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Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Jr took a dive deeper into senility overnight. He said this morning something happened in the night, twice, he didn't know what it was, but it wasn't good. He stayed in the bed all day. Sick stomach. He said he's dying, but he keeps on living. Doesn't know what he's doing, living or dying. He sees he isn't going to get any better. He's been hanging on believing he will improve again, but this time it isn't happening.

A nurse from Hospice stopped by to check him out, see how he's doing. I asked her if this is Alzheimer's that Jr is sinking into like quicksand. She said it's senility. She noted that Alzheimer's patients have a personality change and Jr has not changed. He's gone within such that he seems to be in a dream state all the time he's awake now. We were talking, he sitting in the wheelchair, me on the side of the bed. I was paying close attention believing I could make out what he was saying, but I couldn't. It doesn't do to ask what he said, because he doesn't remember. He did speak clearly when he said he won't be getting any better. He doesn't hear well. Doesn't see well. Doesn't move well. His physical frame is shutting down, and all that goes with it.

He's fading fast today. Perhaps it could be weariness from being up much of the day yesterday, had company he could talk with about old times, though he never quite connected with who it was visiting. He knew close enough to function conversationally. When someone stops in to visit, he is coherent, clear, understands and talks well. The rest of the time he drifts in dreams. It takes a lot of energy for him to be so alert, so he tires fast, and it's not long before his head is leaning to one side or the other, eyes closed, gone. No one is put out by it. All are filled with sorrow seeing Jr Maxwell in a helpless state.

For me and others it doesn't seem right that Jr Maxwell would end his life such as this, a broken man living on minimum Social Security and monthly payments for the land he sold for money to get through the rest of his life, done in by a woman he trusted. He never died and he never died. After 12 years she had enough of waiting and went for the throat in a divorce that knocked his spirit to the ground. And it never got up. Down and out. She backed a U-haul truck to the house and a deputy to confiscate Jr's guns, humiliation upon humiliation. She did the very same thing, step by step, to Henry Lyons before Jr. All of Whitehead said to him, She'll do the same to you she done to Henry. No, she's changed. She beat him down to the ground and he took it, because he can't fight a woman.

I have a complexity of feelings and thoughts about it. For one thing, seeing the man I know to be a vibrant spirit, always happy to see somebody, anybody, joking and cutting up as he was known for all his life, a first rate bluegrass banjo picker on stage every weekend watching people dance to his music. He loved it. His life was working like hell all week and getting drunk on the weekend. He drank as he made music, drank up to that place where the liquor improves the music as far as it's going, then stayed there. Banjo pickin and good liquor went together. He never lost control, just went with the freedom to play the fire out of the banjo.

This man who has had the life of Job carries on. I liken him to Job because the gut-wrenching calamities that came to him, all came from out of the blue, like the lightning bolt that hit the house when he and Lois were out making music. They came home to the smoking remains. Lois's cancer that took her out slowly, wretchedly. Spider Woman attached herself to him with Scorpio puppy dog eyes and he suffered to his dying day. It's like the George Jones song, He Stopped Loving Her Today. The day he died.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to help Jr in this worst time of his life, helplessness. When he was rebuilding after the farmhouse burned down, I told myself every day I was going to go lend Jr a hand, see if I can help him out building his new house, which he did himself with the help of friends. I told myself that until the house was finished, and have felt like I let Jr down ever since, even though it was all in my mind and nowhere else. I told him about it a year or so ago, that I've felt like I owed him ever since. He thought that was about the craziest shit he ever heard.

I've seen the passage from the time he was the only man I've known I could call wise and mean it. The wisdom is still there in the core of who he is which doesn't have much expression these days. I look over him knowing who he is, appreciating who he is, honoring who he is with my time and attention. In my way of seeing, he's a valuable soul on this earth. His path this lifetime has been suffering. That's how he got his wisdom, like Job. None of it was tragic, because he didn't create any of it. It all came like lightning out of the blue. Kind of like Mr Bill. Splat. Get up for more. Crunch.

This is the best way I know of I can express my appreciation for the fullness of who Wiley Maxwell Jr is, my gratitude for the opportunity to know such a man. Everyone who knows him knows what I mean. He is a true man of peace.

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