Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:
“When we got here, we went out to the farm to look at the dirt,” Amy told me. “That’s what Dad would’ve done,” she smiled.
Amy and her husband Rod live in Lenexa and had just arrived at the motel in Great Bend where I met up with them. Amy’s father, Adam Deckert, had passed away at age 94, and that evening we would gather at the funeral home to visit with family and friends who came to pay their respects.
I’ve been friends with Amy for the complete length of my memory. She lived two-and-a-half oft-traveled blocks from my home in Pawnee Rock. We both belonged to the Mennonite church, and because we were the only girls in our Sunday school class, we became fast friends.
I spent almost as much time at Amy’s house as I spent at my own, so Adam and Helen were like a second set of parents to me. Helen, who died in 1996, was a busy housewife, the mother of six (one of whom died in childhood). The older kids, Anna Sue, Frances and Howard, occasionally babysat for me and my brother. Ida was Leon’s age, and Amy was a year younger than me.
When someone we know passes from this world, we spend some good time in thought, pondering the impact they’ve had on us, how their existence has helped shape our lives. And what came to mind about Adam was that he was a kind soul, and that he was always simply “there.” He was present for his family and he was present for me.
He played games with us kids, cards and Monopoly. Adam taught us how to play pinochle. When the Deckerts purchased a ping-pong table, Amy and I took on Adam, two against one, and tried to beat him, but he was pretty good.
I remember when I was 6 or 7 and had a loose tooth that was hanging by a thread. My tongue wore itself out, wiggling that tooth back and forth. I probably could have pulled it with my fingers, but I wasn’t brave enough just to yank it out. Adam’s suggestion was to tie one end of a string around the tooth and one end around a door knob and then slam the door shut. But I wasn’t brave enough for that method either.
During blizzards, Adam and Helen let Amy and I turn the living room into a fort for days at a time. We stretched quilts and blankets across furniture, securing the blanket ends with stacks of books.
Adam had been a weekend farmer, raising wheat and milo on land near my grandmother’s farm. One spring evening in the ‘60s, Adam took Amy and me out to check on his crop. The ripening wheat was nearly as tall as we were. Adam warned us against trampling the stalks as Amy and I disappeared into the field to play hide-and-seek.
Adam’s full-time job was at the Pawnee Rock Salt Plant just north of town. When he left the salt plant, he took a soldering job at Doerr’s Metal Products in Larned where he helped make livestock tanks.
He loved to share riddles and puzzles. He made sure his kids had piano lessons and he enjoyed going to their recitals. Adam memorized poetry and had at least an hour’s worth of recitation he could perform. At church picnics, Adam would be one of the first to get the game of horseshoes going.
Adam was tall and he was thin all of his life. He was a good listener and not one to argue. He was a gentle man, a quiet man, a man of peace. In the eulogy written by his children, they said that Adam never picked a fight, but that he would be there to defend someone else. And he was one of many fine folks in our church who fully embodied the Mennonite spirit of helping those in need.
I was always happy to be invited to tag along with the Deckerts to Sunday after-church dinners with their extended family. Amy and I were inseparable during those years and Adam and Helen treated me like one of their own. A kid couldn’t ask for a better deal than that.
Copyright 2013 ~ Cheryl Unruh