Charlie worked with me for two years as my Assistant store manager here at the Oaks Mall in Gainesville Florida. Think of a retired policeman who is easy to be around, jolly, beer bellied from eating ice cream, pistachio I believe, middle aged as I was, full of basic Boy Scout qualities and you have him in mind. I trusted this man-he was insightful and accurate on all accounts.

Our store, Hoffritz, is an upscale cutlery store featuring a patronage  who I can only say were sometimes ‘not so much’. We had to keep all sizes of band-aids on hand. Numerous hands were cut while opening our knives, swinging our swords, feeling the edge of the blade to see if it’s sharp, handing open blades back and forth or while swinging nun chucks wildly. Sure, it was our job to warn or stop people from hurting themselves or each other. But why take the best part of our job out of it when these people were so intent on showing us what they could do? Mostly, Charlie and I thought these daily self inflected manslaughter’s pretty funny. (This did come back to ‘haunt’ me recently when a friend showed me a neat new pocket knife and I cut my hand opening it!)

Charlie often joked about his ‘bad luck’ in Life and it’s true his wife, Lois, was now a quadriplegic after slipping her foot off the brake petal and landing it on the accelerator while waiting for a passing train. Certainly this situation was toughest for Lois but each had lost some options along the way.

One day, while conversing between band-aid applications, Charlie told me this story:

Charlie and Lois went up to Georgia one weekend to search for his long lost Grandfathers’ grave. They didn’t have much to go on-just the towns name and basic vicinity of his Grandfathers’ Homestead. Still Charlie thought, being an ex-policeman, he’d be able to interview people in this rural area and learn enough to find his Granddads’ burial place. Nothing worked out. Saturday passed by without them finding the head stone in any of the grave yards they’d searched. Sunday was nearly over and with a heavy heart Charlie took one last late afternoon drive upon yet another unknown rural road. Driving up a hill his car stalled. Charlie nearly had a fit thinking he’d be stuck with Lois in ‘Nowheresville’ with no car, nothing. (Before cell phones, can you believe that?) He told me he pounded the hood of his car and bent over it in despair-this could be quite serious with Lois in the car- and then he looked up.

Before Charlie, to the right of his car, was a grave yard up a small hill. He was certain he hadn’t checked this grave yard out before. Thinking he was stuck anyway till someone came by he ventured up the hill. He stepped over a small wooden picket fence to read his Grandfathers name on the first head stone he saw. He said he thought the World was spinning for an instant as he stood there still trying to fathom his luck. He walked back to the car and sat inside to tell Lois what he’d just found. He turned the key; his car started. Charlie and Lois drove home.

Charlie was still driving the same car when I knew him: it never stalled before or since that day….eight years later.

Franque

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