A phone call can change everything, you know?
It can change your plans, your evening, your thoughts, and your life.
I was just now sitting down to write about the bird we saw today, when I got a call that did just that.
My godfather, the man who is responsible for my existence (he introduced my parents), passed on from this world to the Next One yesterday evening.
Oh my heart.
I don’t ever remember him not being in my life. He was like a refreshing summer breeze, blowing through and bringing all kinds of laughter and stories and sheer joy with him.
Uncle Chesh (short for Cheshire) attended college with my parents. He was friends with both Mama and Daddy, who had never met. He called Daddy “The Joyner.” And he shared some of “The Joyner’s” writings with my Mama before she had even laid eyes on him. I’m pretty sure Mama loved him before they ever met. She was blown away by what she read, and Uncle Chesh knew it. He arranged for their first meeting to be at the laundromat, but my memory might have failed me here. I suppose I could skip over the part where Mama looked up (her 4’11” to his 6 feet) at Daddy at this first meeting, and said, “I believe I could fall madly in love with you, Mr. Joyner.” But I won’t.
Because that’s how it all began. Thanks to Uncle Chesh.
With a wedding planned, he wanted to get them something nice as a wedding gift. And he did. A real classy gift.
A set of dishes to start them out in their new home. Perfect.
But this wouldn’t be an Uncle Chesh story if the backstory weren’t even better.
See, he was a college student. So he found a way to get them dishes on his limited income. The gas station had a deal where with every fill-up you could get another dish.
One fill-up at a time, Uncle Chesh got them that set of dishes.
I love that man.
He was right tickled with himself when, at my brother’s wedding back in ’05, he brought his gift. A set of dishes. This time not from the gas station, but the story goes that he did have to visit a few different Targets to get enough place settings.
I was the one who first told Uncle Chesh that his dear friend was sick with lymphoma. The heartbreak in his voice was more than I could take. He made sure he went over to visit Mama and Daddy when they had to stay in Atlanta while Daddy had his treatments. And it was Uncle Chesh who came into town less than a week before Daddy left this world, planning a fried catfish dinner because he knew that was something that Mama and Daddy would both like. He filled the house with laughter and regaled us with tales of his past adventures. Some stories we knew, some we didn’t. But it didn’t matter. That he was there and that, one more time, the sound of his and Daddy’s laughter echoed off the walls were the greatest gifts he could have given us.
I was the one who called to tell him that Mama was gone. He cried. He loved them both so much, just like family because he is family. He wanted to come to the services, just as he had with Daddy, but his own health wasn’t good.
My heart is breaking.
But I did get one good laugh in tonight, when I realized the timing of everything. Yesterday evening, I found myself wanting to paint–and a picture of the Cheshire Cat came to my mind for no good reason. Only now I know it was for a very good reason. I’d like to think that was my Uncle Chesh popping in with his big ol’ grin to say goodbye. For now.
Because he was on his way. To someplace better.
And then there’s this.
Yesterday, the day Uncle Chesh passed on, was my Daddy’s birthday. And if that ain’t just like Uncle Chesh, showing up to surprise my Daddy for his birthday! Because that was his way–on many occasions over the years we’d get a call out of the blue: “Hey, I’m at the Waffle House about two hours down the road, I’ll be by there in a couple. Can’t wait to see y’all.”
I bet that was a humdinger of a hootenanny my Daddy had for his 73rd birthday yesterday.
I just hope somebody was serving some Waffle House coffee. Because I have a feeling they were gonna be up a while catching up, and well, it was my understanding that’s where Uncle Chesh told some of his greatest stories. Over a cup of Waffle House’s best.
To the man who stole my heart from the moment I first met him, and without whom I would not be here–
thanks for the laughter, the hugs, the encouragement, the stories, and the love.
I miss you.
My Uncle Chesh doing what he did best–making me laugh and sharing his love of life with all around him.