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Sunday, November 15, 2009


moment in whitehead

Beautiful day outside, 70 degrees, and I didn't step out the door one time. Didn't want to do anything. Didn't want to read or listen to music or hear the radio. It's Sunday. It doesn't seem right having the door open and TarBaby not going in and out. He goes from door to catfood table in kitchen like a black streak. I've not seen that in several days. The others, Caterpillar and Tapo, are quiet, as is usual for them. All day I've felt a longing to visit TarBaby, the one thing that could have got me going today.

Thoughts about Jr have swum in my head. Jr and TarBaby. I was seeing Jr sit up on the side of the bed to drink an ensure, remembering our conversations as I'd sit in the wheelchair beside the bed. A few times I tried having one with him when he was not wanting them any more. It only worked twice. Third time he just took a sip. All the way through his slow decline I would think of Jr in the time when his mind and his body worked, knowing he never wanted it to be like this, lying in bed in pain, unable to stand, no strength, refusing to eat because it made him sick, didn't like water because it made him pee in the night. Nothing rational about any of it in a fading mind.

Seeing now that the slow fade was his karmic way out, I'm all the more glad to have kept him out of the nursing homes where he would have went out months sooner knotted up in despair. If his first suicide attempt failed, he'd be on suicide watch from then on, the same as strapped down.
A problem in the facility. The Jr I knew was not one who would take his own life. Yet toward the end when his mind stopped functioning, I had to take the magazine out of the pistol he kept in a drawer by the bed, and see there's no shell in the chamber.

One day he asked me for the pistol. I handed it to him. He sat up on the bed admiring it. I could see he had no idea how to use it, what the trigger did, or anything. The only danger if it were loaded would be going off by surprise. It was an especially gripping moment for me as a measure of how far his mind had slipped, seeing him handling it like a baby would. After he fell asleep I put it back in the drawer. This was the last time he saw it.

Moments like this come back in memory causing me to feel what I felt then. In this case, as in all of them, I felt tremendous sorrow to see the measure of how far away he'd gone. And I felt joy that I was allowing Jr to be able to function at least a little bit in his helpless phase. I wanted to be the one taking care of him, because I wanted to be there every minute to see that he was getting real care. The only way I could see that his care was up to my standard was to do it myself. It was the only way I could know with certainty he was not being robbed of his personal autonomy, or just plain robbed. It was important to me for him at least to believe he could write a check if he needed to, or drive his car.

Looking back, I tend to remember the Jr within I communicated with, the Jr I knew, the Jr behind the mind that fell away, Jr the individual soul. I didn't know the details of his soul's salvation, but when somebody asked about his soul, I said his soul is all right. Jr was another the song A Man Of Constant Sorrow was for, a man who knew its meaning. His life had a heap of major sorrows, but he didn't dwell on them. He went on daily into the future.

Every one of Jr's sorrows was one to knock him face down in the dirt. In the manner of Jr Maxwell, he got up, wiped his face with his sleeve and went back to working. He accepted them, one at a time, as something God gave him to get through. Like he once said to me, "I been through it and come out the other end." He like to didn't make it through the last one, Spider Woman abandoning him out of the blue as arrogantly as she did. Complicate it with severe loneliness and unable to work the sawmill or pull a wrench on a rusted bolt, and you end up with a man unable to do anything but watch cars, trucks and motorcycles go by on the highway, learning the flow patterns as a measure of the economy, like the way he watched the string hanging from a bell on his porch for the direction and speed of the wind.

A few years ago I went into Radio Shack and found an indoor thermometer that tells the temperature outdoors. Jr's body for 80 years of his life lived outdoors. He knew how the various temperatures felt, and if it was 20 outside and 80 inside, he'd be cold. The mercury thermometer was over by the door. The thermometer from Radio Shack looks like an ipod sized television. The screen tells the temperature outside in big letters easy to read from 6 or so feet away. There was a long period of time Jr watched it all day long like a television, watching the numbers change. He flowed with the temperature changes outside, while sitting indoors 75 degrees. I brought it home for my memory of Jr.

I'm glad he didn't watch television because I would have missed the experience of knowing Jr. I couldn't spend much time in a house with a tv going. And people who don't watch television think differently from people who do watch it. Not better or worse, just different. Our minds work better together in the same mental ballpark. We'd turn the news on at 5:15 to see the weather and half a dozen commercials, then turn it off.
At the table, he faced the front window that looked at the highway, and I faced the back window with the empty birdfeeder. I wanted to put seeds in it, but he didn't want it. There came a time I did put seeds in it and he didn't mind.

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