We sit, most days in the afternoon sipping the hot concoction I’ve brewed in my fancy tea contraption. I like all kinds of tea, Snow monkey plum, Madagascar vanilla, Indian chai, cream caramel rooibos, but Charles prefers just green (with a packet of Splenda). He always tries my brews and comments on their deliciousness although sometimes I can tell he is just being polite. We talk about all sorts of things, Charles and I. We talk about the news, his friends, my friends, his wife, my husband, the sermons we have been listening to and any other thing that comes to mind. He shares tidbits of wisdom from the nearly half a century he has up on me. That’s right, he is 72 and I am 23. Some days it feels like we are the same age making mischief and giggling (our banter is quite hilarious), needing to be scolded by our manager, and some days he is much older and reminiscent of my grandfather. I’d like to think I soak up our time as if each memory and anecdote shared were rare and precious. I can feel my eyes widen and my mouth drop whenever he starts a story with “when I worked at NASA.” I think it’s so cool.
Sometimes he blows me away with the information he possesses and I relish the opportunity to teach him a new trick on the computer. He calls me “baby” which I’ve grown quite fond of and speaks tenderly when he sees that I’m upset. Occasionally he has been the reason for my discomfort based on things he has said to sharpen me; things that I foolishly brush aside with my defensive, harsh attitude.
Every once in awhile he gives me a big hug, which is inappropriate in the business world, but Charles doesn’t care. Yesterday was one of those days. It was nearing 4:30 and I walked over to say goodnight to Charles (he laughs every time I call him that because he has always been known as Chuck.) I turn to leave and he says “you know I haven’t always been known as Chuck either.” I replied with an inquisitive, “really?” excited for a story. He proceeded to tell me how he was really Charles Jr. which his mother detested so he went by his middle name Leonard which eventually got shorted to Lynn. I laughed at the idea of him being called Leonard and Lynn. We both put on our coats and he started to walk me out to my car. As we were walking he whispered, “And once I had a nickname that I sometimes use for passwords… Chucklynn.” We both chuckled at the idea. He then grew solemn and continued with a story about the only person that ever referred to him as Chucklin’. His story was sad. This friend (whom he worked with at NASA) was full of life and energy in his early forties when one day they found out he had bone cancer and two weeks later he was gone. I hung my head in sadness and Chuck continued, “No one else has ever called me that but it would be okay if you did.” As I sorted through the emotions of that statement I looked up to see two big tears unashamedly running down Charles’ face and he gave me a big hug. We parted with goodnights and this morning I returned to work as usual. I was greeted with a warm hello from Charles who I greeted back with a “Good morning Chucklin” and a wink. This afternoon we will have tea and I can hardly wait.