This is a photo of Charles William Slaughter taken at his birthday party a couple of nights ago. He’s the tall one, and he turned 0! Charles is our adopted grandpa. Over the last five years, he became a fixture for ice-cream outings, gardening projects, porch sitting, cartoon binge-watching, and Christmas mornings.
Last night we celebrated this surprising gift-of-a-man. “We,” being three families with 11 folks ranging in age from 83 to 4 with a few slap bang in the middle. Our families were brought together by Charles’ homing device for love.
I say this because Charles could be a lonely, old man. Charles married briefly (three. short. months), has no children, and few of his blood relatives are close enough for frequent visits. He lives solo in a small apartment perched on a high asphalt hill. While the view is great for sunsets and 4th of July fireworks, the location limits the possibility of running into a neighbor on the sidewalk for a warm southern, “Hi y’all.” Also at 80 he’s less mobile, though he still drives a small pick up truck very slowly around town.
Nonetheless, Charles is living proof that love is thicker than blood. Without an immediate family of his own, Charles went searching for love and support. For isn’t it love that binds? Blood does too, of course, but it is love in verb form that glues people together. I’m talking about the continued effort to think of another person, reach for them, care for them, and try to understand them even when understanding feels beyond grasp. The true power of love manifests when people choose each other over and over again.
That’s what our adopted grandpa had done for my family. He keeps choosing us. In return, we choose him. Families don’t need to be crafted from a cookie cutter to work. So, please be a Charles. If you’re in need of love or support, get into your pick up truck and go find it. Your people are out there. They exist. Love exists. And once you find those people, hold them tight my dear friends. For life is short even when it’s 80-years long.
Happy birthday, Charles!
~Robynne Boyd, Goodgrief App Co-founder