Charlie. He gave me endless days of smiles, all of which I still appreciated to this day. I so often remember, especially when I see mittens or small milk cartons, what was occupying Charlie’s locker on the last day of school. It was a bittersweet moment knowing that I would not be teaching him (or him teaching me) the next school year. I am so happy for your whole family and the love you share. It was great getting caught up. Janet, still a very close friend even though we retired in New Mexico, knows intuitively that I still care to know about the people from my years in Wisconsin.
    Most sincerely,
    Mary Pierce

    1. So wonderful to hear from you! Thank you for all of you did for Charlie. You two were a perfect match and we will always be grateful for you and your warm sense of humor and empathy. Hope you are enjoying your well-deserved retirement!

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