OPINION: Uncle Charlie was Hallmark, Santa Claus all in one

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”
– Desmond Tutu

I had not seen my Uncle Charlie in a long time. Too long.
Every year without fail I’d receive birthday and Christmas cards from him in which he’d written a sweet, personal note. I was not the only recipient of such greetings – my parents, my sister and my niece all got cards from Charlie on special occasions.
It was a tradition he continued after his wife, my aunt died more than a decade ago.
When my dad called my desk Wednesday morning to tell me Charlie had died, it hit hard. And immediately came the regrets about not visiting more often.
He didn’t live that far away. He called Holcomb home and it’s just down the road a piece from my hometown of Grenada. So, distance is no excuse.
He married my Aunt Roma when she was a teenager. It was a marriage that lasted more than 50 years. He became a part of my mama’s life when she was so young, he was more like a brother to her than a brother-in-law.
He was one of my favorite folks, my uncle.

Sincere and special
For as far back as my memory will allow me to recollect, my uncle always told me I was beautiful.
Of course, from a little girl to an adult woman, my reaction was the same. I’d roll my eyes and give him that look that would translate today into, “whatever.”
He was always a big kidder, but I also knew he spoke from his heart and his words were sincere.
My dad’s three brothers adored me when I was a little girl, but they pretty much lost interest when they married and had kids of their own.
Not so, Uncle Charlie. The father of two sons, he doted on my sister and me always. Even when he became grandfather to six, including four granddaughters.
It’s because of Uncle Charlie I still believe in Santa Claus.
For much of my adult life, Charlie has had a beard. And he’s always put lots of folks in mind of Kenny Rogers.
But for many years as December neared, he became Santa. He was Santa for churches, businesses, clubs and civic organizations.
Every penny offered for his Santa services went to the Shriners to be used in their Crippled Children’s Hospitals.
No one asked him to do it. He just did. Because that’s the sort of man he was.
He was one of the good guys.
And he will be missed.

Contact Leslie Criss at leslie.criss@djournal.com or (662) 678-1584.

Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal

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