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Monday, November 16, 2009


the green chair

This morning I woke to a slight noise and started to get out of bed to check on Jr to see that he was all right. I was in my own home and Caterpillar was looking at me from the floor. Went back to sleep and another small sound woke me. I started out of the bed to see about Jr again. It's been over a couple of weeks and this has not happened before. I'm wondering if it's more nostalgia than conditioning. By now memory of Jr is fading from my mind, such that I suspect this appeal to conditioning could be my subconscious mind wanting to keep Jr in the foreground of my thoughts as he slips to the background.

This is the part of grief that is hard to deal with, seeing the other start to fade from the front of the mind to the back with all other experiences that are forgotten until reminded, or totally gone. I'm thinking the start this morning was my mind's way of bringing Jr to the foreground again as he begins to recede from the front of the mind. It's like a best-seller list and a pop music chart. When something that's been at #1 for awhile and you like seeing it at #1, starts sliding down the chart, replaced by new number ones, twos and threes, and gradually fades into forgotten, one feels a minor sorrow seeing it go away. In mid 1950s Bill Doggett's Honky Tonk was #1 for about a year. It was a record I never tired of hearing. I felt sorrow when it faded from the charts, though not major by any means. I never think about it now, haven't for many a year, but when I hear it by chance somewhere, it's new all over again.

I'd forgotten that last night I told myself I wanted to be up at 8 this morning and get the day going. After the 2nd time I woke to a sound that made me jump up to see about Jr, the digital clock said 8:02. Remembering that I'd asked to wake up at 8, now I see what a clever trick my mind played on itself. Or rather one part of the mind, perhaps the witness part, the witness who sees our dreams and understands what we're thinking, tricked the part of the mind that was dreaming with an association it knew would work. Automatically, I started to see if Jr had fallen out of bed or anything else of a long list of possibilities. It turns out I miss that degree of alert preparedness.

Two weeks back in my own space, that ever-ready mind has relaxed. In a way, it's like they say about someone with a limb cut off, that it continues to feel like it's there, like a ghost arm. Habits of thinking, habits in the details of everyday life are slow to change. For Jr it was a slow process from being able to take care of himself to unable, and a gradual process for me to adjust to changes as they came up, like from cane to walker to wheelchair. Tuning waves down to ripples and ripples down to calm was part of what I did too. Now and then somebody came in whose mind was a whirlwind of anxieties and they'd pass their mental fizz to him. When they were gone I'd sit with him and we'd talk awhile, I'd see to calming his mind, getting it back on his track just by talking about anything.

I'd been with him all the way from when his mind was good to when it went blank. Toward the end when his mind was a tiny fraction of its former self, I was able to communicate with him because I continued to see it was Jr Maxwell inside, just severely challenged when it came to expression. One of the most serious problems I had with nursing homes was their absence of interest in who he was or anything to do with his life and his habits. He was a number in a file; don't bother us, we're busy. They have guidelines: lie or you lose your job. A conscious being regarded the same as lumber. The beds equal shelves. I won't even mention the so-called food, because he didn't eat it anyway.

What a time it's been, helping a friend ease into dying, keeping his self-respect intact as he loses control of his self and dwells in the embarrassment of helplessness. In his helpless time I wanted Jr to be able to have someone with him he could trust absolutely. I never lied to him one time and never mislead him in any way. That's how I am with my friends. My friends are people I trust absolutely. That's the kind of friend I am. Being a friend / having a friend is the most important relationship in one's life. Somebody you can tell anything to and not be judged, knowing it won't be told around, is the highest value.

Tom Pruitt told me people told him things they didn't tell anybody else. He never understood why. It's because he didn't tell it around and he didn't judge them. We need people in our lives we can open up with; hence, be relaxed with, at home with, comfortable with. One of the primary reasons I disliked the condition of marriage was not being allowed to have friends anymore. Why can't I have friends for the rest of my life? Why don't you want friends? Some have told me what I did for Jr is not done very much in this time. That's part of why I did it.

There is much that is good and beautiful in this time. Barbara Kingsolver writes a beautiful novel. Bob Dylan is making music better than ever, writing volumes of really good songs. Philip Glass shifted the direction of what's called classical music. New ideas opening up at the dizzying rate of species extinctions around the globe. In some ways we're opening and expanding horizons every day. In other ways we're treading the path to collective self-destruction. Like the REM song, It's the end of the world as we know it. It just takes a couple of centuries for the old ways to fade out and the new ways to fade in. A computer is wild enough for me. Blackberry? iPod? Twitter? I do know what a blog is. So maybe I'm still kinda cool, maybe a little bit, a little tiny bit. Another self-delusion bites the dirt.

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