This morning I woke up feeling weepy again with wet eyes, on the verge of tears. I was having a hard time putting my finger on it since I don't believe what I assessed yesterday to be anything but a small part of it. The big part is underlying and I don't seem able to find it. I called the Hospice office and asked for a visit from the woman who is there for the caregivers, Mary. After a morning of feeling this way, the nurse came by to replace a patch and check vital signs. I mentioned to her how I was feeling and she said, "Stress." Bingo. I hadn't seen that. But there it was. She also suggested I call and ask for a visit.
I already knew Mary and I spoke the same language, so I decided to speak with her as I only could with her. Again, it was like watching an angel fly up the driveway when she arrived. I chose to sit on the porch. I wanted her to sit in the chair I always sit in. I called it 'the power seat.' She said, 'You don't want the responsibility?' I said, 'Wow. Never saw that. Yeah, probably I do want to let go of the responsibility.' I said I wanted something like a psychotherapist session, and I wanted to talk it out to her and she could ask me leading questions, because I wanted to go way inside and find it. I knew she'd be up to it and she was.
I started at the place I thought was the central point, which it was not, but I talked some about his wisdom, the only man I've known with what I take for wisdom. Have known two women I believe have wisdom, but Jr the only man. Over a period of about 5 years he told me his entire life. I hold it as a gift. She asked if I told him as much of my life. I said, 'My life is too damn boring,' adding that I can't talk to him about W.B. Yeats or Walt Whitman, and just about everything that's of interest to me, like for one thing, the Chinese novels and history I'm reading at his house. That's where my life is and it's too boring for somebody who doesn't read, watch movies, watch tv, none of it.
Jr's mind is held by figuring things out. Like for one, how to play a banjo. When he was 14 he figured it out. People come to him to ask him to teach them and he says you have to figure it out for yourself, and if you can't, you don't want to learn it. He has a brilliant mind for figuring out why a tractor won't run when other mechanics have not been able to find it. I recall a time a couple of guys working on a backhoe went to Jr after a week of working on it for a clue. They couldn't find anything. Nothing they did worked. He said, 'It's the distributor.' They said, naw it aint. It had to be this and that and the other. They went back and worked on it some more and nothing they did worked. They came back to him three days later and said, 'It was the distributor.'
It's respect. Respect for a brilliant mind. It just works in a different way from mine, thus all the more fascinating to me. I told Mary how for so long he thought I was unable to do anything because I couldn't weld, or do mechanic work, or ride a motorcycle, or run a knife down the belly of a deer hanging by its back feet and watch the guts run out. He felt sorry for me in a way, because I didn't know how to do anything of value. He didn't even believe I could work a riding mower. Then one day I carried into the house a painting I'd made of him playing his banjo, a profile likeness. That knocked his sox off.
He's seen several other paintings I've made of people he's known, and appreciates the likeness. 'I don't see how you can do it.' He was all the more interested when he asked where I learned to paint like that, and I said I figured it out. I explained a few tips like high contrast colors (red and green) close to each other come forward and low contrast colors put together (blue and green) recede. I showed him on one with a banjo picker sitting with legs crossed. To bring the legs forward from looking like they're lying flat on the surface, a splash of white on the knee of dark blue denim brings the knee forward and makes it look 3-D. I picked examples he could relate to music making. Both are art forms.
Another subject of our conversations is everything I can learn about this culture. I want to hear him telling me of his life in this culture. The culture I came from he knows well enough that I don't have to explain. It's the culture off the mountain, the flatland, everywhere else. And Jr, like me, is here because out there aint fit for man nor beast. Also, both of us are outside the culture of television. So we're kind of on our own among everyone around us where culture is concerned.
Respect kept coming up, because my respect for Jr is way up high for a whole lot of reasons. Then, toward the end of the session that seemed to last about an hour, I remembered the time my daddy said to me in his constant tone of voice, 'I want some respect outta you!' And I'm a kid thinking, 'Show me something to respect,' daring not say it. Then connect it with Jr and my daddy are the same age. Whoops. I've found a man I can respect the way I wanted to respect my daddy, but he wouldn't let me. I wanted to with all my childhood heart and he never allowed it. So I turned away from him.
Probably in the subconscious was this ongoing search for someone to respect. And it probably has to do with why I hold respect so high. I've known an awful lot of men and women, in my life I am able to respect as highly as I respect Jr. He's not the only person I respect. I have never been able to respect someone because I've been expected to. Perhaps it has a great deal to do with why it is that to expect anything of me just because you expect it is a certainty it will never happen. I think it made of me someone who does not honor expectation.
Then Jr got up and wheeled his chair into the living room and called to me. He got up because he thought I'd left. We went in and Mary talked with him some. Her phone rang and she had to go. All the rest of the day I've been emotionally wrung out, generally exhausted, barely able to stay awake and unable to sleep. I dreaded having to write you before the end of the day and having to stay up until that was done. But it's been great. I even had some more insights from the writing of it. As you've seen by now, I often write to find out what I'm thinking. That's the fun in it. Part of it.