This is my 1000th post on this fine forum. I have been waiting, preparing for this landmark. I didn't want it to be a post about myself, but of course, it is.
This story is a true story about a friend of mine. Some of the things I will relate may shock certain sensibilities, so please proceed with caution. What was left could not be edited, for then it would not be true to the story, and I just couldn’t bear that.
He was born Charles Ross, but we called him Chuck, and he graduated from Napa High School in 1980. He was a figure larger than life, and larger than most other people around him. His profile was classic. Square jawed, cleft chin, piercing ice-blue eyes, often rimmed in red. And that prominent nose. You could balance a drink on that nose. It had been broken originally while wrestling in high school, and several times after that.
He chose a heroic occupation, and spent more than two years becoming certified to be a paramedic. He saved many lives, rushing to the scene in a riot of sound and color to where he had been called, where he was needed.
He played heroically. He enjoyed pushing lead and cardboard, tactical and strategic boardgaming, and role playing games, before they were referred to as “RPG’s”. He had the most amazing luck. If he needed a pair of sixes on the dice, he would be sure to get them. You could count on it. Check the dice-they were not loaded. He claimed to visualize the numbers that he needed, and then just rolled them, citing quantum physical notions of determination. He didn’t just believe in the Gambler’s Fallacy, he was that ideal.
He loved Jethro Tull. On any night you could here the mad flautist Ian Anderson and his boys’ rendition of Hunting Girl or Warchild. Often, when he was beating you at some beer and pretzels game, he would be singing along, a little off-key.
But Chuck-luck didn’t always shine through for him. Occasionally, he would have an off night. Someone else might be winning a game of Star Fleet or Talisman and his response would be “Am I dead yet?” or “Did I quit yet?” followed by “But did I tell you that I quit yet?” Often, after this, he would have an amazing run of dice rolling again and win the game anyway.
And he wasn’t perfect by any means. Though Caucasian, he married a pretty woman of African American descent by the name of Kat. He loved to taunt her with subtle racial slurs. One night, when she was gaming with us, and winning (she would often be able to counter his legendary luck, as with all wives of great gamers), his response to her was a shocking “And I let you sleep in the big house with Whitey!” She beat him nearly senseless, as we all, locked in helpless hysterics, looked on powerless, and without a will, to stop her. Another night in a fit of rage he sent a pair of hemostats flying inches from the head of another friend, causing a permanent spectacle shaped indent in the surface of the wall. He loved to quip and comment in a wonderful gallows humor (partially derived from his job) with phrases such as “Look, it’s Freddy ‘I’m Dead Too’ Mercury!”
But all good things, and people, must come to an end.
We didn’t know much about AIDS in the eighties, the research was still being done. It was a scary time for us all. No one knew quite how it spread, and it takes such a long time to show up. The first indication was when he changed jobs, and was unemployed for a long period of time. He claimed then that he couldn’t pass urinalysis due to his frequent Marijuana use. Then this huge barrel of a man began to lose weight. He told us he was going to the doctor to find out what was wrong. Then he told us that he had Cancer.
In the end, we had found out what had done him in, and he couldn’t get another job because he was HIV positive. He said he could almost remember the patient that had probably passed it on to him. An intravenous drug user, he had gone into cardiac arrest. Chuck had no problem with getting in there with his own hands and massaging the heart, saving his patient’s life, and damning himself. He had, of course gone on for years without symptoms, but they came on full-force in the end.
The last time I saw him, we had all gathered in his small apartment that he lived in by himself, having divorce Kat to save her from the cost of terminal medical care. The only game we could play with him at the time was Express because the cards, and the graphics on them, were large enough that he could make them out with his failing vision. We were watching MST 3K on television, but he couldn’t enjoy it with us. You might appreciate that you need to see the bad movie to enjoy the humor. It was torture for him.
He died in a hospice, and his only solace in the end was marijuana. He asked to be cremated in his Golden Triangle tee shirt, and his remains were put into his favorite backgammon set, which he had always used for cleaning pot.
At his wake, we played an old favorite of his Warlord, and set six dice for him to use at his empty chair, with a joint from each of us. When no one was looking, I placed all of the dice with the sixes facing up. And I had to be the first to say it, because he would want me to: “I guess he’s Chuck ‘I’m Dead Too’ Ross now!”
He now floats around the Solar System in my board game Gravity Well Payoff! which has not yet been published. He is one rude passenger card. He is also the basis for a character in the short story I am working on. I am determined that he will live by transferring his essence to the common consciousness.
We all miss you Chuck, but you live on in each of us.
[ September 01, 2003, 10:02 PM: Message edited by: Erik Slaine ]
Posts: 1843 | Registered: Aug 2003
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Thanks for sharing that, Erik. He was seen off as he had lived, a fitting and wondrous tribute. There's always a tough time as someone goes from living legend to the realm of legend itself. He lived well and will be remembered better thanks to you and yours.
Posts: 2848 | Registered: Feb 2003
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Thanks for sharing that, Erik. Great story. Your friend was a true hero.
I am guessing all this happened before there were tests for HIV exposure, and medicines to suppress the virus. HIV is still scary, and HIV exposures are still a risk for healthcare workers of all types. But at least now healthcare workers who have such exposures are tested over a period of time and given the opportunity to take prophylactic meds, if they so desire. It doesn't negate the risk, but it makes it a little less scary.
Sopwith-thanks for the feedback. He was legendary, and so the story didn't even need exaggeration. Still, it's the little things, and that's why I'm still working on his character development. Thanks Again!
Ela-It's easy for us to forget the plight of the HIV positive. The disease is still rampant, and I hope that this is a reminder to others. When Chuck contracted the disease, the health care community wasn't thinking much about the blood that might be transferred through a cut on your hands. And when Chuck died, the life expectancy of those with full-blown AIDS was not as long as today. Still... it sapped his strength, and robbed that huge person of his will to continue--and that was the true tragedy! Thank you.
Posts: 1843 | Registered: Aug 2003
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