Jimmy is one of Jr's more faithful and true friends. He drops by from time to time, sometimes with his wife Elsie, sometimes without. Elsie is every intelligent man's dream wife. Jimmy was in the Army and saw combat in Korea and later he re-enlisted for Vietnam. When he wasn't in the Army he was working in coal mines in West Virginia. In his later years he's been through every kind of medical thing there is. Jimmy has recently had some heart work done. They tore open his ribcage in the front, opened it like two gates to the inner sanctum. Jimmy has had lung trouble, cancer, one thing after another. Elsie keeps him going.
Jimmy came by to see Jr today. He used to come by when Jr was not well and bring his riding mower to mow Jr's grass, and Elsie went around with the weedeater. Jimmy can't ride the mower yet after his recent operations. Elsie won't let him. You can be sure he would if she weren't there stopping him. He worked with Jr sawmilling, off-bearing the wood as it's cut. Jr said Jimmy worked about the best of anyone who's worked for him. They've been friends many a year.
Paul Reeves came by today to see Jr. While he was there, the 3 of us sat and talked. Jimmy told about his work in the mines. He operated some contraption that rode the rails with two huge engines, each on it's own car. Pulling coal cars out of the mines is what they did. They were long and down low so they could go through the mine tunnels. He said to get down in the network of tunnels was a long ride in an elevator a very long ways, then he'd take his engines 5-10 miles through tunnel tracks. He told about 'roof-bolting,' putting 4' rods into bored holes overhead and gluing them in. They keep stability in the slabs of coal overhead, keep the ceiling from falling in. He said that once the ceiling fell blocking his exit. Somebody who knew the tunnel system told him a way around it. He said it was a 6 hour wait.
Paul Reeves came by while Jimmy was there. In the conversation he mentioned that somebody he knew said 'it's so dark in a coal mine you can feel it.' It's like one of those nights of overcast sky, no moon, no stars, just blackness so dark you can't see your hand 2 inches from your face. I'd guess before lanterns and flashlights, that kind of darkness was nearly impenetrable. One would need a torch.
The three of us talked and Jr would say something every once in awhile, then he drifted off to sleep on the couch. Everyone there was sympathetic, caring deeply about Jr, so sorry to see him fading as he's done. They come to see him now to support him. That's always been the reason, an affirming, saying, 'I'm with you.' Though he falls asleep, it makes his day when friends drop in, whether he can connect or not. These are the people who proved true to Jr through all the hospitals, nursing homes, watching him slowly shut down, caring for this friend they respect like I do. Jimmy, Elsie and Paul have demonstrated to Jr that they are only interested in Jr as who he is, not for what he has. I still don't get people that circle like buzzards a tractor mechanic for money and stuff.
Yesterday I saw Supercop of the Absentee Police walk by while I was in the post office lobby talking with Jerry Hawkins. She went by like she didn't notice. I sighed relief and went out the door before she came back by and we ended up face to face. I don't want it and she doesn't either. She's alienated me past the point of no return and vice versa. We don't know each other anymore. She loves Uncle Jr so much she alienated him attempting to keep him in the nursing home---for his own good, at his expense not hers. She's not been by to see Uncle Jr since he's been home, nor has she called. Kinda tells me something about the nature of her caring. Jr too. It's not a loss, because he doesn't even know her. As soon as she was out of school she was gone. That was 40 or more years ago. Uncle Jr is just an idea in her head, a composite of what she's heard about him.
I've seen in the years I've been looking after Jr that Jimmy and Elsie are perhaps Jr's closest friends, the ones who visit regularly, do things for him he can't do or has a hard time doing, like mowing the lawn. Bringing him food of some sort from time to time. Elsie is a good cook too. Harold Hayes' wife Betty sends some good food from time to time too. Harold is another friend of Jr's as faithful and true as Jimmy Gibson.
I always enjoy Jimmy and Elsie when they come around. They are what I think of as true friends to Jr, and true human beings. By now, they've become my friends too. They're honest as honest can be, the kind of people you can count on when they say they'll do something. They're not church nuts, but they come under what I think of as a true Christian. I will say the same about Jr. He, too, doesn't go to church, but he's lived his life demonstrating his genuine concern for his friends, neighbors and relatives. He hardly knows anybody outside that circle. Yesterday he asked me why everybody is being so good to him. I said, Maybe you've been good to them and it's coming back. I gave that to him for something to ponder in his place between asleep and awake.
Good people I'm grateful to know.