I met Ken when I was 16 or 17 years old, while we were both working at the nursing home, Springbrook Manor on the Eastbeltine in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We worked at Station 3. I was a nurses aide and Ken was an LPN nurse.
One of the first things that attracted me to Ken was his honesty, his caring and extreme, outrageous playfulness. As the LPN, he was in charge of running the team, making sure everyone did their assignments and all patients were taken care of. He did his job very well. I don't think a patient or aide ever had a complaint against him.
One of the first one-on-ones I had with Ken...okay, this may sound bad but remember I was just a young, stupid teenager suddenly thrust into socializing with a rowdy bunch of equally young and stupid co-workers,...I asked him for Visine because another girl and I had been out on "break" smoking things we shouldn't have. Ken didn't judge me and he administered the drops with a gentle hand.
It wasn't unusual for Ken to instigate and perpetuate all-out, buckets of water water fights at the desk after all the patients had been put to bed. Seriously, we had to mop up the floors and dry off the walls and patient charts after big water fights. There were also wheelchair races throughout the halls and out in the courtyard. Everyone had a good time. Ken was really easy to work with.
At some point, he started giving me rides home. Somehow I ended up going to his apartment regularly. We would often cook pork chops or pork steaks, his favorite, in the electric skillet. It was a rather dumpy, basement apartment that he shared with another male nurse named Bill. The furniture was like, from the sixties or early seventies, I swear. I remember that small, old, rounded topped refrigerator and that smelly, bumpy old couch. His car, oh my, some big, old yellow thing with a brown top, had a dozen bumper stickers on its backside. He would always joke that the stickers were holding the car together, which wasn't far from the truth.
As soon as I was able to finish high school, Ken and I moved to Kalamazoo to escape my family and start a life together. He taught me all about getting an apartment, paying bills, grocery shopping, getting a job. It was rough. We were dirt poor living paycheck to paycheck and always hoping the car didn't break down.
We were each other's best and only friend, but it was okay because we very much enjoyed each other's company. We spent hours playing board games, chess, Sorry, Trouble, etc. Ken liked to invent board games of his own to play. I remember one that was like baseball played on a board. It was pretty fun.
We also spent a lot of time fishing, especially when we left Kalamazoo and moved to Manistee to live and help out his mom.
Overall, those who knew him well, might say Ken was a sad person. I know he carried a good amount of grief. He and I talked about everything, so I understand he had much reason.
Ken was placed for adoption. I can't remember at what age but it wasn't at birth. His biological mom kept his sisters. Ken often felt or often wondered why his mom kept sisters but gave away him.
His adoptive mom was nice enough. He rarely spoke of his adoptive father who wasn't a nice man and died when Ken was still quite young.
Ken went to nursing college in Muskegon and became an LPN. He seemed to enjoy working in nursing homes best. He was a great nurse.
He also served in the Vietnam war and contracted PTSD in the process. He was a medic and saw things that tormented him. He also talked about being doused repeatedly with Agent Orange while in the jungle. After returning from Vietnam he was never really healthy again.
He married and had two children, the light of his life. He divorced when they were early teens. His greatest sorrow was that he didn't get to spend as much time as he wanted for them and couldn't provide much financially. He always talked about his children with the greatest love. They meant the world to him.
We did drive to pick up the kids for weekends. There was never enough time spent with them.
Ken was a very caring person. He was loved animals and we always had at least one cat and dog, usually more.
We would listen to albums, Blondie, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Jesus Christ Superstar. He was fond of the Beatles and Creedance Clearwater Revival, too.
We did so much for each other. We encouraged and supported one another. We married in Kalamazoo at a beautiful park.
He built me a desktop easel so I could paint. He continually surprised me with gifts from an engagement ring we couldn't afford, to small bouquets of wildflowers. He was a true gentleman.
Every now and then, we would scrape together enough money to drive to Chicago and go visit the Science and Industry museum. We even spent the night in a hotel and walked the city streets at night. It was wonderous.
I remember playing Donkey Kong on a video game in the lobby with him. He and I loved playing games together. We really had a lot of fun. I recall so many fun times.
Ken loved the Bible and going to church, even more so than I. We would try and find a church to belong to every time we moved. We must have moved 8-10 times, mostly around Kalamazoo and Manistee.
I was sad to hear about his passing but relieved to know he was no longer wanting or in pain.
I am so grateful to have had those..7-10 years (actual dates escape me as we lived together, married, divorced and lived together again). It was an amicable divorce. We were both going in different directions.
He and I were best friends and he truly helped my transition from my parents house to the outside world. So kind, caring, what a wonderful guy. I am grateful for his prescence in my life, for his wisdom, his support and love.