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Saturday, April 25, 2015

SAYING GOODBYE

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A few hours ago it came to me for the first time, of all my friends who have died, I've not had a conversation with any them at the end of their lives about glad-to-know-ya, or anything. It has stayed in my mind to the point I've almost come to tears a few times thinking about missed opportunities. At the same time, I can remember thinking about it, but feeling it presumptuous, or seeming so. I was with friend Jr Maxwell in his dying months. Even toward the end giving him tootsie-pop sponges on a stick soaked in water several times a day to keep his mouth wet and provide a bit of water. The times I thought about saying something like, I've held you the highest of anyone I've ever known, rationally more than emotionally, it felt presumptuous. It was saying, You're gonna die. I did not feel like he needed to be reminded. He knew it better than I did. He went with every day like this is what we're doing today. He had his own thoughts on his demise and needed no more. He didn't like anybody invading his mind. I never did with him like Hospice recommends, talk about death and God and Jesus, like nobody gets it about dying. The man was 87 years old. None of however many days he lived was spent in front of a television. He was baptized when he was 11. Grew up in Liberty church in Whitehead. We'd already talked about his belief. He said once he believed the Ten Commandments covered it all. Another time he said he prayed every day. Another time he said he prayed every day to be lifted out of this lifetime. 

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He didn't need a conversation about him dying. I went with the attitude that my behavior tells my meaning more clearly than talking. I felt like he spoke his version of the deathbed chat the day he said to me a few weeks before his mind went away, "We're more than friends. We're more like brothers." I felt his meaning. There was something to it. In one way of looking at it, close to his way at the time, all of his friends had betrayed him in one way or another in his last years. A niece shouted in his face one day, like louder is better, "Yer loosin yer MIND, Uncle Junior!" There wasn't much he could say. I said, "He doesn't need reminding." She was the same as the one who asked me on the day he died, "Where did Uncle Junior hide his money?" She'd already stolen so much from him, hidden money was all that was left of what she wanted. She wasn't the only one who believed he had hidden money. He had no money at all, lived as cheaply as I do. Every time she was in the house and he wasn't there, she'd find his liquor and pour it out. She thought she was stopping him from drinking, when she was only costing him a lot of money he didn't have much of. She, who lectured him about drinking as if from on high, was a pain-pill and "oxy-codeine" junkie. The ones who wanted money they believed he had hidden were suspecting me of being there to take advantage of him and get his money. They didn't notice their obvious motives were transparent. 

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Two half-great-nieces were the worst. Neither one of them knew him at all. I called them the Absentee Police. They dropped in for three minutes every month to inspect the house. One day they called Social Services and said there was shit in the bed. SS came to inspect. No shit in the bed. He knew they were there by, "Hello Uncle Junior," and, "Goodbye Uncle Junior." I'd see them drive up the driveway, go to my reading seat and pick up the book I was reading. They came in with such arrogant attitudes I learned to ignore them. They'd go all over the place inspecting while I sat and read. Going out the door, it was, "Don't work too hard TJ!" And I'd reply, "Don't worry about it." Calling them the Absentee Police was my PC way of calling them bitches. I saw one of them around five years later and was still so enraged I couldn't speak. I looked at the ground to say leave me alone, I don't have to put up with you anymore, and will not. Didn't have to put up with them then, though assessed it easier to let it go by than get more bitch-games going. I often remember what an aunt told me years ago, If you don't want it started, don't start it. In the time his mind was fading, a social worker said he seemed down that day. I told her he'd learned too many times who of his friends are not his friends. She looked at him for his assessment of what I'd said. He affirmed it with a nod. Then she turned sad. Every one of them had abandoned him or betrayed him. And then there were the surprises, the ones who showed they really cared about him, ones he had not known cared so much. 

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Toward the end, these were the ones I called to say if you want to see him one more time, come on today. One of the most moving moments for me was when I called his cousin, Richard Joines, the day before Jr's spirit left the body and told him today is your last chance to see Jr. He was there right away. He lived just over the hill, but two miles by road. They'd made music together, worked bulldozers on big projects together, known each other all the way along. That day, Jr was lying on the side of his bed farthest from the door, where he never slept. Jr was lying there, mind completely gone, body too weak to sit up, like a newborn baby aware of light and dark and not much else. Richard walked around the bed and Jr watched, puzzled by who this could be. He recognized him when Richard approached. Jr's arms went straight up toward Richard and I saw with my eyes two beams of light go from Jr's eyes to Richard's when Jr said, "Richard." The beams were like from a pocket flashlight. I left the room saying to self, this is for them, not me. Richard was moved deeply and thanked me from his heart later for calling. When Jr still had his mind and I had the radio show, I'd play his music from time to time and ask everyone who remembered him to give him a call or drop by. Those weekends he had phone calls all day and sometimes somebody from the past would drop in. Though I never spoke with him about how much I appreciated who he was/is, I was aware at the time of letting my behavior tell it. I asked people in the grocery store who knew him to call or stop by. Every call and visit gave a little light to every boring day waiting to die. He understood better than I did that dying is what we do.       

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1 comment:

  1. That was beautiful, TJ. When mom died, I remember a nurse insisting mom could hear and knew we were there. The hospice nurse assured me differently as I suspected and that my previous visit was when she last was aware I was there, cause after I left she mentioned my name. That hospice nurse also mentioned that mom had told her, despite her in and out dementia, that although she was catholic, she understood my philosophy and didn't want the nuns or priests to stop by anymore until her last rights. She told her, I want to remember my boys and grandchildren.

    You're a really good person, TJ. I'm glad to call you a friend, albeit it a pen pal type!

    Peace be with you, Karl

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