Surprise. I didn't know I was going to tell you about Jean today, but I happened to see her picture looking thru My Pictures and there it was. I've seen it other times, but this is the first time it said, now. This is the last picture I got of Jean. It so satisfied me that it told the Jean I know, that I never wanted another one, and it made her feel awkward getting her picture taken anyway.
We were setting out to see Alternate Roots play in Jefferson, her favorite band and mine. I had decided when I left the truck to get a picture of her and carried the camera inside. I stepped in the door she was sitting there, I saw the picture I wanted instantly, Jean just like that. I told her not to move. That cracked her up, like what a nice thing to say when you walk in the door. What I saw was the face framed in black hair and black blouse, something like a Greek Orthodox icon, her life all around her.
All that was incidental. What I saw was her face in a black frame that set it off in ways she didn't seem to be aware of. She had a beautiful face, beautiful eyes and was wide open with compassion for everybody in the world. I never showed her the picture. I put it in a show at the library of portraits of people I know. Didn't tell her. Somebody she knew saw it and called her. She went into town next day to see it and told Sherry at the library when I take a picture of you there's no telling where it's likely to turn up. This is my Jean picture.
It felt to me like Jean was a beautiful, gentle, quiet soul. She dreamed once of herself as a page-turner for a concert pianist, a dream she never forgot. She grew up at Boomer, Wilkes County, daddy made liquor and left mama with the kids to get along the best they could. A lifetime of hard times. Married three times, the same type of man every time. She gave her life to each one and took it back when it was threatened mortally. She had her spirit crushed many times along the way by the people closest to her. One, a boy on death row and the other boy dead.
All her life she'd been like the hen at the bottom of the pecking order. Everybody could peck on her, and she couldn't peck on anybody. Even her grandkids pecked on her. Then TJ came along and told her she didn't have to take all the abuse she was taking. It was like the time I told Tapo she didn't have to take all Caterpillar's pouncing. Jean believed she had to take it. And she quit taking it. It sent a shockwave through the people who couldn't abuse her anymore.
They didn't know how to regard her anymore, because she wasn't even in the pecking order. All the ones abusing her in their disrespectful ways of regarding her stayed away for a few weeks. They came back testing her and she stuck by her declaration of independence. They all gave in and started treating her with a little bit of respect for the first time.
The first time I met her she told me she was bipolar. I thought little of it. My actual thought was: who isn't? Duality is the nature of this world. Everything has a dual nature. The duality in our lives is like 0 and 1, the foundation of computer language.
Of course, she was talking about a medical condition she took medications to keep under control. She told me later she told people at first anymore, because when she'd get to be friends with somebody and they find out, they're gone. This way she's up front at the start and the disappointment is less when they leave.
The day her soul left the body I saw her all day long in my mind's eye in such blinding light the features of her face were in white like the features in the full moon. Her face was beaming with joy and so full of light she was barely visible in the intense light. All day long I saw her beaming with joy. I had no question about where she went.