A visit with Zeke makes the heart grow fonder

I have a little confession to make. I have a bit of a crush on a new guy. I hope my steady beau, The Englishman, doesn't mind.

I met 87-year-old Zeke Muller on Tuesday while on a ride-along with Food & Friends fundraising director Jane Whaley. My goal was to witness what the drivers for Meals on Wheels experience. The bonus was meeting my new secret honey.

The World War II veteran has no idea I'm harboring tender feelings for him. And, according to Jane, I'm just one of the many smitten by Zeke's charms.

"Oh we all love Zeke," Jane said, after we'd left his Central Point abode and I revealed my newfound affection.

From the moment Jane knocked on his door, I was impressed with Zeke's openness. Although his home unexpectedly had been invaded that morning by a reporter asking pesky questions and a photographer flashing shot after shot, Zeke didn't flinch.

"It's a beautiful day," Zeke cheerfully announced to all three of us.

Jane engaged Zeke in conversation as I sat across the living room watching and taking notes on their exchange.

Soon I couldn't contain my curiosity and chimed in with questions of my own. When Zeke began to discuss his war service, Jane nudged him to disclose he'd served under the famous Gen. George Patton.

"What did you think of him?" I asked.

Zeke allowed as the general was a brilliant tactician. But when it came to his personality, that was a different matter.

"He was a good general," said Zeke. "But as a human being, I wouldn't give you a dime for him."

Apparently the general used to arrive at the lines Zeke and his captain were holding and loudly berate and belittle the lesser-ranking officer.

"I thought that was pretty cheap of him," Zeke said.

I thought it was pretty honorable of Zeke to defend his former captain. I love a man who'll speak truth to power. My heart began to glow.

Jane asked Zeke how he was doing. He said he was OK. But old injuries from a logging accident decades ago are back to haunt him. His knees are giving him fits these days, he said.

"If I had a couple borrowed ones, they'd be all right," Zeke said with a chuckle.

I love a man with a sense of humor.

Then Zeke casually mentioned a couple of recent falls he'd had in his yard. He was out chopping wood, stepped in a gopher hole while negotiating the wheelbarrow and took a tumble.

I asked if he'd heard of "Life Alert." He pulled his "help I've fallen" button out from under his shirt and waved it at me.

"Why didn't you press the button?" I asked, already suspecting the answer.

Zeke didn't want to bother the company with his piddling navigational troubles, he said. So he just "crawled around" until he could find something sturdy enough to pull himself up.

"I like to do the best I can for myself," Zeke said.

I love a man who is selfless and tries his darnedest to be self-sufficient.

Zeke has a nice neighbor lady who checks in on him. She's found him sitting on the ground a few times and given him a boost up, he said.

I asked him about his own family. Zeke fondly looked at the photos on display across from his chair. He said he'd lost a daughter in her 20s. She'd died in a motorcycle accident on the Fourth of July. He has two sons who don't live in the area. They can't get together to visit much, but they'll get together someday, Zeke said.

"If you ever lose hope, you've lost everything," he said.

His wife of 65 years died two years ago.

"I sure miss her. We had a lotta life together," Zeke said.

I love a man who loves his kids — no matter what. And who misses his wife.

Some of the other Meals on Wheels women volunteers have taken Zeke on ride-alongs as they deliver meals. Zeke said he's seen how some of the folks live. No money. No kith or kin to check on them.

"It's a tough old world," he said, shaking his head. "You see how they're living by a shoestring. Then you really appreciate what you've got."

I love a man who has the grace to know, in spite of his trials, that he's been blessed.

Honestly, when it comes to Zeke, what's not to love?

Reach Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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