It's Father's Day so I thought I'd write you an note and let you know what is going on down here on Earth. Hopefully, you have internet access up in Heaven and can read this, but my hunch is that you are looking over my shoulder as I type.
First, all of us miss you dearly. I hate the fact that I cannot just pick up a phone and hear the eloquence of your Southern Gentleman's voice and your "dry as the desert" humor. I left a few old voicemails from you on my phone so I can hear you any time I want. I also watch some of those videos from the 80s and 90s that were made about your Marine Science Center and when you appeared on the local morning television programs. You looked so cool in your lab jacket.
Most everyone is dealing with your departure in their own way. Mom is incredibly lonely without you, her companion for over 50 years. That's a long time to hear someone snore next to you. Maybe I should install a gasoline generator in her room to simulate the racket and she would sleep better then.
Kelli has gone a bit crazy without you. Hopefully, she can pull her life together, but that is something she will have to do on her own.
Dan is busy raising his family and carrying on the tradition of camping in a RV instead of a tent. I know that might be cheating, but it is a lot more comfortable with AC and electricity.
Gena is spending a lot of time with Mom helping her when she can make the drive from Richmond. She has her hands full with 2 kids and lots of wicks burning her candle down.
Justin has become more like you every day. There are times when I think that he is what you would have been like when you were younger. You would be very proud of him I think.
Kristina mourns for you long distance. She hates that she did not get to see you more before you left us. She has asked me for a bunch of photos of you to hang up in her home in North Carolina.
Sara and Tyler seem to be coping pretty well. They might not show it if they were not. They are in good hands with Mom raising them. They had better do their chores or suffer the dreaded flyswatter.
And that leaves me. I miss you too, but I feel like I am walking with you as my constant companion. If I look in the mirror, I see you. If I interact with children... I hear your voice and even use some of the same tricks you used on us to keep us entertained, though I have not attempted the fiery puffs of flame that you somehow surprised people with. I am not magician like you were.
The times I feel closest to you are in the deep woods right before sunset with the low beams of the sun lighting the side of the trees and leaves. There is such a peacefulness there without cars, cell phones or the constant background noise of modern life. There is just the rustle of leaves and the chatter of birds... many of which I know you could have identified and imitated with your virtuosic whistling skills.
In other news, I am sorry to have to tell you, that your beloved hoard of treasures has been discovered. Dan and Gena have been cleaning out your secret stashes around the house including your "drawer of trinkets", your "closet of secrets" and your "shed of fortune". They found many wonderful things like Reagan-era Band-Aids, old watches, souvenirs, ancient paperwork, $600 in cash and also an uncashed vintage check from 2003 worth over a $1300. Uh oh... you are in trouble with Mom. I am sure you will hear about that.
They have not attempted to clean out the attic or garage yet because we found out that dumpsters have a limit to what they can hold. Plus, we have to build a walkway through the expertly stacked strata of boxes, scientific equipment and biology books dating back to Darwin's time.
Many friends have come by to visit Mom or give a call. She has had a lively time sharing stories and hearing how you touched people's lives. Some of these folks have not been heard from in decades. Even now, the news continues to travel through the grapevine of your passing, and it still hits hard even months after the funeral is over.
Speaking of the funeral, I hope you saw it. The place was packed and there were even people standing in the back. Tons of old friends were there from Camp Chanco, relatives, neighbors, clergy, church members and your school colleagues. We sang all the favorite songs and it really took me back to the time you directed the camp in the 70's. Some of the people have not changed much like Ron. He had the place roaring with laughter as he described the hi-jinx you guys shared. Some flew thousands of miles to be there including your 90+ year old Uncle. His quote "you bet your ass I'll be there". One interrupted her cancer treatments to come. None of them would have missed it for the world.
The one thing that I heard over and over is how incredible the service was and what a great person you were to so many different people. You had no fewer than 8 or 9 eulogies. There were many facets of your life to be celebrated including your college friendships, your incredible teaching career spanning over 53 years, your traveling camps and also Camp Chanco. Then, your family got to share their thoughts. Dan was too busted up to talk. I almost did not make it through my speech. Thankfully, people laughed at my bad jokes. Ellie's speech was way beyond her young teenage years and Justin's words inspired me and reminded me of you.
The memorial service was decked out with lots of photos that I took of you. We used the one of you and Mom for the printed program. That was the one that had a sparkle in your eye and captured your mischievous spirit. I put a photo of you in your native headdress and the one of you sitting on the live oak tree in your crypt. I hope you don't mind because you are kinda stuck with them now.
Well, that is about it for now. I hope you are adjusting to your new home and are making room for the rest of us. I hope you have found some of your long departed buddies to pal around with in Heaven. I hope you are laughing and remember us too. We love and miss you Charles E. Hughes.
We can continue this conversation on our next walk in the woods. I know you will be there.