Goodbye, Charlie

by Angeliska on February 27, 2013

One year ago today, my Grampa left this world. I’ve been crying uncontrollably for the past couple of days – for various reasons, but mostly it’s because I just feel so lost. I’m lost without him. I miss him so, so much. He was my touchstone, my grounding anchor, my rock – in so many ways. I want to talk to him every day, hear his voice, even just the cadence, the rhythm of his speech. He had such a beautiful speaking voice – he was the best storyteller I have ever known. Last year, a good friend of my Grampa’s shared these recordings of him speaking at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in 1986 and 1987. My grandfather helped to found one of the first atheist and agnostic AA meetings, and helped countless alcoholics with their struggle to stay sober and grow spiritually. Listening to him talking on these recordings is such an enormous comfort to me. I honestly hadn’t been ready to listen to them until tonight. I needed to hear his voice so much, and I guess I’ve been saving these – stowing them away until the moment when it became most dire. Unless more recordings pop up, I only have a tiny cache of stories from him. I used to carry a handheld tape recorder with me on our travels, but I lost those little tapes in Hurricane Katrina, including the ones of him talking with Studs Terkel, which just breaks my heart. It’s so hard to know that you have such limited sources to be able to hear the voice of someone you love. It has made me weird about deleting voicemail messages from my favorite people, which I know is silly, but still. What my Grampa talks about in these two recordings is his journey and experience of coming to AA and getting sober – he talks about some of the same things in each, but also expands upon his story, and talks about his spiritual awakening, which is amazing to hear about. I know I’ll listen to these again and again – just to hear him, but also to absorb his wisdom. 1986 is the year my mother died, and it’s eerie to hear him talk about that – threads of life and deaths looping and crossing over and under. Through and around me. The year I found a recording of my mother’s voice on the radio was very powerful for me, too. The voice is the chimney of the heart. My friend Larkin told me that, and I think about it a lot.I want to share these bits of Charlie with you, with anyone that wants to listen. He was an exceedingly wise man, and the things here says here are profound, whether you have a drinking problem or not. I hope you will enjoy hearing him speak, regardless.

Happy 99th birthday altar for my beloved Grampa.
99th birthday altar for my beloved Grampa.

Memorial dim sum for Grampa Charlie
Memorial dim sum.

Today would have been my Grampa Charlie's 99th birthday... We always celebrated our birthdays together with a big family dim sum feast, so that's what we did today. I miss him so much.
We always used to celebrate our birthdays together with a big family dim sum feast…
It was so strange gathering this year without him.

R.I.P. Charles Lessing Polacheck
January 19th, 1914 – February 27th, 2012

My father set The funeral song from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline to music, and sang it at the memorial last year.
At some point I’d like to record his version of that and share it here as well, but for now, here are the powerful words:

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
    Nor the furious winter’s rages;
    Thou thy worldly task hast done,
    Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
    Golden lads and girls all must,
    As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
    Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
    Care no more to clothe and eat;
    To thee the reed is as the oak:
    The sceptre, learning, physic, must
    All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finish’d joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
    Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
 Nothing ill come near thee!
    Quiet consummation have;
    And renowned be thy grave!

GOODNIGHT, GRAMPA

CHARLES LESSING POLACHECK, R.I.P.

WAVES

3 comments

Ah, thinking of you and your grampa today. I know how hard anniversaries are. I love the recordings – thank you for sharing. I carry voicemails of my dad around with me in case of a spiritual emergency – it’s good to know I’m not alone in this. xo

by Sherry on February 27, 2013 at 10:27 am. #

I was at a Pete Seeger concert when I was about 13 and as we were waiting to get in Pete walked by and I called out: “Hey Pete, I’m Charlie Polacheck’s nephew”! He stopped and came over and I shook his hand and he called to his friends “Hey Joe, hey Mike, Charlie Polacheck’s nephew is over here”! When I told Uncle Charles this story he flashed one of his wise smiles and stroked his beard. My guess is he was thinking back on his days as one of the Detroit Weavers and some stage shared with Pete.

by Joshua Sheridan on February 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm. #

sweetest thing, i share your grief. so thankful that you shared this.

xx

by jls on March 14, 2013 at 12:56 am. #

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