Days turned into weeks as I stopped at Jr's on the way home from town. I saw Jr a man beat down in the ground. His primary issue it seemed to me was he was lonesome. He sat in the house by himself, didn't watch tv, didn't read, sat and looked out the window at the curve in Hwy 18 where Rifle Range Road enters the highway, waiting like a fisherman for a car or truck to turn up his driveway.
He watched the wind in the trees and the temperature. He watched the rabbits graze in his lawn, watched a spider in the window. He talked on the telephone and sat in neutral day after day. I came to see that his lonesomeness was a great contributor to his depression. I couldn't do anything about the depression, but I could stop by and be company for him; then he has at least one visitor a day. Telling me of his life, of his band, of people he has known throughout his life. I can listen to talk about life in the old ways in these mountains without end. I also found that Jr had been drinking himself to sleep night after night. When I had a couple drinks over a couple hours with him, that cured his loneliness for awhile. Consequently he drank less. His drinking had been on the verge of self-destructive. But Jr knows where that line is.
Everybody around him was getting in his face about his drinking. and I told him he drinks less than most lawyers, judges and doctors. Less. In the middle class drinking is not only acceptable, it's what people do. In the working class the Baptist church influence is everywhere. If you drink anything in the working class you're a drunk. One time his niece from below the mountain drove up the driveway. I put the bottle out of sight and my glass. He said he didn't care what she thought of him drinking. I said I don't either, I'm just not interested in hearing it. He put his glass out of sight before she came through the door.
Something else I noticed was this niece watched soap operas and made drama out of anything. Everything was down, couldn't get no worse, all the time. Moaning because it's all so awful. After she spent an hour or so with Jr, he was talking the same, nothin aint never right. Then Jean came into the picture and she was a practitioner of negative mind too. There came a time after seeing the affect it had on him that I set out to change the tone of the conversation at the table. As of one day I quit letting them get away with talking down, down, down, all the time.
The niece from below the mountain quit coming by, making it a lot easier for me. I wouldn't talk that way with Jean. No need to be groaning about everything that's wrong. It can carry you away. There really is so much that is wrong that it can occupy a lifetime figuring out everything that's wrong, and the magnitude of how wrong it is. There is also much that is right. Where I put my focus is where I go. The mind is so fluid, as fluid as air; it can flow with any kind of force coming in from outside oneself. Jean would be overtaken by negative mind rather easily, but it took less and less to bring her out of that downtrodden self-pity mind she would get into.
In the early weeks and months Jean came by more and more often. Sometimes she'd cook supper for all of us and I'd wash dishes.Jean had spent her adult life in and out of psychiatric institutions, psychoanalysis, powerful medications with deadly side effects. I was fascinated with Jean's knowledge of the workings of the mind. I learned later that she was curious about this guy that accepted who she is from the start, and didn't run when she said she was bi-polar. After a certain point, it was the 3 of us around the table every evening. Jean and I started coming by on Sunday mornings and Jean would make breakfast for all of us.
Stories from Jean's life came forward that were sometimes hair raising. I came to believe she went to mental institutions periodically to get a rest from her family. They were the crazy ones. Jean was of such a sensitive temperament and they were so boisterous and loud. Their whirlwind minds transferred to her easily as she was so sensitive, and there were times she couldn't take another moment. She'd "break down" and go away for months or years. She got the name for being crazy, called herself the crazy woman of Whitehead. Jean had a great deal of gratitude for Jr. He never abandoned her when everybody else did. His ear was always ready to hear whatever Jean had to say.
This went on for some years. Jean and I kept the lonesome blues out of Jr's house. He came creeping back, the Jr full of life, an open, friendly spirit. Sometimes on a weekend I'd show up at the house in the evening and he'd be wasted drunk. Been drinking all day. He was a happy drunk, and I am too, so there were never any harsh words or wise cracks or dramas. We laughed and told funny stories to laugh about. We decided on New Year's Eve to sit and talk and drink until midnight. We both got loose such that I was about to dissolve into a puddle of swamp water and Jr was lit up fairly good, too. We had hundreds of laughs. The more we drank the more we laughed. We cleared midnight like runners crossing the finish line. We were talking slow and laughing about all the time. When midnight finally struck, that was it. I went home and he went to bed.