Today is a very sad day for me. I learned last night that Charles Bartlett passed away on Saturday, August 26th. Who is Charles Bartlett? Well, he is the father of my first really serious girlfriend Debbie, with whom I had a relationship when I was a senior in high school. WAYYY back. (OK, fine, 1982, shut up. :) )
Anyway, Debbie and I went out for two wonderful years, and I got to know her family very well. Debbie is a free spirit, an untamable soul, adventursome and brilliant. She was, at the time, a nearly world-class flautist; she could sight-read anything you threw in front of her. We had a great time with my friend Jon all trying out for theme park bands with the Claude Bolling Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio. She was a terrific softball player too, and went at everything she tried with passion and ferocity. Her impish laugh stays with me to this day.
For a while, I became a fixture around the Bartlett house; like that annoying brother-in-law famed in song and story who won't leave when he comes to visit. The times I spent at the Bartlett house were among the finest of my life. It was the kind of house that quintessentially defined "family"; full of love, laughs, devotion, concerned and skilled parenting, and the kind of invisible guidance-by-example that stays with you for the rest of your life whether you are one of their kids or not. Donna, Debbie's mother, is a delightful soul, whip-smart and genial, with a wicked sense of humor and a great sense of justice and love. Donna and I played a lot of late night backgammon over cheese and cranberry juice; and she was more than my match. Debbie's younger brothers Mike and Charlie were fun and interesting and smart; we played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons together. I grew to love that whole family very much indeed. That house is a "safe spot" in my heart.
Charles and I were kindred spirits in a lot of ways; at the time we had a shared affinity for fine stereo equipment; I remember the joy in his eyes and his heart when he brought home his first set of Boston Acoustics bookshelf speakers and a nice Yamaha amp, the kind with the really warm preamps. Of course, the speakers grew over time. He had a great sense of humor as well, he and I would swap bawdy jokes on a regular basis. Donna and Charles maintained an engaging friendship with my mother even to this day, some 22 years after Debbie and I stopped going out. The Bartletts are that caliber of people.
And now, he's gone. I cannot fathom the unimaginable pain that the Bartlett family is enduring right now; the close-knit nature of the family is one that doubtless makes the pain of separation infinitely more anguishing. I grieve deeply with them, my understanding limited to my memories of them, and the feelings revisited from my own father's passing this past March.
To the Bartlett family, I can only offer my sincerest condolences. I can only tell you that Charles' influence on me lingers to this day; the standard he set as a role model and father figure are ones I strive to emulate in my own household. I think of him often as I react to my daughter Abby, and I only hope that I can make a home that is as stable, happy, and full of love and honor as Charles Bartlett's house.
I cannot be at the funeral services, nor can I enjoy the company at the Euclid, but I can send along my love, my comfort, and my shared grief to the Bartlett family. May the Lord's peace shelter and enfold you, guiding you to the enduring peace and love that has always existed in all of your hearts.