The Charlie Bravo Story


Dad here; Sunday morning at the Casa. Mom bought new sheets for the kingsize yesterday, and as always, the inmates assumed the purchase was for their exclusive benefit.

I’ll be heading back west soon, but this time solo, as it’s going to be an arduous journey. I’ve been asked to carry Marty’s ashes to somewhere high in the Rockies, and the passes are still socked in with snow, but they should be clearing a bit by the first of July.

I remember my very first trip to Gateway, CO years ago. My mind was twisted into a Gordian knot over all things career and church related, but Gateway’s soaring red rock cliffs and deep ravines have the unique ability to drive such thoughts from one’s mind. As a matter of fact, this is the spot where I wrote my very first words written just for the sake of writing words. I pulled off of the road and tapped this into the old S7 Active: “Gateway is a fortress so impregnable that even negative thoughts can’t enter”.

If you have questions, Gateway has answers.

But life can go pear shaped in an instant. Shortly afterwards, I was continuing south towards Naturita when I came face to face with my own mortality. Blind curve, cliff rising on my left, chasm to my right, small red subcompact heading north in the left lane, pick up truck pulling a raggedy-ass trailer also heading north.

In my lane.

No good choices here. If I dodge left, I encounter the little red car. If I hold my line, I hit the truck. If I veer towards the right, I plunge like a mechanized Wile E Coyote to the canyon floor far below. Braking was not an option, so I took the only one that was still available: that four inch wide painted strip down the right side of the road, known as the fog line. All the chips were on the table, and the dice were still in motion…

At the last microsecond, the truck whipped back over into his lane, so close that I swear that I felt the corner of his trailer clip my left boot as I shot the gap. Then, just as quickly, I was as alone on the highway as if it had never happened. But I know that it did, because the shock of the event had caused me to micro-yark inside of my own helmet. This is a vastly overrated experience, and I do not recommend it to others.

I have been through Gateway many times since then, but one thing has always puzzled me: no matter how hard I have tried, I could never remember the exact spot where all of this occurred. It wasn’t until my last pass though there with Charlie a few months ago that I came around a corner and it all snapped into focus; this was the spot. But why had it taken five years for me to remember it?

My last sentence as a inmate of corporate America, since commuted to time served, was “unpleasant” to say the least. In this case, no matter how hard I try, I cannot remember my boss’s last name. This used to bother me, as I thought that it might be a sign of advancing dementia or memory loss, but my last visit to Gateway taught me a lesson: some memories are not to be remembered until we are ready to deal with them, if ever. They’re shut out of our minds for a reason, and attempting to dredge them up and wallow in that long ago hurt is at the best counterproductive, and at the worst, eventually fatal.

From the old goat woman in “Cold Mountain”:

“That’s just pain she said. It goes eventually. And when it’s gone, there’s no lasting memory. Not the worst of it anyway. It fades. Our minds aren’t made to hold on to the particulars of pain the way we do bliss. It’s a gift God gives us, a sign of His care for us.

Besides, when you get to be my age, remembering pleasures long ago is painful enough”

We be of one blood, ye and I.

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