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Sunday, June 7, 2009


Jr was drifting in and out of sleep this morning when I went by the nursing and rehabilitation facility in Independence to see him. He'd not slept in the night so he was about half asleep, half awake, never fully asleep, never fully awake. When he so obviously needs rest, I don't disturb him. I sit in a chair by the bed and think about whatever my mind follows, looking out the window at the boiling clouds.

A crow flew by the window with what I call a mockingbird and Jr calls a raincrow flying on top of it pecking the crow's back, the crow giving it all he's got and the raincrow staying with him like a mad hornet. I made a mental note to tell Jr about it when he was awake. It always made him laugh at the house to see a raincrow chase a crow and pluck a feather or two.

My friend Sarah came to mind I saw in the Food Lion parking lot yesterday. I didn't recognize her because she looked so different from last time I saw her. I think it might have to do with her coming into her middle aged woman look, which I'd not seen on her before. We jabbered as fast as we could go catching up, what about this and what about that.

She asked about Jr and I told her his circumstances, nursing home, care-dependent. I told her I'd been with him the last couple years doing what I could to keep him out of the nursing home, seeing him every day, like that. She said something about me having a place in heaven for it. I didn't argue with her, but wanted to say that has nothing to do with it for me.

I'd been thinking about that ever since. I recalled a time an old hard-shell preacher told me works don't mean nothing to God. I kept it to myself, but felt compelled to say, I don't care. That's not why I'm doing it either. I don't want a Mary Kay Cadillac in heaven. That is not my motivation. Where heaven is concerned, just put me in the section where the Bell Spur String Band plays and I'll be happy for eternity. What I'm doing with Jr has nothing to do with rewards, good karma, not anything like that. I believe God is involved, because God threw me and Jr together looking at it in hindsight. Jr needed somebody in his vulnerable time he could trust.

For me, the best is having earned the trust of someone like Jr Maxwell, someone I'm in awe of not just as a man but a human being. First, I can say without exaggeration or fear of contradiction that Jr Maxwell is the only wise man I've ever known. I've known several with brilliant minds and good educations who are good people too. But I mean wisdom. Wisdom comes only through experience. It doesn't come second hand. Jr got his wisdom the same way Job got his, suffering.

He can make a better case for himself a fool than I can for his wisdom, so I call him the wise fool. It fits him. He has both dimensions to about the same degree, like the yin yang, a good balance. He is self-aware without being self-absorbed. All his life he had the freedom to allow his inner wild man expression, and he knew how to keep his wild man under control so it didn't run away with him. He became aware of consequences of actions early in his life. He'd had his heart wrung out and thrown in the road to be run over by tires until it was just a spot on the pavement so many times it's a wonder he isn't buried under the burden of sorrow he's survived.

Jr doesn't stay down. When something gets him down, he'll be deeply depressed for about a day and a night. After a sleepless night he'll have it worked out in the morning, be fresh and on his way. From there on it's just a matter of working out physically what he already took care of in his mind. The last heartbreak he'll never recover from. He's healed pretty good, but it knocked the wind out of him. It's slow coming back and he'll never come back all the way.

If this were India I'd be calling what I do with Jr sitting at the feet of the Master. But this isn't India and I don't call it that. I call it life-sized respect for a man who has told me his whole life story in thousands of chapters. I see one of the best respected men in the county and I understand why he is so well respected everywhere he goes.

I'm grateful for the trust of such a man. That's reward enough for me. I cannot see him fade in his last years and months to such frailty under circling buzzards without lending a hand. I ask God for his comfort, the least controlling thing I dare ask for, and believe it doesn't hurt for me to lend a hand to back up my request. If I think he's important enough to ask God to help, I can be there for what part of the help I can serve.

What I gain from knowing Jr so well is boundless. It's a reward money can't buy. My soul is richer for knowing Jr Maxwell and for being there for him when he needed a hand. I don't need a promise of heaven or anything. Just seeing Jr comfortable as he can be is all I ask. Besides, it's not for my benefit anyway, it's for his. I feel like it's the only important thing I've ever done in my life and I aim to see it through. I don't want a Cadillac in heaven. I want to walk barefoot.

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