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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

THE GATHERING

the blue tractor #3
Bright sun, clear sky today, temperature in the 60s, a perfect day for an outdoor funeral. By the time I arrived at the Joines cemetery in Whitehead, it was short sleeve weather. Walking around shaking hands, hugging and talking with people I now know well, people I didn't know before I started staying with Jr. Whatever questions they had of my integrity in the beginning are answered, except, of course, for the Absentee Police, who showed up early to sign the book and they left.


They strutted around the crowd to the signing book laughing at all the fools they were seeing. Strutted back and disappeared. It would have been something great to film. Follow them from when they park, get out of the car and walk all the way to the signing book and back. Wouldn't need to hear the words. The meaning was strikingly obvious. Like in movies, their facial expressions and body language tell what they're meaning. One of them looked especially ridiculous with a young-looking hairdo and
Xtreme Space Patrol sunglasses, a mask without eye holes. It was like everybody else was the audience and they were the show. Separate from the crowd of nobodies that knew nothing about fashion.


They left word that Jr was thriving in the nursing home and now he's dead because, of course, of TJ's incompetence. Everyone who has been around seeing Jr regularly, some of them often, laugh out loud at their aggressive display of arrogance. The ones that obviously care nothing for Jr and don't know him except by what they've heard over the years, looking down their noses at the people who love Jr. Their absence of love for him is what stood out like drunks in church professing amongst themselves to be the ones that really love Jr. Comedy in everyday life.


Melia Edwards and her sister Judy Carmichael have buoyed me up, supported, helped, become friends in the real sense. They are the girls of Claude Edwards, Jr's first cousin, totally real human beings, not a hint of fluff on them. Practical, intelligent women who have a Christmas tree patch and a hidden treasure of a gift shop where they sell jewelry Melia's husband Joe makes and interesting things to look at. The place is so unique that people find it, a red roof in the Christmas tree patch, up the driveway from Pine Swamp Road. Jr and their daddy were friends all their lives as well as cousins.

Harold Hayes and Betty I was glad to see. Harold played bass with the Green Mountain Boys. After the end of GMB Harold played at Windsor Crossroads until he became unable. Betty had a dress shop in Sparta several years. Harold puts roofs on houses, a roofer, carpenter too. We have a special affection. When Betty spoke lightly into Jr's ear, Jesus loves you, it was right. I mentioned I appreciated that. She said she's not one to say much and didn't know what to say. That's what came out. I said when it comes from the heart it's right. She knew it was from the heart. It was Betty who wanted to know how his soul was.
Going from person to person, men, women, shaking hands, embracing, feeling love in the heart. Spoke with Richard Joines a few minutes. He is one of the really close ones with Jr, a cousin. When he came to visit Jr not many days before, I saw when Jr recognized Richard his eyes light lit up so bright they beamed like spotlights on Richard when Jr raised his arms for a hug. Richard is another good man.
People standing around talking before the service, Jr's casket suspended above the pit everyone's focus of interest. It was closed with a wreath of greenery, no flowers, topped by a turkey feather. 8x10 photographs of him from different times in his life. Jr had said no flowers. The obituaries say to send a donation to Hospice. Three Hospice nurses were there. I was happy to see them as I was everyone else. It was even fun seeing the Absentee Police again---from afar.
Seeing Milly again was much better. She has lotsa irons in the fire with farming, selling insurance, county commission and other pressures. It's still Milly. Ross was there and Fran, John's wife. These are the Richardsons, the ones Dean Richardson was responsible for while he chased moonshiners on the Parkway. Betty, Dean's wife, mother of the gang of four, is always fun to talk with. She raises miniature goats, has chickens and ducks and cats and dogs, black cows, horses, farm animals.
Betty's farm animal zoo. She said today her chickens think she's a rooster. I missed what gave them that idea.

We talked about how much the people who knew Jr loved him. I don't mean liked him. Loved him. I never try to guess the size of a crowd, but I'd venture fifty or more. Every one of them were people who loved Jr in their individual relationships with him. Some were people who knew him since they were children. For many of them Jr was a grown man when they were kids. The preacher talking at the service said when he was growing up, Jr was a grown man he respected.


Dean Richardson is 5 years younger than Jr, meaning all the way through school Jr was one of the big guys, and he would stand out as the mischievous one, the one the younger kids look to as an impressive guy. He was good at everything he did, like riding horses, working horses, working the farm with his daddy when he wasn't in school, good with boxing gloves and baseball. He wasn't condescending to the younger boys, causing them to look up to him all the more. Dean at 82 still has the respect for Jr at 87 he had then, looks up to him as that older guy who was so good at everything he did, and always up to some prank. Dean's respect for Jr has been a beautiful thing for me to see.

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