Archive for April, 2015

Remembering Chuck

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Regular readers to this page have probably figured out that over the years, my small circle of friends has gotten smaller. A bit ago I learned that my friend Chuck passed away yesterday. 

Chuck loved the outdoors, loved to fish, i think he loved the peace and quiet of sitting in the boat, thinking through the events of life, visualizing the topography of the lake bottom, the weed cover, correlating it to the temperature, barometer, and wind to solve the puzzle of where the fish were and what could be done to entrance them onto the bait. He was a fisherman for as long as i knew him, organizing trips to the boundary waters, spending weekends on the Mississippi, and more recently at the lakeplace he and Judy had.

He had trailered his boat up to Dad’s lake one summer and Dad, Steve, Chuck and i had a great time. Chuck had pretty much every fishing lure made, in pretty much every color too, i remember every compartment in the boat was filled with tackle boxes, That day, the catching wasn’t good but the company was.

I first met Chuck at NDSU, he and Judy took us out in the big Chrysler from time to time. I remeber him talking about working on road building crews, and his interest even then in designing buildings for healthcare. Chuck practiced in Fargo for awhile, with MTL, later with Norm. I think Chuck taught Norm a few things about fishing, and learned about project administration. Steve and I worked for a competing firm, but Chuck’s quiet professionalism made it easy to sit out in Steves yard on summer evenings talking about woodworking, specifying, old cars and life in general. Every once in a while we’d make a comment that would earn a “michael, michael, michael” from him as he shook his head and then proceeded to set us straight with “you know, a guy should…”

Chuck and Judy had an older home in Fargo, in a neighborhood that had an alley. I remember driving down that alley saturday mornings, seeing the garage door open, which meant stop in and see the days project. Mark’s pickup would be there, Steve’s volvo too, and i’d find them talking over an especially perfect bit of oak, or cedar, and planning out the way to cut,sand and finish it just so….”you know a guy could…..” Would go back and forth until a solid plan was hatched, then we’d disburse and begin our saturday project. 

Chucks garage was the center of many projects, precut adirondack chair kits, a redwood strip canoe that Steve and i helped fiberglass, and Chucks house itself. I remember it was tall and needed paint, and unphased by the bigness of setting scaffolding, scraping, sanding, priming and painting the whole thing, he set about doing it. I spent a lot of time there that summer, trying to learn about not working all the time, painting his house with him taught me that, and other things “a guy could…”

Chuck and Judy had Brian soon after and moved to a job with the Mayo, where Chucks patience and expertise with detail and follow through helped establish him with some pretty demanding personalities. With Judy, they made a family he is tremendously proud of and must miss him terribly.

We spoke about a month ago, i had hoped to bring the one who holds my heart north to see their lake place, spend a little boat time together and learn a few more things about the way a guy could fix or make something.  

He taught me lots, was generous in his Knowledge of architecture and construction, and was a quiet expert in any room full of experts. I miss him already.

I think a guy should remember Chuck, especially when fishing, making things with wood, or sitting next to the grill on a balmy weekend, and in those times when a loud voice would be a normal reaction, step back and hear his humility.

Please keep his family in your thoughts, in these coming months.

Be good to each other, call that old friend today and have a chat, a guy just doesn’t have too many friends.

the terrible and the wonderful

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Many of us who are part of the Virginia Tech family are reflecting on the terrible events that happened this time of year back in 2007. Thirty two friends, colleagues, classmates, fellow Hokies were taken from us by a sick fellow who had too much ready access to guns and ammunition.

As I awoke with the one who holds my heart, I could hear a siren from the nearby firestation, and hear the approach of a helicopter to our little airport here in Texas. The sounds took me back to day, the sirens, helicopters, the feeling of helplessness at not being able to get to the students who were our charges and the shock at learning what happened in Norris Hall. The stories are amazing, students rushing the gunman, faculty holding doors shut with their bodies to give their students extra seconds to jump from windows, incredible heroic acts. But I think mostly we feel the loss.

I left Blacksburg a little over a year later, partly because of that day, the difficulty of walking past the memorial and the site of the shootings and partly to get back to doing what I love. Leaving had its own costs, mostly financial, but had its own rewards too.

It turns out life is pretty wonderful now, today, tempered by the anniversary of the terrible day back in 2007, but pretty wonderful really. My daughters are safe, building their lives, following dreams, excited by possibilities, I’ve met, handed my heart to, and married a wonderful woman of grace and beauty, and I’m teaching what I love to teach. Life wouldn’t be what it is without that terrible day, love wouldn’t be as sweet, my family wouldn’t be as close, and the horizon wouldn’t be as long without that terrible day. I knew people who died that day, its hard to hold back the tears thinking of that day. Maybe its a survival behavior, but i can both grieve and live now.

I know there are families that have much deeper losses, I think of them today, and hope their lives have grown back a little.

There is that old song that’s called “Look for the Silver Lining,” some of the words are
“Look for a silver lining,
whenever a cloud appears in the blue,
remember somewhere the sun is shining,
and so the right thing to do is make it shine for you,
a heart full of joy and gladness,
will always banish sadness and strife,
so always look for the silver lining,
and try to find the sunny side of life.”

I wouldn’t have thought it possible back in 2007 but I think it can happen, something good can come of something bad, we just have to look for it, focus on the good, and see the wonder around us…a first strawberry, a hand holding yours, heroes walking next to you, spring flowers, a new old house, a move, a new job, all there. All happening near you right now, as taps fades in the silence.

Life is a mystery that way.
A baby is born, a tragedy happens, but we go on, loving those near us, and those gone from our sight. We just have to see the good and work to diminish the bad.

Anyway, keep on the sunny side! Honor those you hold in your memory, hold those who are in your heart.

Be good to each other