Why I Am Me
Copyright 2006 by Meagan Bautch
My life was not easy as a child. When I was only eight years old, my mother was in a rather serious motorcycle accident that caused her to be in a coma for six weeks. When she came out of the coma, she had severe brain damage and for the first few weeks, didn‘t even recognize her own children. Being the oldest child, (there were only four of us then) I had to adapt the role of being the mother. My responsibilities included doing the dishes, helping my younger siblings with homework, giving them baths, and cooking supper. Due to my juvenile knowledge of nutrition, our “meals” consisted mostly of macaroni and cheese with hotdogs or ramen noodles.
My father was struggling to provide for our family, so he was working twelve hour days, often six days a week. On his days off he chose to unwind by joining my mother in her post-accident favorite pastime: getting drunk. Most of his “extra” income at the time was spent at one of their favorite taverns. As a young child, I can remember receiving a 25 cent pack of Big Red or Juicy Fruit gum as payment for babysitting my three, four or finally, five younger siblings for up to eight hours.
Needless to say, my childhood didn’t really exist. At least not in the sense that most people experience. I was a child forced to live the life of an adult at the ripe old age of nine. In school, I couldn’t relate to any of my classmates, for most third-graders have no interest in discussing meal plans for the night, or the best way to get a crying baby to sleep. Although many people in the community and in my family knew what was going on behind closed doors, no one intervened. No one even tried, except for my uncle K-Wamp.
Kevin “K-Wamp” Bautch was like an angel to me. He would come over to our house and take my siblings and me away from the madness of our everyday life. Even if we didn’t go anywhere, which we seldom did, when uncle K-Wamp came by, it was as if I was allowed to be a child, if only for a few hours. He would teach me things that neither of my parents could or would. He taught me how to enjoy life, even though everything in it was chaotic and felt like a living hell. He also taught me how to love and to respect people-especially myself.
As I grew older, my god-father, became more and more like a father to me. In the last ten years or so, I’ve talked to him more than I have my real father. It was K-Wamp I called when I was having problems in school. K-Wamp was there for me when I needed to talk to someone about my constant battle with all the problems in my life. I called K-Wamp when I needed to get something off of my chest or when I just needed to cry. He never asked questions and he never judged.
K-Wamp met all of my friends and actually took the time to get to know them, something my parents never showed any interest in doing. We all got so close that we formed our own little family. When Christmas came around, my friends and I always had a small party with a gift-exchange. Of course, K-Wamp was always invited. Although he had no biological children of his own, he had many “adopted” kids who loved him and respected him very much.
When my mom died from a car accident last March, her side of the family, which I hadn’t seen or even talked to in years, all came to Wisconsin from various parts of the country to try to support us kids. Instead it was K-Wamp, my father’s brother, who helped me get through that tragedy the most. He offered so much advice and wisdom that I immediately felt better. He had that effect on people; even if you were having the worst day of your life, within only minutes of being in his presence, he made you forgot all of your troubles and even somehow manage a smile.
On his birthday, I usually got together with him and we would go downtown to the local bar and grill. He didn’t drink, so he was thoroughly amused watching everyone make a fool of themselves. On his 45th birthday, though, we didn’t celebrate like we had in years past. Instead, I spent the day at the cemetery with aunts and uncles that I had forgotten I even had, and buried my mom. He called me three times that day to see how I was holding up and reminded me that if I needed him for anything, all I would have to do is call and he would be there, day or night. He didn’t have to tell me that; I knew that he would always be there for me.
On May 7th, I got a phone call from my brother, Sean. It was a conversation that I will never forget for the rest of my life. “Um...Meagan? K-Wamp had a heart attack and he is being air-lifted to LaCrosse.” Without hesitation, I got in my car and drove the 45 miles to the hospital in record time, although it seemed to take an eternity. K-Wamp had to undergo surgery for a blood clot in his leg. After a six hour nerve-wracking wait, the doctors told us that he was doing fine and that we should go home; he would be unconscious for the next eight hours or so and we would not be able to see him anyway.
The next day, we were allowed to go and visit him. Believe it or not, I chose not to go. I didn’t think that I would be able to handle seeing my 6’3’, 230-pound uncle laying helpless in a bed that was much too small for him, hooked up to wires, IVs and various monitors. At least if, God forbid, anything bad should happen, the last time I would see K-Wamp (the day before the heart attack), he would be as I had known him to be for years--a bad-ass biker with an attitude to match.
Two days later my aunt called me at 6 a.m. I knew that if she was calling me that early in the morning, it couldn’t be anything good. She told me that my uncle, my angel, my infallible sage, had died from a ruptured blood clot about twenty minutes before. I felt my whole world come crashing down around me. I was just leaving work, and I had a complete nervous breakdown in front of my co-workers, most of whom had known K-Wamp very well. This couldn’t possibly be happening! Not K-Wamp! He was supposed to be there for me. Forever! That week was definitely the hardest seven days of my life.
Even now, almost a year later, I still want to call him to tell him about how things are going, what I am doing this weekend. He would be so proud of me for going back to school and doing something positive with my life. Maybe that is why I decided to go back to school; to prove to my mentor that I wouldn’t let my life be a disappointment to him.
I still cry myself to sleep thinking about how much I miss him, remembering how important he was, and still is to me. I can still hear his one-of-a-kind laugh after he told one of his infamous jokes that he had a habit of telling every single person he met. I can still remember his kind, gentle way of talking to me as if we had only spoke minutes, not months, ago.
At first I didn’t think that I would be able to survive without him in my life, but now I realize that I must appreciate the fact that I was lucky enough to even have such a relationship in my life. Everyone should be so blessed as to have their very own K-Wamp! I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.
He encouraged me to pursue my dreams and convinced me that I could accomplish anything that I set out to do. I truly think that he was the person who molded me into who and what I am today. I always believed that he was untouchable; that nothing could ever harm him. He was K-Wamp, for crying out loud! But, as I found out the hard way, no one is immortal, no matter how strong, brave, or intelligent they are.
My uncle always had a positive outlook on everything and he was kind to everyone, something I hope I have inherited from him. Mostly in his life, but also with his death, he has changed my perspective on various things from love, religion, education, and life in general. He was so open-minded and so wise; having him so involved in my life was truly a gift from God. No matter what the problem, K-Wamp seemed to have an answer, and he never hesitated to lend a helping hand with anything that I needed.
I am going to miss the man that meant so much to me, but I am learning to adapt his values and beliefs as my own. Becoming more like K-Wamp means becoming a better person, and that is very important to me. I have six younger brothers and sisters to try to guide through life now. It was easy to take on the role of a mother, but K-Wamp’s shoes can never be filled by anyone. The only things I can provide them with are the ideas, beliefs and kind words that my uncle, has bestowed upon me.
I am a 24 year old first-year student at the local
technical college. I live in a very small town in Wisconsin. I have
been passionate about writing for many years, and so I figured I had
better do something productive about it. I am currently attempting a
degree in technical communications, but I plan to further my
knowledge once I complete that.
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