Charley spent his life surrounded by Leo’s. His mother was a Leo, the mother of his children is a Leo, his daughter is a Leo, I’m a Leo, and we even have a dog named Leo.
Charley was a beautiful, brilliant, and complicated man. Musician, IT guru, HAM radio operator, star gazer, and photographer.
When Charley shared his music, he was sharing his soul.
Right or wrong he was raised by his mother to believe that his lot in life was to take care of his older brother Joey, who had Down’s syndrome. I am told he had a very special bond with his brother, his first CD was labeled For Joey. I believe I saw a glimpse of that when he met my cousin Todd, who also has Down’s syndrome.
He was so tender, so understanding, so gentle.
When Charley was in High School he met Jackie McLean. He would go to Jackie’s house in Hartford and take private lessons. He looked to Jackie as a father figure. He continued his music studies at the Hartt School of Music. Hoping to take his music to the next level, he bought a tiny studio apartment in New York City. He didn’t stay there…he ended up back in CT. His brother died, and he knew it was time to make his own life.
Part of that life included meeting Hedy, with whom he had two amazing kids…Alex and Norma. Alex inherited Charley’s musical talent and Norma inherited his brilliant mind and we are so proud of her for getting accepted to UConn. Charley wished he could have spent more time with and done more for them. He loved you both deeply…hold onto that.
The other part of that life included going to IT school and then moving back to NYC. That is where we met. We spent over a month and 100 emails back and forth before actually meeting in person. Yes, we were an online dating success story. I will never forget the first time we met, how beautiful and deep his eyes were. I worked in the theater at the time and used to make dates between shows because I would always have an excuse to leave to go back to work. On my first date with Charley, I was late getting back to work. We went on 2 more dates that same week and were inseparable after that. Because I had my days free for the most part. I would spend Friday afternoons with him at his job…this is where he introduced me to the world of IT.
We spent the first 3 ½ years of our marriage in that tiny apartment 365 square feet, 1 square foot for every day of the year.
We would have been married for 12 years next Feb…on what would have been his 50th Birthday.
And now I would like to continue with words of his own. Published in 2009 on his blog.
I’ve posted this before. I keep returning to it – and it never fails to remind me how deep and complex we are. It is so easy to trivialize, to label, to stereotype… and we forget that each of us was once somebody’s child. We’re not cartoons. We’re not liberals and conservatives. Inside each of us lives a child who longs to be understood.
Years ago when I first met my wife, she gave me a copy of a beautiful story.
I was anxious to share everything there was to share about myself – and I wanted her to know everything about me – both the good and the bad.
We spoke about things like regret and we also spoke about forgiveness. We spoke about what it means to lose yourself and lose your way.
I long for a community like the one in this story. I long for love and support of those who remind me when I’ve lost my way and help me find the real me whom I forgot.
How many of us could benefit from hearing our song sung to us when we’ve lost our way? How many of us sometimes need to be reminded who we truly are?
The Song of A Life
When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she
goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child.
They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses
its unique flavor and purpose.
When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they
return to the tribe and teach it to everyone else.
When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child’s
song to him or her. Later, when the child enters education, the village gathers and chants the child’s song.
When the child passes through the initiation to adulthood, the
people again come together and sing. At the time of marriage, the person hears his or her song.
Finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family
and friends gather at the person’s bed, just as they did at their birth,
and they sing the person to the next life.
In the African tribe, there is one other occasion upon which the
villagers sing to the child.
If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or
aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the
village and the people in the community form a circle around them.
Then they sing their song to them.
The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when
you have forgotten it.
Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or
dark images you hold about yourself.
They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness
when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your
purpose when you are confused.
You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song
to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not.
When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and
when you feel awful, it doesn’t.
– Author Unknown
Charley had the opportunity to go to The Democratic Republic of Congo when he worked for the International Rescue Committee. He loved the people he met there and the experience he had. While he worked at the IRC he attended Columbia University where he earned his Master’s in IT Management. He used those skills to start his own IT consulting firm when we returned to CT in 2011.
Unfortunately in these last few years in CT Charley lost his way. Instead of having someone to sing his song, he was met by a chain of events that triggered the deepest and darkest voices that he battled with since he was a child.
He also spoke of how alone he felt, how his family was gone. His Brother, Father Peter, who he was just starting to have a relationship with again before he passed away, and Mother Lily were gone. Reminding him that I and his kids were still here failed to console his grief.
So while I am going to miss him, miss listening to him play…at random…a string of songs on the piano. Or the Bach Cellos suites as a method of practicing his saxophone.
Or seeing how excited he would be over a new QSL card from a new country he contacted via his HAM radio. How happy he was when he had a good night playing with Other Orchestra in Hartford. And just sitting out on our deck watching the planes go by and tracking where they were going with an app on our phone and dreaming of the trips we could take when we were old. …or star gazing at night.
I am going to take peace that he is with all of those he loved that went before him and the struggles of this mortal coil are over. Charley liked to say that we are all made of stardust. I swear there is a new bright star in the sky.