When we celebrated Wayne's 50th birthday last year on November 7, his brother Chuck wrote on the picture mat, "right behind you." Since Wayne and Chuck were only 13 months apart, December 6, 2009, would be Chuck's turn to celebrate turning 50.
We won't have one of the Kiger classic birthday shots with the honoree's cheeks puffed out as they blow the candles for Chuck's 50th. Twelve days after Wayne's party last year, Chuck died.
In my first draft for tonight's blog, I touched on several "classic Chuck" stories. Each one could be a blog of its own -- how annoyed I was that he didn't actually get his butt up out of his chair to let me in the first time I visited his and Wayne's home; the time he shot Wayne's stereo out of anger and the guy at the repair shop wrote, "Gun Shot Wound" on the repair order; the time he talked his daughter, Kris, her friend Marlena and me out of going to the Jade Dragon Tattoo and Exotic Body Piercing Studio on Belmont Street in Chicago to hunt for navel jewelry for the girls (even though HE was the one who had someone come to the house for Kris to get her (underaged) belly button pierced).
In the end, I can paint the picture of who Chuck was, while paying homage to his individuality, by describing his tombstone. Apparently, when Chuck and his brothers and cousins used to go bowling (back when you actually had to keep score yourself, on PAPER), Chuck would turn the scorecard over and draw images of Snoopy instead of keeping score. He loved to draw Snoopy. Even more than he loved to draw Snoopy, he was passionate about all things Beatles, especially John Lennon (as the tattoo of Lennon's image on Chuck's arm attested). When Tenley and I visited New York in 2005, we went to the Dakota just to take pictures of it to share with Chuck.
I wish I could have captured some of the essence of the dreams in Chuck's head when he was doodling away, bringing the Sopwith camel to life in his imagination and on the scorecards. I wish many people who I care about, who get wrapped up in worrying what others think of them, could have just a fraction of Chuck's ability to revel in being "yourself."
Most of all, I wish that Chuck had been able to meet his new grandson Griffin Charles, make that weird blowing-out-the-candles face, and do whatever it is the men of the family do outside at Mary's house when they are ostensibly grilling meat. In closing, there's a song that I had considered using when we buried Chuck's ashes in September, but it didn't make the cut. I still like this song (by Chantal Kreviazuk), and it expresses some of the sentiments I have felt over the year:
You are everything you ought to be
So just let your heart reach out to me
I'll be right by your side
Say good night, not goodbye.