I Think He is OK Now
Charlie was my first love following the end of my marriage. Our highly torrid affair lasted almost two years. See “My Good Time Charlie”. He was a tortured soul who drank to ease the pain from life’s trials and tribulations. He was never able to face his demons head on so he was perpetually tormented by them. Drinking was a temporary salve that long term led to more and more difficulty and a continuous downward spiral that ultimately led to his death at age 55 from liver failure. He died just after Thanksgiving in 2017.
Although I had broken things off with him before he died, his death left a big hole in my heart and I think of him often. Naturally, I have written about him quite a bit. I have moved on with my life but definitely feel an ongoing sense of loss.
My new boyfriend, Rex, enjoys listening to me read my writing out loud. Unitil last weekend, I had spared him the stories of my torrid affair with Charlie.
I read Rex my story, “I Had to Stop For Gas”, about a particularly trying incident related to Charlie’s drinking. I couldn’t help thinking about him. Rex and I stopped at the gas station that was featured in the story on our way home from the lake. I verbally recreated the scene for him while my tank was being filled.
Both of my sons had gotten to know Charlie well during the time we were dating. They had a love/hate relationship with him while he was hanging around at our house over the course of our relationship. He was smart, funny and charming. He treated me with more kindness than anyone my sons had ever seen, including their father. At times, his being drunk lead to obnoxious or inappropriate behavior. He often got up in the middle of the night to talk to his brother on the phone in the kitchen in an overly loud voice. He fell more than once. So, sometimes they thought he was cool, sometimes they thought he was an asshole.
When I got home from my weekend away with Rex, I realized I had put considerable energy into thinking about Charlie over the two days and even talked about him more than usual.
I went out to dinner with my 20 year old son on Sunday night. He is typically self-absorbed, and mostly has no interest in my social life, much less my romantic life.
It was a bit jarring when he asked, “Do you miss Charlie?” I thought it was uncharacteristically sweet of him to ask. I gave an honest reply, “Yes, all the time.” We talked a little about what a nice guy he was, and how deeply troubled. We had dinner at a local restaurant that Charlie and I used to frequent before he moved back to the midwest.
It was late Sunday night. I was washing up for bed when I heard a ping from my cell phone. I recognized the tone as a message on Facebook. It seemed like a strange time for any of my regular friends to be sending a message this way.
When I looked at it, I saw it was a reply to a message I had sent Charlie’s ex wife back in September, 2017 when I wanted to verify his story about having end stage cirrhosis and he said his ex had been to the hospital to visit with their son. Charlie was famous for not getting the story straight, and was also heavily into drama. If it was true, I knew he was likely heavily medicated and possibly cognitively impaired from the illness. I wanted to verify the story with her so I could know what to expect.
She apologized for not seeing my message until now and commented that yes, as you have learned since it is unfortunately very true. I’m sure by now her sons have told her about me as I had met them a few times before Charlie moved away. She also asked me if I knew whether Charlie had packed a carved elephant that was near and dear to her younger son to take to the midwest when he moved. I sent my condolences to her sons, and told her I was sorry that I knew nothing about the elephant.
I couldn’t believe that it was a coincidence that Charlie’s ex wife finally got around to responding to my message five months later on the same day I read a story about him out loud and re enacted the scene. It seemed odd to have been a concurrent event with my son asking if I missed him three months after his death, too.
“My Most Unusual Friendship” tells the tale of becoming digital friends with a new girlfriend Charlie met after he moved away.
On the following Monday morning, I told her about these seeming synchronistic events. She replied that on the same Sunday night, she took her phone out to record some strange sounds her cats were making using the Voice Recorder app, and Charlie’s voicemail greeting was there. She said it shouldn’t have been there because the app is for recordings that you do manually. She had downloaded the recording and it had been put into her downloads file.
She said that when she played the recording, “it didn’t feel sad. It felt like he was ok. That’s the only way I know how to explain it”. “It’s sort of like he reached out to those who could get his message somehow. Maybe he has found real peace. He was so hard on himself his whole life.”