I did not want to write tonight. Hearing about my friend Jeanette passing totally by surprise, evidently just sat in the car and expired at the steering wheel. I've been so shattered I wanted let the writing go and get some sleep. In the bed, I only thought of Jeanette, woke up more the longer I stayed, until I got up. I close my eyes and see Jeanette's profile. She had a beautifully distinctive profile. A nose that gave her face a beauty she did not see. I especially liked her with her hair pulled back tight. Strong face in profile. She had the facial poise of a dancer. This is my own point of view. Jeanette is, I don't want to use was, in my heart one of the people in my life with a big place in my heart. She and Ty live in Atlanta. It's been several years since I've felt like dealing with the highway for six hours. We don't see each other a lot, but when we do, we pick up as if five years shrank down to a few days. I see Jeanette powerfully in my mind's eye. I close my eyes, I see Jeanette. It's like I look through her image to see the monitor of gray lines on white. It has not yet sunk in that she is absent. I feel no sorrow for her. She's wide-eyed in Gloryland. Ty is having the worst day of his life, as is their boy, Dylan. I see Jeanette's kitchen and the interior of the house she decorated. I see Ty and Dylan in an empty house, bereft by the absence of presence. It's not like she has a round trip ticket. This is one way as it gets. She's the sister of my friend Lucas, who is feeling her absence, as is Judy. Jeanette and Judy are probably each other's closest friends. I'm not good at condolences, like saying, "I'm sorry." I've never understood what it means or why it's always the right thing to say. There's nothing else to say. I see Jeanette in my mind's eye in her house, where I knew her mostly, with dog and cat, the house in a subdivision, set back among trees giving the feeling of being in the woods.
The one memory that stays in my mind is the time we, Lucas, Judy, Ty, Jeanette and I, met in Athens, Georgia, where Ty and Jeanette were at U of Ga. We drove into Atlanta for the Bob Dylan concert, his first tour, at the Omni. He sold the place out twice. We went to the afternoon show. The night show was next. Driving into Atlanta in Ty's beloved Camaro, we had no idea how to find the Omni. None of us knew Atlanta. We stopped at a gas station to fill up. Asked station attendant if he know where the Omni was. He didn't know. In the car, we were on the way to pull into the road and saw directly in front of us a sign that said Omni Parking. It was straight across the road from the gas station. Not only was it in sight, it was half the landscape. I forget the year, mid Seventies. The Dylan tour was the big event of the year. For all of us it was an epic moment. My only memories from the concert were of Dylan at a piano singing Ballad of a Thin Man, "Something is happening and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr Jones," and the performance of Like a Rolling Stone. The show climaxed with, "Once upon a time you dressed so fine, you threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you. People call, say, Beware doll, you're bound to fall, you thought they were all kiddin you." The Band brought the music up to orchestral, major volume, and lights on the stage so intense Dylan and everybody in the Band were bleached white, ghost-like figures in a field of intense light. The emotional intensity of the moment was the highest. It was the song everybody in the auditorium loved unconditionally. I felt like the concert bonded us like a trench-mate experience in WW2. It was a bright star in the firmament of each of our skies. A fabulous memory we share. I remember Jeanette's joy. She and Ty were in love all the way through their college years and married upon graduation. When it comes to two people in love, Ty and Jeanette were in love from the moment they met and it never went away.
I think of Jeanette a dedicated teacher who believed in teaching as her role in doing her part to make the world a better place. She has the ability women have to carry full-time work with hours of homework a day, keep a house clean, feed a husband, child and self, shop for groceries, do laundry, clean toilets, keep her life at home going too, and have something of a social life. She kept an extensive flower garden outside and plants inside in good health. I see Jeanette a seeker and a striver. She had a deep and realistic spiritual life. She was like her brother, Lucas, wanting to be the best a teacher could be. I believe they both reached their goals. I sat in on one of Lucas's classes, this day's subject the New England Transcendentalists. He was good. The people in the class paid attention. Jeanette gave the kids at her school full attention. She felt a need deep within to make a contribution in her world to make "the world" a better place. And she did make her world a better place. I don't like to think about Ty and Dylan without Jeanette. I have felt deep loss, but not anywhere near what Ty is going through. My experience is no more than a peep-hole view into Ty's. It's an empty, desolate feeling. Nothing inside but a big black hole. No hope. No anything. No forward, only wanting to go backwards and rewrite the story. There is no changing anything. Followed by the period of grief, hanging on, hanging on, missing it when the grief fades away, feeling guilty because it doesn't hurt so much anymore. Wanting to feel the pain again. It's all that's left. Eventually fall into a groove and go on like before, just in a new way. I cannot imagine Ty without Jeanette. It fails to compute. It's Hansel without Gretel, Yoko without John. Ty's purpose and his support, all went away at once. There is no advice I can give him, no consolation either. Words when you're down and out at the bottom of the pool are like swimmers wiggling above on the surface, silent movement, looks like they have reason, but don't know what it would be.
I'm not one to say, "She's in a better place." She may be, but her part is whatever it is. We on this side of the veil don't know, though each of us has our ideas about it. We in the world of illusion don't even know what's going on where we're at. Jeanette has transcended illusion. We, the ones left without her are more of my concern. This side is where the hard part is. No matter what I think I believe about spirit, soul, I don't know anything. This side of the veil, a black hole has opened in several hearts. I have as hard a time imagining Dylan's pain in this time. It's a bottomless pain without any sign of an end. I don't know what to say, don't know what to do in the face of such enormous anguish. I feel Oedipus in his agony blinding himself, did not want to see any more. Ty didn't know Jeanette until after high school. There's not been a day of Dylan's life he didn't know Jeanette. I'm not one who can pat them on the back and say, "Everything's gonna be all right." Maybe ten years from now it will be, but it's not now. Nothing's all right, and it's not going to be any time soon. If I were there, all I could do would be to hug and cry. I wouldn't have any words, unless it would be something like shi-it, two syllables. This is not how the story goes. It goes another way, damn it. This kind of thinking is short-lived. For my part, I say prayer for Jeanette's soul, not that I think she needs the assist, just to say, "You got a good'n. You already know her. What can I say? We miss her." My heart embraces Ty, Dylan, Judy and Lucas. It's after five now. I've been at this all night. At first, I did not want to dive into my sorrow and couldn't sleep for seeing Jeanette's face. Writing like this is a meditation, a good chance to dwell on my friend of many years at length, examine what I feel, examine what I think about this moment from out of the blue like a meteorite crashing through the roof, but worse. I'll go take a nap and later in the day when I'm awake, I'll call Ty and hear what he has to say.
georgia o'keefe herself