Lives Unlived - Charles Foster "Charlie" Brown
Philosopher, raconteur, teacher, bon vivant, neurosurgeon. Born, January 12, 1950 in the imagination of Charles Schultz. Died, December 23, 2000, aged 50, but lives forever in syndication.
Some people you can't get out of your life fast enough. Some people leave us too soon. When I was growing up, all of my friends and family thought that Charles Foster Brown, whom I knew as "Charlie," was one of the former. But, I had faith in him, and my faith was rewarded, as he became one of the latter.
I recall the lazy summer days when my sister, Lucille van Pelt Wilson von Richter Haig al Halachmi Rosenberg used to hold a football for Charlie to kick. Long after it became clear that she would pull it away just as he got there, Charlie would continue to play along, continue to try to kick the football. What inside him bade him to continue to act in the face of such repeated, inevitable failure? Even now, I cannot say.
But, this drive - whatever it was - caused him to persevere through the brutal days and nights of medical school, and to eventually realize his lifelong dream of becoming a neurosurgeon, a "brain doctor," as he would have it. In this capacity, he saved many lives, not only of patients on the table in front of him, but because of the new suturing techniques he developed after years of practice.
His deeds have been well documented in medical journals, so I won't rehearse them here.
More impressive than his public exploits, however, was his private life. After decades of frustration, Charlie finally wooed and married his childhood sweetheart, the little red haired girl. He was always loving and attentive to her, and was, by all accounts, a doting father to their seven children.
"I want them to get the love that I never had," he used to say, referring to his own parents who, to be charitable, were distant. Yet, he bore no resentment towards his parents; the worst he would ever say about them was that they lived in an age before parenting books and classes, and that they did their best.
Charlie was also a good, good friend. I remember, when our mutual friend Schroeder got his fingers crushed in a bizarre piano lid accident that he refused to talk about, Charlie visited him daily, encouraging him in this therapy. When it became apparent that Schroeder's career as an internationally renowned concert pianist was over, Charlie was always there with advice on alternate career possibilities, as well as encouraging him to go to schools to give lectures on the dangers of improper musical instrument maintenance. Schroeder, under pressures we can only imagine, eventually hung himself with a guitar string; but there was good old Charlie Brown to give a beautiful eulogy at his funeral.
Charlie was also very helpful to me personally when I went through my...difficulties with alcohol.
Charlie felt compassion for all living things, animals no less than human beings, with his dog Snoopy taking pride of place. As he got older, it became more and more clear that Snoopy was losing touch with reality; he became increasingly consumed with a fantasy that he was a World War One flying ace. At this point, most people would have had their pet put down. But, Charlie felt closer to Snoopy than he would any mere pet, and he organized the other people in the neighbourhood to pretend that it was a WWI war zone. When Snoopy finally died - of natural causes - the whole neighbourhood mourned.
As he got older, Charlie seemed to grow into himself, becoming increasingly happy. He used to tell stories of our childhood that would have everybody rolling in the aisles with laughter. He had clearly made peace with himself and his creator. Many of Charlie's stories would end with the question, "What's so good about grief?" Wherever he may be now, I cannot help but feel that Charlie would be looking at us with a twinkle in his eye and a big grin, preparing to reduce us all to happy tears with another story from his childhood and banish our grief.
Charlie Brown was loved and will be missed.
Reverend Linus van Pelt
The Right Reverend Linus van Pelt, pastor of The Church of the Great Pumpkin Revealed, was a childhood friend of Charles Foster Brown.
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