Charlie is now a high school graduate. My Charlie...is not so much 'my
' Charlie anymore, but his own man. As hard as it is for me to step back and give him room to, as a friend told me, test his own wings, I am trying. I am trying very, very hard. Fortunately, Charlie is patient with me.
Charlie hasn't decided what he wants to do yet. He was blessed to get a job that he loves several months ago at a veterinarian's office as a vet tech. I was surprised at this, because, of course, he's never had any schooling in this area. However, he took to the job quickly and loves it. He assists in surgery, gives shots, draws blood and the like. I'm very proud of the job he's doing. He still practices with several bands and I'm hoping that is where his path leads him. It's not just the mother in me that tells you he is an amazing guitarist and that he has the perfect stage personality; people love him wherever he performs and he gets a lot of requests from varying bands to perform with them. He talks about enrolling in the local college for fall, and I'd like to see that happen as well. This past week, he's been dividing his time between living with his dad and living with me. I had thought that he was going to live with his dad full time for awhile, but he's not ready. I'm not sure I am either, so we're apparently taking it a couple of days at a time. When he's not here, I actually enjoy my alone time, but when he comes home it tears at my heart to see him drive away.
In celebration of Charlie's graduation, I'm going to reminisce with a few of Charlie stories.
Casey's first day of kindergarten was hard for me. As Charlie and I left him at the school, I began to tear up. I did manage to hold it together until we were in the car and I let some tears fall. I sat there for a moment or two, and felt Charlie's little hand patting mine. When I looked at him, he said "Don't worry, Mama, we'll get him back". Thanks Charlie, I've gotten much comfort from you over the years.
The only time Charlie has ever gotten into real trouble was when he was in the 8th grade. He walked into a locker room after football practice one afternoon to find a circle of boys bullying one of the smaller kids on the team. He stepped in front of the smaller boy and apparently took on the circle of bullies. The leader of the 'pack' told Charlie to stay out of it and Charlie started to help the smaller kid step out of the circle the other boys had formed around him. The leader punched Charlie from behind, a fight ensued consisting of Charlie throwing one punch and it was over. The school system has the no tolerance policy and the police were called. Charlie and the other boy were both written tickets. The offer was made to either plead guilty, pay a fine and child along with parents attend six weeks of anger management or to go to court. The other child's family chose the option to pay the fine and go to anger management courses, which were probably needed. Charlie insisted he'd done nothing wrong, and we backed him. We went to court. Not one coach would agree to testify against Charlie. They'd not seen the fight, but had talked to all the boys in the locker room and they all told us how proud of Charlie they were. Not one of the campus police would testify against Charlie, they told us the same thing the coaches had told us. So, the day we went to court, the city's prosecuting attorney told the court that they were dropping the charges against Charlie for lack of evidence, and the attorney told us how everyone they'd talked to had given nothing but high praise for Charlie. Charlie has always stood up for the underdog, regardless of the personal cost to himself. I have always admired this quality in Charlie.
Charlie's senior class had over 1,400 kids in it. The graduation was held, as Casey's was, at UNT (University of North Texas) where Casey will be a junior this next year. Casey and I struggled to find a seat because, as is my norm, we were a tad late and the place was packed. We ended up in the high bleachers at the very front of the students, but there was a large screen hanging down between us and the class, and we couldn't see many of them. I had brought my binoculars (and seriously, at least seven people borrowed them) and we searched through row upon row of students looking for Charlie. After awhile, even though I'd raised this kid for 18 1/2 years, they all started to look alike. After three or four speeches from people I barely knew and kids I'd never heard of, the first few rows started lining up alphabetically. Fortunately, that put Charlie in the first 20 minutes or so of students. Each student would walk up to the principal, shake his hand with one hand as they received their diploma with the other. They'd face the camera and smile, which was being shown on the big screen right in front of Casey and I, and it was perfect. Turns out it couldn't have been better seats. We sat through at least 20 minutes of kids shaking the principals hand and smiling for the camera. We finally spotted Charlie in line, and when they announced his name, I honestly developed a knot in my throat. As he walked up to the principal, the principal opened his arms and Charlie walked into them. They hugged each other for several seconds. The principal patted Charlie's back and they separated as he handed Charlie his diploma and they shook hands; all the while being projected on this huge screen in front of me. It was then that I heard someone shouting Charlie's name and I saw Casey beside me, on his feet, shouting and clapping for his brother. I don't think I'll ever forget this night. How blessed I am is beyond description.
Congratulations Charlie. You have enriched my life with each day of yours.