When my son, Charlie, signed up to serve at a high school recruitment event in 2007, I had so many mixed emotions. I felt proud and happy but also scared and worried. This history is of my memories about his life. When reflecting back over the years, there have been so many happy times, and I am always proud of him. But then again, quoting from a Townes Van Zandt song “… to live is to fly, both low and high …”
Charles Wyatt Moore, my youngest son—third of four children—was born in Nashville, TN, on July 18, 1988. By the time Charlie was born, I was much more relaxed as a mother and had the best time with him as a baby. When he learned to talk, he was always full of questions about everything. He was so curious and playful. He had a little ukulele, and he would bang on it and make up funny songs. He was always friendly with everyone, and I had to warn him many times about talking to strangers. He used to tell people he was going to be Garth Brooks when he grew up; that was a pretty cute thing to say. Once we went to an outdoor concert at the town courthouse. I think he was about four or five years old, and he actually started break-dancing! He was on the ground twirling around on his back and hopping up with some cool moves. I didn’t even know he knew how to do this. I guess he saw someone else in the crowd and began imitating them. Before long there was a group of spectators circling around him and cheering him on. I could tell he liked the attention as he ran around high-fiving everyone.
I began homeschooling my children when Luke and Rachel, the two oldest, started first grade. My youngest child, Carly, was still a baby. We all had a lot of learning adventures! Alphabet recipes were a favorite activity…A for applesauce, B for biscuits, etc. Charlie also loved food and would ask me every night when I tucked him in bed what we were going to eat the next day. I think those homeschooling years were our best years. I loved watching the children learn and learning myself about ways to teach them new things, too. But after a couple of years I had to help out with our family’s income and take a waitress job. At the same time, I also started college part-time. So that was the end of homeschooling and the beginning of public school. Charlie’s dad, Ray, worked as a self-employed barber and would sometimes take the boys to work so they could make a little pocket money shoe-shining. I don’t think they ever mastered this skill, but customers thought they were cute and would leave them tips.
Life was good, these memories were high, but then there were the lows. Ray was raised by an alcoholic father and as I have come to learn, this is a hereditary disease in the Moore family. I became an enabler and tried to hide the sickness from my children. My stepson, Donovan, came to live with us after he completed his time in the Marines. He was much older than my children, and he liked drinking with his dad. This went on for a while, but eventually things got out of hand, and our family broke up when Charlie was in the first grade. Since all this happened in the middle of the school year, my parents took Charlie and Carly to live with them in Virginia. My mom was an elementary school teacher so they finished out the school year at their grandma’s school. I stayed in Tennessee with Luke and Rachel and tried to reestablish myself as a single parent. I missed having us all together, but I was busy with college classes and waiting tables at a Nashville brewery. The kids had to have a babysitter at night and I wasn’t able to read bedtime stories any more. It was exhausting for me, and I’m sure it was traumatic for them. When our divorce was settled, a joint custody arrangement was made so that Luke and Rachel would live with their dad, Charlie and Carly would live with me, and every other weekend each parent would take turns with all four. Sometimes we still did things all together as a family.
When I finally graduated from college with a teaching degree, I had remarried and was reunited with all four children. Ray wanted to move to Texas to be near his parents. Charlie had a new step-father, and I was still working all the time. Most of the time my work hours were the same as the children’s school hours. I spent late nights grading papers and lesson planning after fixing supper and helping everyone with their homework. On weekends and during the summer, I kept my waitress job. I don’t know how I survived, just living on auto-pilot all the time, and regretfully not always giving my children enough attention. They were older and didn’t need babysitting anymore, but I think the bond with their step-father never quite developed, and there were a lot of fights. Several times they flew to Texas and once took a Greyhound to see their father. They had a stewardess as their travel chaperone on airplanes and when traveling by bus Charlie’s older brother and sister were in charge. It was very nerve-wracking to send them off like that.
By this time, I was a junior high language arts teacher and since we lived in a rural area outside Nashville, the school was small and I taught all the seventh and eighth graders. During this time, Charlie was one of my students. He couldn’t get away with anything, and sometimes the other boys would try to get a reaction out of him so I would have to call him out. Generally, Charlie was very mild-mannered, but one day he had had enough. First I noticed Charlie had an angry look on his face, then I saw the boy behind Charlie tapping his ear with a pencil. Next thing, both boys were out of their seats, face-to-face and Charlie was saying, “I dare you to do that again!” I had to intervene and send both my son and the other boy to the office with a behavior slip. I knew it wasn't his fault, but I couldn't treat him any differently than other students. I’m sure he felt humiliated, and it broke my heart.
In high school Charlie played defense for the East Robertson Indians football team. I felt so proud to cheer for him from the stands, but even though I knew he was tough, I was afraid he would be hurt. Around Christmas time during his freshman year, things fell apart in my second marriage. I knew their home environment was not what I wanted for my children. Luke was newly married and living in Arkansas, and Rachel was beginning college and had moved out on her own. While Charlie and Carly were in Texas to visit for the holidays, I called Ray with a heavy heart to see if he wanted keep them for the rest of that school year. My plan was to finish the teaching year, and then move to Texas too so we could all live closer together and make co-parenting easier. Charlie had just gotten his football letter jacket and had a girlfriend. I knew it was hard on him to leave his Tennessee friends behind. Once he started at his new school in Texas, he made the football team again, this time playing for the Grand Saline Indians.
That summer, I was ready to leave Tennessee but hated to leave Rachel. Ray had a loft apartment above the barbershop, and I was going to stay there until I became reestablished. I was even thinking of living halfway between Arkansas and Texas. Luke and his wife had just become young parents, and I wanted to be near them and my new grandson. Then I got a job teaching at a middle school in Texas, and before long our family was reunited. I married Ray again and our family had a fresh start. There were track meets with Carly and Friday nights at football games cheering for Charlie. It was good to know that Charlie and Carly had made the transition smoothly and everything was beginning to feel normal again. Still, looking back on those days, life really was like a roller coaster. Knowing what I know now, and the way things were then, I could have made so many better choices.
At this point in the memories I am going to include Charlie and his thoughts as we reflect together on his service time.