Sunday, October 7, 2007

Requiem

This weekend was and wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I cried my eyes out, but I wasn't expecting the camaraderie and fellowship to be more powerful than the majority of the sadness. I have been to several funerals of people I have been close to and close family with, but they were all older people - not new babies. My niece was about to be six months old. It's not like losing Gramma at a ripe old age, it's indescribable pain and loss.

I'm known for my inappropriate humor at the worst of times. I'm one of those people who cope with pain by laughing when it's possible. I tried my best to STFU during the funeral but my mouth overcame my better judgement and I started cracking (small) jokes with my sister after the preacher stopped his blathering. If there was only one good outcome of me going into debt to get out there, it was that I was able to lighten Gwen's and Jonathan's load for a couple of days. I'm grateful I was given that opportunity. The whole story of me getting out there and back is... special. I'll share.

I took the Greyhound bus from Nashville to Knoxville, with no small amount of trepidation I might add. Prior to this trip the only experiences I'd had with them was from picking Lua up there a couple of times and those weren't pretty experiences. I was prepared for the worst the criminally-toothless had to offer. My boss dropped me off out there, in my work finery, and I miraculously wasn't accosted or mauled by the scary hobos there. In fact, I found one older lady who was a knitter and I spent my hour of waiting-time until departure talking-shop with her and her husband. DH told me the best spot was near the back of the bus so that's where I settled - about three rows up from the latrine. Later, I discovered that was a HORRIBLE idea and I vowed to ride in the front seat on the way back. Pheeeewwweeee!

I had an interesting seat-mate for the first leg of the journey. His name was Jimmy. He was wearing a lovely blue "scrubs" top and some new blue jeans. He had a scary scull tattoo on his arm and I naively commented on it after a couple of minutes. Turns out he got it in prison (gulp). Even more special, he had just gotten out of prison and was on his way to his parents'. His SECOND time in prison. First was a 10-year stint for murder, from which he was released early and the subsequent term was shortly thereafter for a parole violation from drugs that sent him back to serve the last three years of his sentence. I was a little frightened but since he seemed friendly I spoke freely with him for the remainder of the ride.

I learned a couple of interesting things. 1) Anal raping is more of a hollywood and news rumor than it is a reality. According to Jimmy, anyway. 2) Prison is much worse on the folks who miss you than it is on the inmates. He said it wasn't so bad being in even though it's not a storybook existence either. 3) Jimmy agreed with my opinion that it's not a real punishment for criminals or a deterrent for anyone who's committed to breaking the law. He assured me that jail is much more harsh than any of the prisons he was ever in. After lengthy discussion (we had nearly two hours) we decided that unless you're sentenced to die (and you should be killed quickly, not left to leech off the government teat for decades) then you should be sentenced to hard dangerous labor until such time as you die or are released. Like the salt or coal mines...

Upon reaching Knoxville, I wandered around getting my bearings and looking for Lua, who was NOT there to pick me up. I was disappointed and grouchy and not a little bit hungry. No food was close outside of the tiny and questionable establishment inside the station. More toothless and unfriendly people were waiting there than were in Nashville. I quickly found the smoking "hole" outside where it promptly began raining. I discovered that everyone was grouchy because Greyhound had overbooked and some of them had been there over 24 hours with no hope of leaving before that same time the next day. All of a sudden I understood the grouchiness and that made it much more bearable. Sure, I was potentially abandoned in Knoxville while my forgetful twin did other things, but I at least had a way out whereas most of those folks were just stuck - broke and hungry and uncomfortable. Ouch.

A nice man came and began a conversation with my glum self while I was in the smoking hole. His name was Don. He eeked the first smile out of me and it was uphill from there. He told me he had just graduated from Seminary school and was on his way somewhere when he got stuck here. He'd been without his heart medicines for going-on five days at that point and was completely broke and starving. My discomfort paled in the face of his misfortune and his good spirits despite everything that was happening to him.

I commented on a lovely turquoise ring he was wearing and he told me the story of how it came to be his. This led to him showing me something he had created himself and the amusing and interesting things he'd used for its construction. It's a jewelry box made from folded bits of small chips bags. It's absolutely amazingly constructed, but it's also obvious that he either learned the skill at camp or in prison. Lets not kid ourselves, I knew immediately it was a prison-skill. *sigh* He'd done seventeen years in Arizona for murder, where he'd subsequently developed his heart condition. He was Italian, Don something. I wish I remembered his name, because he was a lovely person. I gave him nearly all the food I had on me. Mostly granola bars and cheese & peanut butter crackers.

I hope he got where he was going without further strain on his heart. He gave me the jewelry box I admired so much. It will forever remain one of my most treasured possessions. Especially since it took him 50 hours to make and he gave it to me for nothing but a smile and some conversation. God and Goddess bless you, my friend, wherever you are tonight.

The funeral the next day was funerial. I stayed with Gwen afterward, much to Lua's dismay, because he wanted to take me around to show me all his friends. Gwen needed me though, so there wasn't any contest. She and Jonathan, her husband, drove me to the bus stop in Knoxville the next afternoon. Unfortunately, none of us remembered the time change so I missed my bus. They waited with me, afraid to leave me lest I get stuck there all night on an overbooked error like the people I'd originated with. I did make the midnight bus, so that was lovely, but I was savagely tired. The bus was overfull so I had another seat-mate. This one was named Juan and he was a Mexican seasonal laborer who'd been coming over here for years every fall to work tobacco. He gave me his pillow to use because my head kept knocking into the glass window and he felt sorry for me. I may have drooled on it once... I'm terribly sorry for that, Juan. And wherever you are now, I hope the God and Goddess are smiling favorably on you as well.

It's late and I'm tired from recounting all my shortcomings and my couple of brief successes. I'll post pictures when I've got some charity work done, and when I can add a picture of Don's beautiful jewelry box.
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