It was a long time before I called him Charles.  For years he was Dr. Reichel... Pastor Reichel... Cara's father.  Early on in our acquaintance, I was terrified of him.  He had a very grave manner, an imposing presence, and a booming voice.  And here I was, this 22 year old kid who had dared to move to New York City with his daughter... living in sin, with the preacher's daughter!  What would he say to me?  What would he do to me?

Well what he did was welcome me into his home for Christmas.  And he continued to do so, year after year for the next eight years, treating me with kindness and love, as if I were already a part of his family—which I still wasn't.  I can only imagine what he must have thought of the situation.  But not once during all those years was I pulled aside and given a stern lecture, which would have been well within his rights!  At last there came a certain Christmas at the Reichels when Cara unwrapped a special present from me:  an engagement ring.  For Cara and me it may not have changed that much in our relationship; we'd known for years that we were committed to each other.  But after that, I felt like I could finally call her father Charles.

He gave the sermon at our wedding, and I'd be hard-pressed to tell you most of what he said.  Not just because Charles's oratorical style tended to make one's head spin—which it often did—but also because that whole day was a blur to me.  I do remember at one point he stopped and played a recording of a song of mine for the congregation—a rather silly song about dreams being like dishes that get dirty and have to cleaned again and again. From that far-fetched metaphor of mine, he drew a lesson about marriage and about the work it requires to keep it fresh.  I'm grateful he was there for our wedding.  I only wish he could have been around for a few more of our milestones.  Especially, I wish he could have seen Cara and I get a show to Broadway.  I know he had faith in us, maybe more than we have in ourselves.  

This most recent Christmas he caught a mouse.  Charles was not a man to use snap traps or glue traps.  Those were inhumane.  Instead, he used a homemade setup with bait at the end of a ruler that tipped into a bucket, leaving you with a live mouse that could then be released into the wild.  So after catching a mouse in this manner, he invited me along for the "release" phase of the operation.  This involved getting in the car and driving to a sufficiently remote location to ensure the visitor would not return.  I was the driver, while he took charge of the bucket.  We went a mile or so down the road and pulled up in front of a house.  Charles explained that the house was unoccupied, but there was a nice stump in the front yard where he'd been releasing all the mice he caught because it looked like a cozy kind of home.  So he liberated our prisoner and had just gotten back in the car when the front door of the house opened and a man came out.  

Oops—the house wasn't unoccupied after all!  I was at the wheel of the car, and I looked to Charles to see what he wanted me to do:  should we try to make a getaway?  No, he was already getting out of the car and going over to talk to the man.  I watched from the safety of the car as he greeted his new neighbor and endeavored to explain the unusual house-warming gift.  After a few minutes they parted with smiles and a handshake.  I thought about how if I were on my own in that situation I would probably have fled the scene, but that wasn't Charles's way.  Everything about the episode seemed characteristic of the man I had come to know by then... the mercy shown the mouse, the well-meaning but misguided plan, and the simple forthrightness in dealing with his neighbor.  I will miss those qualities.  Christmas won't be the same.  But I see so much of him in Cara, and that's some consolation.  

Rest In Peace, Charles.