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Ps & Qs: A weekend with my Uncle Chas

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They say, “if you’re lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough.”

My mother’s family, the Moores, are Irish. And that’s exactly how I feel about my uncle Charlie; if you’re lucky enough to know him, you’re lucky enough. He has always been there for me, (and countless others) and he continues to be someone I can rely on- even when I’m the one trying to help him.

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Last week, as I was driving to Denver to visit Chas, my car overheated at the top of Vail Pass. That little red exclamation point glared at me all the way down to the Frisco exit, where I “stopped safely” as the message on my dash commanded, and proceeded to look for a place that sold antifreeze. After walking a few blocks to Napa, I poured in the antifreeze, along with distilled water, eyeing a ratio of 1:1. Then I stepped back and bent down to look under the car, where I saw a small Niagara Falls running out of the engine. After 24 hours in Frisco, I was back on the road to see Uncle Charlie, who then loaned me his car to get home.

Forty years ago, when my mom moved to Denver, (divorced, with three young girls in tow) we stayed at Uncle Charlie’s house on Humboldt Street until she bought a house of our own nearby. Chas was on a river trip that summer, so we had the run of his house. I’m sure the kitchen saw more action that summer than in all the years before or since… I remember my sisters and I would sit in our respective bean bags, eating yoghurt push-ups and watching public television with my mom’s dog, Kumari.

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Kumari came from Nepal, where my mom was in the Peace Corps. She brought Kumari home on her lap on the plane, and twelve years later, there sat Kumari, in her own bean bag, blind, with two teeth left, snapping at anyone who got too close— unless they had a yoghurt push-up. Or, were Uncle Charlie.

Whenever I moved—in my twenties I probably averaged a move a year—Uncle Charlie would show up with a pickup truck and two strong backs, load up my meager belongings, and move me on to my next adventure. No questions asked. Charlie has at least one of everything, and usually more than one.

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From tools to furniture to antique golf carts; if you need anything, Uncle Charlie probably has one he’ll lend you. My first car, college furniture, bagpipers for my wedding… whatever I’ve needed over the years, he has helped me get. (By the way, a quality used dresser is one of the hardest pieces of furniture to find on this planet, yet Chas has them in spades, lining the walls of his storage. When it comes to used furniture, my uncle is, indeed, a wealthy man.) Recently he said to me, in regards to his seventy-some years of accumulated belongings, “I got all of this through no fault of my own.”

Chas has a unique relationship with fortune in the universe. His generosity is overwhelming and it seems to boomerang back to him tenfold. He is not pretentious at all, and he has the ability to connect with people from all walks of life. He also connects us with people from the past by harboring artefacts and retelling their history.

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Most of Charlie’s belongings have been saved and stored over the years because of their sentimental value, more than their actual value, and the stories behind them are often worth more than the items themselves. Like Aunt Ethel’s ring, and how she gave it to my grandmother because Gran accidentally left her favorite ring on the sink in an airplane restroom.

One of the seven children of Tom and Ruth Moore, Charlie grew up caroling in Denver in the winter and camping in Carbondale in the summer. He traveled abroad, drove across North America more than once, (in each direction) and ran most of the rivers in the west. Charlie has a life well lived. He’s been as lucky in life as any Irishman, and I’m forever grateful to have him for my uncle.

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