If We Were Having Coffee #2

“Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it.” – Sai Baba

Because I don’t know what else to do in this moment.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how in awe I was of you the first time you came home from Vietnam. I was so young then and didn’t fully understand why you were gone but I remember your crisp uniform and the foreign coins you handed me. You were still in your teens yet had aged.

If we were having coffee, I would thank you for being there for me and my brother when my parents divorced. You filled a void that made a cruel situation bearable. I remember playing in the front yard only to be interrupted by the sound of engines and chains clanging as you and your friend rode down our street to deliver the go-cart and minibike you had bought us, your boyish giggling to my mother’s protests that we were too young. The weekly Rat Patrol adventures in your Mustang, the rides in your patrol car, the constant showering of presents, the groceries to help my mom out… you were always there for us.

Years later, you got the bar and gave me my first steady job. I was only thirteen and had to walk up to the highway and hitchhike there each morning. A miner and customer of yours always stopped to pick me up, one day telling me to skip the long walk up to the highway and he would just pick me up at the end of my street. In addition to my weekly pay, you told me I could have free soda, a bar sandwich, a pack of smokes occasionally, and play as much pool as I wanted.  All I had to do was show up and get my job done cleaning up so the bar would be ready each day before you opened. I started missing an occasional day or two each week and after plenty of warnings, you had to let me go. I was so ashamed that I had let you down.  My first steady job and I was fired by my own uncle.  I’ve never had a problem getting up early again nor have I been fired since.  You taught me.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I never felt worthy as an adult to attend the reunion you had with the remaining scouts from your company.  It was a war I never really understood yet learned more over the three hours I was privy to listen to all of your stories, sharing both your laughter and tears with your Marine brothers. I was honored.

If we were having coffee, we would probably laugh at how something we both initially despised (social media) let us both keep up with our daily lives despite the miles that separated us. You still encouraging me like you always have, you getting to know my wife and children and now encouraging them, you only being a mouse click, email, or text message away. You introduced me to your daughter, my cousin and her beautiful family. I shared in your joy at finally finding love this late in life. I would also tell you I agree to disagree on many of your political and social rants but thank you for challenging my thought process. But you already knew this and can laugh with me about it.

If we could have just one more coffee, I would stand up and hug you and tell you I love you for everything you have ever been to me: a big brother, a substitute father, a teacher, and the most caring Uncle I could have ever been blessed with.

I love you Uncle Charlie and look forward to meeting up with you again in that next dimension.


Charlie Sotelo August 8, 1945 – February 21, 2015



  1. I’m sorry for your loss, Bill. He sounds like a great guy. Beautifully written tribute.

  2. What a beautiful, heartbreaking post. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  3. It brought a lump to my throat.

  4. I’m sorry to hear that you lost someone so dear to you, but I am glad that you had the chance to know and love them. This was a beautiful tribute.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss Bill but I would like to leave you with the thought, that he is not really gone, that it’s merely his body-machine that is gone. The essence of him lives in this universe, vibrating in all your joys.

  6. Oh Bill…this is such a beautifully written piece – thoughtful, moving and heart breakingly sad – I’m so sorry for your loss…

  7. What a beautiful tribute to your Uncle Charlie. He sounds like someone I would have liked to have met. I’m sorry you are feeling his loss but so glad that you had him in your life. You were lucky!

  8. Beautifully written. Thinking of you!

  9. Beautiful tribute. So sorry for your loss 🙁

  10. Hi Bill. I’m so sorry for your heartbreak right now. What a beautiful and moving tribute. Thinking of you x

    • W.C. Cunningham

      February 25, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      Thanks buddy. It was so crazy and unexpected. He was just too young to go and is leaving so many people who love him behind. Tough week. 🙁

  11. I also lost someone last week. It’s never easy. I am very sorry for your loss.

    • W.C. Cunningham

      March 3, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      Thank you Melissa and so sorry for your loss as well. I’m still a bit numb by it all. Never easy is right.

  12. So sorry. Gosh, he sounds like a great guy, and I hope he can read this piece from wherever he is. You do him proud with it.

  13. What a warm and loving tribute to a great uncle. I am sorry for your loss.

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