Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chapter Eighteen
The Death Of Chuck The Drunk

"This poor man cried, and the Lord
heard him and saved him out of all
of his troubles."

You've been getting bits and pieces about my Charlie, and I know you must think he's a fantastic guy. Well, you're right. But it wasn't always so. In fact, just before I met Charlie Tuck, he was at the bottom.

It started way back in the hills of West Virginia where Charlie was born. A place called Snake Island. The only way you could get to it was by walking over a railroad track. No paved highways in this holler.

Charlie was a coal miner's son. Charlie Sr. would work all week in the mines and come up for air and fighting on the weekends. He didn't figure he had a good time on Saturday night unless he came home with a torn shirt and a black eye.
That was life in a coal mining town.

Chuck, as he was then known, was going to do better than his pa. He would make something of himself.

The drinking and the brawling got worse as Chuck got older. Finally one night his pa, in a drunken rage, went looking for a butcher knife. He said he was going to kill them all. Chuck went to the kitchen, gathered all the knives he could find, and hid them. Chuck's last memory of his pa was that of the police wrestling with him to handcuff and put him in a police car.

From that time on, the lanky teenager worked to help his mother and younger sisters. First, it was bagging groceries then working in a drugstore with a local pharmacist. He began to dream about having a drugstore of his own.

Fresh out of high school, carrying his belongings in a Kroger sack, Chuck boarded a bus for basic training with the Air Force. He had plans for his future and the coal mines of West Virginia were the farthest thing from his mind. In high school Chuck had excelled academically and musically. A music scholarship from the University of West Virginia would have to wait until he did his stint in the Air Force.

A model teenager, his mother never suspected that her boy was drinking on the sly. At sixteen he began to get a taste of liquid lightning, and he liked it. The crowd he traveled with in the Air Force introduced the country boy to more sophisticated fare. Soon he could drink with the best of them.

Selected for Aviation Cadet Training, Chuck was reaching his dream. Confident he would pass, he ordered a brand new Ford. Wait till the folks saw him back in Rainelle, West Virginia. Charlie's boy had made it! No coal mining for him. But Chuck bombed out. The bottle was the answer. He got smashed.

By the time he got out of the Air Force, he had married. He and his wife had their first child, a girl. Moving back to West Virginia, he attended the University majoring in pharmacy. If he couldn't be a navigator, he would settle for owning a string of pharmacies.

After two and a half years, he had to quit school. There was no way he could make it with a wife and two children. Something had to give. Another dream gone bust, and the drinking got worse. But now he had a drinking partner....his wife.
Leaving school, they moved back to California where he had been stationed in Sacramento, and Chuck got a job as a civil service employee at McClellan Air Force Base.

The kids kept coming; five in all. The pressures grew greater. Between Chuck and his wife, they were spending every spare dime on booze. Things were closing in on him.

Their marriage was on the rocks, and the inevitable happened. Since Chuck had not been hospitalized for his addiction, he was able to gain custody of the four younger children. His wife's drinking had been documented in a succession of alcohol treatment centers. What a great choice for four innocent kids; life with an alcoholic mother or with a father who was a drunk.

Things were looking bleak for the whole family. Stripped of his dreams, Chuck managed to find solace in the bottle. He was drinking a fifth of whiskey and a six pack of beer a day. At work he managed to keep booze in his drawer and sip it all day through a piece of plastic tubing. On the weekends he did his serious drinking.
A fellow worker watched Chuck every day. He was careful not to be too pushy, but he was praying.

Rudy Ekkleboom was not only an active member in his church, but more importantly, a Christian who lived his faith on the job. A devoted father of four, Rudy was grieved to see this family suffering because of Chuck's drinking. He and his wife Marlene kept praying for this co-worker who seemed to be going downhill fast.
As Rudy worked on his gyro that fateful Friday, it looked like the axe had fallen for good on Chuck. Glancing across the room, he noticed two of the shop's bosses and the union steward walking over to Chuck's desk.

"We know you're having family problems, Chuck", admonished his boss, "but we just can't put up with your drinking on the job any longer. We're going to give you one more chance."

Rudy tried not to stare at the scene that was playing before him and the other gyro workers. "Oh Lord," he prayed. "Help me to reach this man."

Cleaning out his desk, preparing to move into another work area, Chuck felt humiliated. "They have their nerve," he thought. He threw his tools into a box. "Who cares anyway?"

Planning how he was going to get good and drunk when he got home that night, his thoughts were interrupted as Rudy came by. "Chuck, I couldn't help but hear what the boss was telling you," he said gently. "Here's my number. If you ever need someone to talk to, just give me a call." Hesitating to say anything else, Rudy went back to his work bench.

On his way home, Chuck stopped by the bottle shop and got his usual evening drinking supply. "I'll show them," he thought defiantly. "Embarrassing me like that."
Placing the booze on his kitchen counter, Chuck reached in his shirt pocket for a cigarette. Instead, he pulled out Rudy's number. "I think I'll just give old Rudy a call and cry on his shoulder for awhile," he thought. If he was looking for sympathy, he was calling the wrong person.

Rudy, with a boldness that was unusual for him, confronted Chuck with his need for Christ. "Yeah, sure, Rudy," he responded evasively. "One of these days I'm going to go to church and get saved."

"You don't need to wait until Sunday, Chuck. You can get saved right in your own living room."

Sensing that the Lord was dealing with Chuck, Rudy pulled hard on that gospel fishing line. "Chuck, are you where you can get down on your knees?"

"How about us both getting down on our knees, then you can ask the Lord to come into your heart right now?"

There in a dumpy little house on Liberty Street, in Sacramento, Chuck the drunk died. A new man got up off his knees on that April 26th day in 1972.
As Charlie tells it, "I didn't hear bells or anything like that, but I knew at once I was saved!"

Going to the kitchen counter, Charlie broke the seal on his whiskey bottle and poured it down the drain. He did the same with his six pack of beer. From that day to this, he has never touched another drop of alcohol.

The following Sunday, Charlie and his children came to our church. The folks at Carmichael Bible Church had responded to Rudy's request to pray for this alcoholic. When Rudy had shared his prayer request for Charlie, I remember thinking, "Poor guy; all those kids and no wife." Consequently, I prayed in earnest for him, never once dreaming that God was putting something together for me personally!

Today I can say, from the bottom of my heart that God has saved the best for the last! Living with Charlie Tuck has met every need I ever had as a woman. He has been everything that I could have ordered and more.

I'm glad Chuck the drunk died. This new man, Charlie Tuck, is living proof of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I always say when I tell people about my Charlie, "There's nothing better than a converted drunk!"

Prayer for Today

Dear Lord,
How could I ever doubt your goodness? When I think of all the ways in which you bless me, I am truly in awe. Thank you, Lord, for precious husband, my children, my friends and my health. Your blessings are without number, Lord. When I had little faith, your faithfulness prevailed. When I was without hope, you showed yourself as the God of all hope. Let me live this entire day, Lord, in an attitude of thankfulness.

In Jesus name,