"I come here most mornings to get coffee and then help the folks get her up."
THURMAN AND MARY
It’s been said, “Better to see a lesson than to tell one.” For some reason, on that particular morning, I did not stop at my usual coffee place. That day, I headed in the opposite direction- south on Highway 65.
I noticed him sitting there as I got out of my car and started walking toward the door of the store and restaurant. He was sitting on the porch with coffee in hand. His John Deere hat, half cocked on his head, gave me cause to smile. I had seen that scene hundreds of times going into the small- town courthouse square with my grandparents many years previous. As I got closer, he spoke, “Mornin,” he said. I returned his, “Morning.”
When I came out of the store with my coffee, I paused a moment to take in the beauty of the early Tennessee morning. “How you doin' this morning?” I heard someone say. It had to be him speaking to me as there was no one else around. “Me, oh I’m doing just fine.” I then asked him, “You mind if I sit down with you?” He replied, “Why no, I would like that.” I asked him if he came here often. “Yea I do, bout every morning. I’m an old retired farmer, and I still get up early- just always been my ways.” I asked him if he lived around here. “Yes I do, live bout two miles from here,” and he pointed, “out near Cox Creek.” I guess he figured I knew where that was. I didn’t, cause as some folks would say about me, “he’s not from around these parts.”
We exchanged further small talk and then he said, “My wife is in the nursing home just down the road, and I come here most mornings to get coffee and then go help the folks there get her up.” I learned his name was Thurman and his wife of 55 years was Mary. “I sure hated to put her in there, but I just couldn’t take care of her no longer by myself and so had to do such. She has Alzheimer’s and for the most part doesn’t know me. Why, the other day she ask one of the ladies there who I was. Can you believe that?”
Shortly after that, he finished his coffee and cigarette. “Larry, spect I best be goin, bout time they will be gettin her up.” As he got up, he reached for my hand and shook it hard, told me it had been nice talking to me then said, “You have a good time playin that golf.” I watched him slowly make his way to his pick-up truck- old, beat up looking thing, maybe an early 70s model Ford. I noticed in the seat of the truck a dog was waiting for him.
As he drove off, I thought, there are folks out there everyday who are fighting some tough battles and me, I’m blessed. I think I may have just seen one of the best definitions of the word “love,” I had ever seen. The rest of the day I couldn’t get Thurman and Mary off my mind. That afternoon on the way home from playing golf, (twenty-seven holes), I stopped and bought my wife a dozen red roses. She still remembers who I am.
May 20, 2009