When I was a young man, about sixteen, living just outside the small, rural town of Erin, Tennessee, I was provided a unique opportunity for volunteer service. My mother was the Nursing House Supervisor for a small nursing home in the town, and on many occasions, I would come over to help and volunteer in a number of capacities. Whether I was helping coordinate events and activities with the various residents, or out back, washing wheelchairs, there was never a shortage of work and opportunity.
One afternoon, my mom found me playing checkers in one of the common rooms with one of my friends, a well-known old farmer named Wigs. He was a small man in stature with a larger-than-life personality. He was a beloved resident, and a friend to three generations of my family. Mr. Wigs loved checkers, and we had a healthy competition throughout my time visiting the nursing home. As my mom walked up, I was losing, if I recall, and she told me she wanted to introduce me to someone in another wing of the nursing home.
After completing our game, I obliged and met up with my mom at her office. She took me down the hall, and to a room at the end. As I walked in, I recall a pleasant, smiling man sitting there, as if patiently waiting. She introduced him to me as Charlie. I shook his hand and stood across as my mom told me a little about him. He had been a telescope developer in his earlier years, inventing components and five telescopes through his career. Since I had often mentioned a dream of working for NASA someday, my mom thought I’d enjoy meeting Charlie and learning about his life.
In the weeks that followed, I learned so much about Charlie’s life, his telescopes, his experiences, his passions, and his family. He had a pleasant, yet solemn demeanor when mentioning his family. He told me often how much he missed them, and loved them. It was a sense of loneliness that seemed to fade whenever I would visit and share stories. I would tell Charlie about school, the farm, relationships, and the ongoings in the town, and he would impart perspective and stories from his life that seemed to part the veil of a wisdom gained only through experience. I’d later learn that this veil is often parted best by those of our older community, a priceless resource.
One day, I stopped by to visit Charlie, and he greeted me with a friendly smile. He handed me a picture and began to share a story. It was an old picture of a comet soaring through the night sky. He told me that it was one he had taken years earlier with one of his own telescopes. It was a picture that he had intended to give to one of his family members, but that he felt I would appreciate it more. I smiled and thanked him for the gift.
Although Charlie has passed on, and although my mom had thought Charlie’s stories would further my passion for astronomy and engineering; Charlie’s legacy impacted my life quite differently than expected. He inspired my love of stories, and the history of people. He, and others, have instilled a sense of respect for the generations before me, and a strong desire to learn from them.
Forgetting Christmas was inspired by Charlie, and the many other wonderful lives that have preceded us. During this holiday season, may we take time to visit with our older loved ones, share stories, and remember their legacy, our legacy, together.
Editor and Marketing Director for Utah Valley Health & Wellness Magazine