Going Home

Delta Moon under the elm
(Photo by Connie Whitehead)

I came home from the hospital Sunday with a clean bill of health – except for a stapled incision and a hole in my belly you could drop an egg into. When I underwent emergency surgery last fall I didn’t want to upset people by using the “C” word –but that is what it was. Now a CAT scan shows all clear. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, I’ve been put back together again and should be good for a few more decades of running around this earth.

In chemotherapy I met a lot of interesting people, some who whined and complained and some who bore their troubles with dignity and grace. It’s not fair to judge anyone there, but my role models were the stoic old black men. They knew how to do adversity. I even started dressing like them, wearing checked cotton shirts over overalls. We used to talk about collards and tomatoes and plums until someone would walk in, scoop up the remote, and end all conversation by switching on “The View.”

The joy of reaching the end of my cancer adventure is tempered by the hard knowledge that my friend Charles Wolff has also finished his. Charles and I have played together in I don’t know how many bands, starting with The Brains. He played drums on the original recording of “Money Changes Everything.” He played on Delta Moon’s first album. And he was the only other person I’ve ever known who could pronounce “Mxyzptlk” (Action Comics, circa fourth grade).

Charles entered a hospice the day before I went into the hospital. He’d been there once before, when the pain got too much for the drugs he could get from doctors on the outside. Week before last, when I went up to North Carolina to visit him on his small farm, with his goats and turkeys outside, his wife Nance’s paintings on the wall, and lighting fixtures made from old tubas and French horns hanging from the ceiling, I asked about the hospice.

“It’s like a four-star hotel,” Charles said. “But it’s not your home. It’s not anybody’s home.”

Charles has gone home now. He died one day before I was discharged.

There is no reason why it should have been him and not me. You can’t make sense of a thing like that. All I can do is to adopt a new role model and try to incorporate into whatever time I have left some of the generosity, humor and nobility that Charles manifested every day of his life.

Mark Johnson said, “I can’t think of Charles without smiling.”

Who could want a better epitaph than that?

14 replies
  1. HMarty
    HMarty says:

    Tom, WOW, great blog! Glad to hear that things are looking up. Sorry to hear about the loss of your friend Charles but happy to know he is free from his cancer. I will add you to my ever growing prayer list for continued healing! Keep the faith, keep up the fight and keep up the music!

  2. Chris Haun
    Chris Haun says:

    Beautifully articulated. Charles was my friend as well, a fine, fine man. We should all live our lives with integrity such as his.

    Congratulations on your clear CAT Scan. Such times bring home just how beautiful our lives really are.
    Thank you

  3. Cathy
    Cathy says:

    Beautiful and thoughtfully written blog. So glad to hear you’re doing well, but how sad in many ways about your friend. I trust you will rest and continue to heal.

  4. Jonny Hibbert
    Jonny Hibbert says:

    Thank you, Tom. Thanks for intoning many of our feelings along with yours. We’ll miss Charles for as long as our brainwaves keep chugging along. I am glad that you are on the mend. Saddened with you over Charles’ early departure. I’ll be listening out for you. JWH

  5. Frank French
    Frank French says:

    thanks Tom: Beautiful thoughts & words. I’m glad you are better & sad that Charles has passed. But I look forward to a better time, and great music over there. peace, as always, and all good wishes, hopes & prayers…Frank

  6. Don Cole
    Don Cole says:

    Tom, I have never had a chance to meet you or Charles, but when I started using FB, Darryl Rhoades was one of the first people I sent a friend request. After checking his friend list I found Charles first and then you. I got o chat with Charles over the last few months nd we talked about our bands ( my band is Hellhound Trail by the way). Anyway, he knew I was a huge Brains fan ( I even have the original 45 pressing of Money Changes Everything ). I am deeply sad about Charles. Its hard to lose loved ones you have known all your life but its equally hard to lose a new friend you just found. I feel cheated that I never met him a few years back so I could go hear his band and visit with him. The only happiness I find from this situation right now is the fact that Charles is home and no longer in pain. Hopefully one day I will finally have the chance to meet him in person

  7. Sean Bourne
    Sean Bourne says:

    Thanks Tom. Glad you are okay.

    “There is no reason why it should have been him and not me. You can’t make sense of a thing like that.”

    It shouldn’t have been anyone, but Charles is going home where we will all be called back to one day. A great guy.

  8. Joanne Conklin
    Joanne Conklin says:

    I’m very glad to know that you are doing well and sorry for the loss of your friend. People have such strong impacts on our lives, and your friend was a positive in your life. I was so glad to hear your music in Kitchener. It makes me smile. I allowed myself a day to relax before heading to my hometown of Kingston to say a final goodbye to my father who died on August 15th.

    May the music of Delta Moon play for many years to come.

  9. Rose Whipperr
    Rose Whipperr says:

    So sickly sorry to hear of losing charles too soon; yet so thrilled you beat the monster!

    All love and respect for you, as always.

    Hugs, Tom….((Tom))

    Rose Whipperr (on FB)

  10. john michalak
    john michalak says:

    Thanks for your thoughts ,its good to remind ourselves of what is important in life instead of the foolish things we have to deal with on a daily basis,….love what you do! expect to see you playing out like so many of the blues greats well into you 80’s and 90’s!

  11. Anna Maria
    Anna Maria says:

    Thank you for letting your “follower fans” know what was wrong. This must have been difficult to share. You move us to tears and we lift you up in warm thoughts for continued strength.

  12. Chris Noftz
    Chris Noftz says:

    Fantastic news, Tom. Very happy about your clean bill of health. Sorry about your buddy.

    I took my mom to her chemo treatments for years and the depressing faces and muffled whining could get pretty heavy. My mom, however, never complained, never frowned. She laughed, she talked to everyone around her (she most assuredly drove some of those patients nuts), she entertained the nurses with her constant chatter and colorful clothing. She was, in some folks’ view, crazy as hell. But I know that her love of life and of people gave her 8 years after she was told she had 6 months to live.


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