For Charlie 7/28/2013

Charlie McMichael aka “Frog” slipped quietly from this life to the next early on Saturday morning in Slidell, Louisiana.

Cathie (Ted’s cousin who grew up with his family and who he considers a sister) called us Friday afternoon to say that Charlie’s health had taken a sudden turn for the worse a few days before, and Hospice had been called in.  Ted and I struggled with whether one or both of us should drive or fly to New Orleans to try and see him, but Cathie urged us not to make the trip.  She said Charlie was heavily medicated and resting comfortably.  We were still talking about going when Cathie called the next day to say he had died peacefully.  He had waited for their daughter Ashley to rush home with her family from Arkansas, where they were vacationing, and the entire family was with him at the end.

Charlie and Cathie visited us the summers of 2009, 2010, and 2011.  They drove to the Island from Slidell (a suburb of New Orleans) each year and stayed 10 days each visit.  Charlie was a Vietnam veteran and served his country proudly in the U.S. Navy as an aviator.  After returning home from Vietnam, he flew passenger jets for Delta Airlines until he retired.

Shortly after retirement a rare type of virus almost cost Charlie his life.  It left his respiratory system severely compromised and necessitated he have a permanent tracheotomy tube.  In order for Charlie to talk, he would cover the trach opening.  It was bothersome and occasionally caused incidents in restaurants when he became choked, and servers would rush to the table to see if they should perform the Heimlich maneuver.  Charlie would always calmly motion that he was fine, and once his throat had cleared he’d say something extremely funny and we’d all howl with laughter.   That was Charlie.

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That first summer (because his breathing wouldn’t allow him to walk for very long) Charlie spent much of his time on our sofa, reading book after book he had brought with him – then devouring all Ted’s books as well.  It became a tradition for him to bring his used books with him each summer for Ted, and Ted would save all his for Charlie.

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The second summer we talked Charlie into renting a scooter for a whole day, and suddenly he was able to go everywhere we went. Instead of staying in the condo – with trips to town on taxis for restaurant food and Pink Pony visits with Ted – Charlie could “scoot” along with us and see all of beautiful Mackinac for himself.

After he got the hang of the scooter, he loved it.  "It's not as fast as a jet," he'd joke, "But it gets me while I want to go!"

After he got the hang of the scooter, he loved it. “It’s not as fast as a jet,” he’d joke, “But it gets me where I want to go!”

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Instead of a carriage tour to Arch Rock, he’d come along with the rest of us!

He even managed to get the little rental scooter up to Ft. Holmes.  Not recommended by the rental company on the Island, but hey, this guy made it happen.

He even managed to get the little rental scooter up to Ft. Holmes – not recommended by the rental company on the Island, but hey, this guy made it happen.

He was so excited to be able to get around with the rest of us that he bought his own scooter during that next winter, and when they arrived in 2011, his beautiful red “can do it all” scooter came with them . . .

. . . and there was no stopping him now!

. . . and there was no stopping him now!

He rode with us around the Island, stopping at the Cannonball for a fried pickle.

He rode with us around the Island, stopping at the Cannonball for a fried pickle.

He became VERY independent - going to town alone . . .

He became VERY independent – going to town alone . . .

. . . and stopping to see me at the Stuart House on Mondays.

. . . and stopping to see me at the Stuart House on Mondays.

Posing with Cathy at the Somewhere in Time "Is It You?" landmark.

Posing with Cathie at the Somewhere in Time “Is It You?” landmark.

Charlie and Cathie attended Little Stone Church with us, and he and Dr. Vince Carroll (a Vietnam Naval Chaplain) became friends rapidly. Ted, Charlie and Vince would talk often, and had lunch together on their last visit.  Vince talked about Charlie this morning from the pulpit.

On the way to church with Ted and our Oklahoma neighbor Buzz.

On the way to church with Ted and our Oklahoma neighbor Buzz.

A week before they were to leave for the Island for their 2012 visit, Charlie received a diagnosis of lung cancer.  They postponed their trip for surgery and radiation.  It was a hard, hard summer and winter, but his last report this spring looked promising.

Through this blog, Charlie had became close to Lowell Greene, and he and Lowell would use the comment page to chat back and forth with each other.  They wanted so much to meet in person here on the Island during Lowell and Faye’s visit, but at the last minute, his health just wouldn’t allow them to come . . .

. . . but Charlie did call Lowell his second day here, as we were leaving Fort Mackinac.  They chatted like old friends for 10 minutes.

. . . but Charlie did call Lowell his second day here, as we were leaving Fort Mackinac. They chatted like old friends for 10 minutes.

After Cathie called to say Charlie probably had only a few days left, I emailed Lowell with that sad news.  He said he’d be praying for an improvement, and if that wasn’t to be, that Charlie’s passing would be an easy one.  I told Cathie Lowell’s words when I spoke with her yesterday a few hours after she’d called us to say he was gone.  She said, “Please tell Lowell he must have powerful prayers, because Charlie simply took one breath, and then did not take the next.”

Charlie was a wonderful father to Ashley and Tad, a doting grandfather to their children, and Cathie’s loving husband, becoming her caretaker and supporter through her struggle years ago with breast cancer.  When it was Cathie’s turn to become the caretaker, she researched medical websites and books, consulted with dozens of doctors, and fought tooth and nail for something to help her Charlie.  These two together were a truly dynamic duo.

He was Ted’s buddy and my dear, dear friend.

Until we meet again, sweet Charlie.  You fought your formidable battles with humor, with dignity, and with courage.  

Love you, Frog.

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22 thoughts on “For Charlie 7/28/2013

  1. What a beautiful tribute to my beautiful Frog. He made it his mission to make me laugh every day and he did not disappoint. Thank you for seeing in him all the things that made him special to me.

  2. So very sorry to hear about Charlie. May he rest in peace. I remember you talking about him reading all of those books in 2010 when he could not get around very well. I’m so happy he got that cool looking cart and enjoyed it so much. He looked like he was really enjoying it. Prayers to Cathie and family and to you and Ted. I know he will be missed by all who knew him. I enjoyed seeing the photos of him again. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I will miss reading Charlie’s comments on these pages, he always made me smile with his funny remarks. Loved his sense of humor. RIP Charlie. You will be missed. Prayers to you Cathie and your family and to you Brenda and Ted.

  4. I am so sorry to hear about Charlie. I enjoyed reading about his visits to the Island. My prayers go out to his family and friends.

  5. Very sorry to hear this news. I too will mis Charlie’s comments-he had a wonderful sense of humor. Prayers to Cathie and her family and to you and Ted.

  6. So sorry for your loss. I remember your past blogs about Charlie and his scooter. Prayers to Cathie and their entire family!

  7. Cathie, as I told Brenda, this makes me so sad. I hoped I would be able to meet Charlie & you in person someday, rather than just talking on the phone. What a wonderful person he was. I’ll certainly be praying for you and your family.

    Brenda, thank you so much for such a nice tribute, although I’m sure Charlie, aka Frog, would have a joke or two to say about it.

  8. Cathie, please know our prayers are with you and your family.

    Brenda,

    Thank you once again for your truly exquisite words and precious photos of Charlie to cherish.

    Your gift to share the beautiful soul of not only Charlie, but truly what it meant to not just exist. His tenacity for living life to the fullest with every breath is a lesson Charlie has gifted to each of us.

    Blessings,
    Theresa

  9. It was your story about Charlie “scooting” around the Island that inspired me to rent one so I could keep up with my active family. People who don’t have mobility issues don’t really understand how restricted one can feel, especially when you’ve been active. Rest in peace Charlie.

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