Our family suffered a visit from the Grim Reaper last month. My sister’s husband lost his battle with Alzheimer’s. Attended by his wife, son, children and their spouses, grandchildren, and sisters at his home, his healthy body refused to “realize that his brain was gone,” in Sis’ words. He lingered for days while his loving family cried, laughed, shared memories, sang hymns and celebrated his life. As his remains were carried out, they sang the Doxology, and it was finished…except for the memories.
Wade Jackson Puckett was born in the Delta in 1948, the only son in a family of six children. All the children were bright and musically talented. Most of them were gregarious extroverts. He and my sister met at MSU and married in 1970.
An exemplary family man, Wade had no vices, was a steady worker, earned an adequate living, brought home his pay, saved money and was involved in his children’s education and lives. There was one thing that made him conspicuous in a family gathering, Puckett or Scott: he did not talk much. Other family members chattered like magpies, but not he. He would wander around, snacking, join in song with his family and deliver an occasional witty pun, but he just did not do small talk or gossip. Odd, eh?
I knew he was intelligent, but his reticence made him seem dim-witted. Not until the extensive mental and psychological testing when symptoms of AD appeared did my sister learn that his IQ was north of 140…a genius. Small wonder that he had little to say when he came to our community and found the Scotts working or talking (or both), telling tired and pointless stories, or gossiping. None of us were able to sing, and even at our little church the singing was a cacophonous interlude in the fundamentalist prattle. How lonely he must have been…
His ambition was to farm Delta style, but becoming a planter was out of reach. He earned a master’s degree and went to work as a school counselor. His first stint in a north Mississippi rural school was a package deal: he as counselor and my sister as librarian. Now all you ex-teachers are chuckling because you know that meant she would be keeping six study halls and he would be substitute teacher, bus driver and general flunky for the administration, but it came as a surprise to the young couple. They went to Arkansas to try again, with no better luck.
He became a diesel mechanic, but decided that was not it, either. He took a factory job operating a printing press. He settled into that and kept at it for 38 years—until his illness began to manifest itself. The wall of the family den was lined with consecutive perfect attendance plaques—20 years and six years, broken by a year in which he clocked in one minute late after stopping to change a tire for a co-worker. He finally found someone he could work with: himself.
Wade Puckett was a good man, devoted husband, good provider and dedicated father. His widow, son and daughters realized his sterling qualities. Those bright-eyed and energetic grandsons are too young to know it now, but they will. The world was a better place for his being here, even if it does not know his name.