Charlie worked, as life suited, odd jobs. And he had his family. Closest to me, for many reasons, was Chuck, or Punky as we called him. One of Charlie's many. But I must say, Punky was the image of his father, though in life no different a man could walk.
Charlie played music. There was the circus, the street corners, the places people gathered to swill from the jug, chat and listen. Every penny counted, and I mean every penny. On good nights, when Charlie had the pennies, he'd stop for crabs, hot steamed Chesapeake Bay crabs to bring home for his family.
Inside, mud crept glacially up the floors as bugs gnawed at their shins, yet the little ones knew the specialness, there on the flats, as once again, that little place was transformed. If Charlie had wanted a big place, on these nights, he had it. And Charlie, in spirit, music and love made it just that one notch bigger. Gatsby himself would have been left wanting.
This was the place my Mom and Dad would come, before I was born. Dad had not yet made it, and the flats were not for him. But dad was comfortable in the flats, he was comfortable anywhere. The wonder of my dad was that he was headed for higher places, yet no matter the place, high or low, every person at worst was his equal, and more likely his better. Mom was right there along his side, loving just the chance to be part of anywhere they were .
A tight love between them, Charlie and Dad, and so too between Charlie and Mom, and with it, all the sacrifice that goes with love. Love is sacrifice, it means sacrifice, without end.
But this page was meant for one thing. The Mandolin.
Charlie came home one night, but no crabs, no giant house, no Gatsby lamenting. She sent him back out as love demands.
Hours later, mandolin in hand, one red rose, a balladeer of desire.
Harry had been drunk, and Charlie lifted the Mandolin from his inebriated hands. Charlie, the back up, could both play it, and enjoyed its transportability. The red rose he found, discarded...or maybe hanging over the whitewashed fence of Mrs. Pence.
But when he arrived home, to the flats, slats fighting the gnats, holding the heat, he placed the rose on her sleeping lap. Softly he strummed, singing a song I don't know what. Her eye's glimmered. Go to sleep, you silly old drunk. I love you.
And this was my Uncle Charlie.