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Letters to Charlie

Grandfather handwrites collection of life lessons

The last thing Mike remembers was walking out the door of his home in 2014 on his way to a hospital—suddenly unable to see in his right eye.

About one year later, he regained consciousness in a nursing home, not knowing who he was, where he was or what happened. A stroke had taken him to death’s gate and had stolen his memory.

Much of his memory returned in time, but he still has difficulty reading, and often struggles to find the right words in conversation. The right words are especially important to him now as he writes “letters to Charlie,” his 2-year-old grandson, who was born about the time Mike left the nursing home and returned to his 60-acre Franklin County farm.

Aware that he now is at increased risk of another stroke from which he might not recover, Mike is passing along some of his life lessons to Charlie, his only grandchild, in a collection of hand-written letters.

There is grandfatherly advice on daily living, observations on human behavior, gardening tips, family stories and many heartfelt expressions of affection:

“Hello Charlie! I am your paternal grandfather…born May 19, 1949. I am thrilled to be your grandfather and am so excited to have you! 

“The purpose of these letters is to not only inform you about your family history, but to give you insight into the many opportunities that you will have throughout your life…also to avoid the many mistakes in judgment that a young man can make that can cause negative effects in your life, as I want you to learn from my errors and those things I have done correctly…

“I may not live long enough to spend a lifetime with you, and I want you to know me through these letters.”

In nearly 50 pages so far, Mike, a retired director of Occupational Safety and Health for Kentucky, explains to Charlie how difficult life was for his ancestors, the importance of studying the Bible and going to church, a good education, and the dangers of drugs and alcohol. He tells of a distant uncle who, in the late 1800s, owned a farm that is now part of the Kentucky Horse Park, and he offers thoughts on healing a heartache.

“One of the hardest things to face in our lives is a broken heart, and through our lives we will face several…The pain always becomes settled. At first it is all we think about, but as time goes on it will get better. 

Surround yourself with friends. It helps. Work helps too but try not to just think about it.”

Mike expects it will be years before Charlie reads the letters in a bound journal, but they’ll be waiting.

“The farm is being set up so that you get to take it over either after college or when in your early 20s…

“I love you, and we will be together in another life!

“Pappaw.”

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