A Simple Man-Wade Ketterman
Don’t seem like long ago t’all that I met my mom’s old man. Gee, he had more wrinkles on his face than bees on a honeycomb! Damn near would scare a baby! But he had one heck of a kind smile. You know, one of that there kind that just makes you feel right there at home in a minute.
Wade was his name. I found out real quick he was a simple man with a big ole heart. And boy, did he love my ma. He would have to a heck of a lot to put up with her ways. That woman is on a constant PMS like nobody! And yet, steady ready Wade is always there with a calm presence to even out her high strung ways.
Yep, I met him just a few short years ago but feel like I known that dude forever. We hit it off right there quick as an eye. Me being a city girl, we sure didn’t no nothing in common. It took me no time at all to learn his ways, talking like he does, well it was a whole lot easier than trying to come up with them big words and complicated sentences. And Wade, heck, he was never impressed by silly things like that, heck, he didn’t even understand them. They would be met with “Huh, whatcha say?”
Ya gotta love his simple approach to life. He loved God, country, family and friends. There ain’t no particular order I don’t think cuz he loved them all just as much. I think last on his list was himself. He put all before him. See, he had lived a life, when he was a young fellow and I gather done some things he wasn’t too damn proud of. So, he I suppose made a pact with God, if he promised to be good and be a changed man, he could bide some more time on this green earth. There he was…pure, simple at heart, good man.
I remember my sis talking bout how one time he came down for a visit. Hell, his idea of vacation was cleaning her yard up. She went to work boasting how she had a pool boy at the house, oh, minus the watering hole. That is, until the call came from the cops. Yep, seems ole Wade decided to burn the trash in the backyard . Hey, in the country, his times, why wait on a trash truck to pick up your junk? He found some old tires in the garage and I think maybe an old battery and in the fire it went. Oh, apparently the neighbors got a whiff and boy, they hit the phone lickety split. Hell, I still don’t think the old man knew what the heck he did wrong. Terri got called to hit the road home and take care of matters. When she saw his face, looking like somebody hit him in the beer gut with a baseball, she didn’t have the heart to yeller at him. So she simply told him that no more fires Wade around here. He didn’t like it but he understood. Besides, the garbage was done burned. So, he thought to himself, hell, why would I need to burn anymore fires silly girl!
He had a best friend, somebody else sides his Angel, the dog. This bud was named Floyd, my momma’s brother. I don’t even know when these two became friends but man, could you feel the bond between the two of them. Strong as the wind blows over the plains on a stormy day. Next to my mom, I reckon Wade loved Clyde more than anybody. He was like the brother Wade never had. Clyde stood by Wade’s side when the going got tough and everyone else had something better to do than see a man on his last leg. Not Floyd, he was there. And Wade, with his last breath, never ever took it for granted either. I remember sitting with Wade or talking on the phone with him and him bringing up Clyde’s name many a time. I asked him one day, “You love my Uncle Floyd like a brother don’t ya?’ and he replied, “You know I do.” Yep, I did. I could feel it.
My sis Terri and I went up to see Wade shortly after his doc gave him the crummy news. He had the C word, and boy was that the pits. Our momma acted like she was not sure what the heck was going on. Wow, we wondered what the future would look like for sweet Wade and our momma that dreaded being alone. Yeah, she never been alone before. We tried to tell Wade he had to be concerned about himself now, his body needed him to tend to it, just like he tended to his garden but we think he would let the weeds go as long as his honey was happy and he was with her. We saw that wonderful twinkle in his eyes when he talked about our momma. He’d do just about anything for her.
Almost a year of ups and downs have gone by. There been stays at rehabs where he was just dying to come home even when he was feeling half dead, half baked after radiation. Man, he looked pitiful after chemo, like somebody needed to feed him something, hell anything. When his tongue was taken out, and then replaced with a titanium tongue, I think, if had his way, he would have rathered take it to a pawn shop and have the money to give his old lady to live on after he was gone. Yeah, Wade was just that kind of man. His speech was just about as hard to understand as a kid singing with marbles in their teeny mouth. My chats were mostly limited to asking him yeah and nope questions. He would call me on my cell and if he couldn’t reach me, there’d be that voice mail waiting for me. Simply said, Call me.” I couldn’t even understand it, most times, but didn’t matter anyways, I knew who it was. There, towards the end, last 6 or so months, he just wanted me to talk. I grew to love hearing that old familiar “Yup.” Every time I asked him if he was doing okay I got that same answer. Hell, he could be burning in a fire and I swear he would have said the same thing. See, Wade didn’t want nobody worrying about him, no siree. He was proud even when he was hurting.
Funny, half my life I been a gibber box and friends wondered how to shut me up. Then there is Wade, brought into my life at the end of his, never seemed to get enough of my chatter. Kinda makes you wonder was he half nuts? Oh, and never will I forget how he ended conversation, “I love you, I mean that, I really do.” I think he said it twice incase I couldn’t understand. See, unless you were sitting right there, eyeball to eyeball, man was he hard to understand. If he got a on roll talking to ya, forget it, you were done for. And if you couldn’t get it, he’d get really pissed. We couldn’t ever tell if it was at us or at himself for not being able to talk clear. His eyes would fill with tears though and it would break your heart every time it happened. He had his pride so we’d have to pretend we didn’t see it so he wouldn’t get embarrassed.
One day, his number at one of the rehab centers changed. He called and gave me the new number. He screamed in the phone,”Write down ,” and then screamed slowly numbers at me. Now I could hardly get several of them so I repeated back the entire number. I heard him say yeah so we hung up and I called back. See his cell has very few minutes as he was a poor man, so he’d want me to call on mine. No problem. I called back and damn, if I didn’t wake up some other patient there. I am giving her that because she was grouchy. You’d think she would be glad somebody called her but no, she was yelling at me and she don’t know who I even am. I apologized explaining I had the wrong number. “Who the hell you trying to reach?” she yelled at me. After that nasty tone with spit in her voice, be damned I would give out Wade’s name. So I did what any sensible lady would do, I hung up that phone like real quick.
A few minutes passed and Wade called again. This time he sounded annoyed with me. He was probably thinking I wasn’t going to call. I told him I wrote the number down wrong. We went through the same routine again with him shouting out the numbers and this time, me yelling back each number, one at a time. Some of them I apparently got wrong as he would yell them back multiple times preceded by something that sounded something like a no. But heck, on some of them that there numbers, be honest with ya, I was flat out only guessing. It would have been a whole lot easier if he just let me count 1 to 9 for each darn number and when I got to the right number, he said “Yup!” Same thing happened on this second try of calling him back, I reached another patient. Well betcha know what happened two more times huh? By now, I imagine I done ticked off several patients at that center and the nurses station is getting hollered at about this freakin lady calling rooms and then hanging up. So I decided to call that nurses station myself and fess up. They were kind to me, or tired of patients bitching about my calls and put me straight through to him and made sure, by literally running to his room, that we got connected by phone that instant. Know the first thing that ole man said to me when he got on the phone? “What took you so long?” Ya gotta love it!
He wasn’t afraid to die. He was afraid to leave his old lady. He spent years and years taking care of her like nobody done. He loved her like a lion loves its cub, doing whatever needed to be done with her bad heart or whatever else came her way. It did it without question. He cried when he told me how much she meant to him. He fought as hard as any man I have ever seen. He suffered in silence through unbearable pain and in the end, it wasn’t pretty, nope not at all. He became a broken man physically all for the love of a woman, putting his body through a living hell. Ain't it sure funny how life is? Someone so darn sweet and simple, not hurtin nobody can go from planting seeds, reaping a garden full of vegetables and flowers and helping others to suddenly being all helpless, praying and dying all in the space of just a few fragile years.
In the end, God done a good thing. He took a dear man and gave him good ground to put his feet on. Ground he can cultivate, a voice so that he can sing and spirit free of pain. Wade deserved to die, because he deserved to live. And I am as certain of that as I am of anything dearest Step-Dad, Wade.
My turn Wade, can you hear me up there? I love you, I mean that, I really do.