Morehead, Ky —
By request, I am retelling this true story, but be warned that it does not have a happy ending.
We had never laid eyes on each other. I had heard her first name but all I knew was that she was coming to live temporarily with one of my family members in another county.
To protect her privacy as a small child, I’ll call her Sally, but that’s not her real name, of course. In the three months I knew her, no one legally could tell me her real name and it didn’t matter.
She didn’t know me from anyone but the first time she came charging through my front door demanding to see her “papaw,” I knew we would be pals.
She jumped up on my knee, mumbled her first name and said she was glad to see me.
I tried to say something back to her but it was hard to talk with that big lump in my throat.
Red hair, freckles, a huge dimpled smile and a twangy voice were her trademarks and she was a delight.
I often was amazed that she could be so warm and affectionate after being in what I imagined had been several different homes.
The first time we took her with our grandchildren to Cave Run Lake, she fell in love with our pontoon boat.
I teased my wife that I had girlfriends in the past whom I suspected liked me for my car but this was the first time a pretty gal liked me for my boat.
She was welcomed into our clan and her exuberance was contagious. She definitely knew how to communicate that she felt like she was a member of our family.
Some of my children kidded me that she had become one of my favorites because she never failed to rush up to me, arms outstretched and yelling “there’s my papaw” on every occasion we would meet.
One day my wife and I were informed that Sally would be moving to another family’s home. No reason was given and I knew I couldn’t ask why.
But the worst part came that sad morning when my cellphone rang with a quiet little voice on the other end.
I managed to squeak out that I loved her and that I wanted her to grow up to be a good person and have a happy life.
If I live to be 100, I’ll never forget her response:
“I wuv you, papaw. Bye.”
KEITH KAPPES is a columnist for The Morehead (Ky.) News. Contact him at email@example.com.