March 13th, 2020
Jeanne is dead.
She’s been dead since July, but I just learned that fact a couple days ago. The news saddened me, but it didn’t surprise me. I knew that she was on her out, but I didn’t know exactly when that would happen.
I had known Jeanne for several years, but I can’t say that I knew her very well. I have only a few memories of her, but those scenes are etched deeply in my mind. At this point, it is difficult for me to remember all of the circumstances involved. Time has a way of blurring thoughts and focusing emotions. The technical details of my memories are fuzzy, but the feelings in my heart are more intense now than they were at the time that the events occurred.
I have to start by mentioning Jeanne’s husband, Greg. Greg worked with me at the trucking company. He was a driver and I was a dock supervisor. People sometimes have an idea that truck drivers are rough and uneducated. This is generally untrue. Most of my co-workers were intelligent and talented in remarkable ways. Greg had a passion for music, and an encyclopedic knowledge of it. He even had his own pre-dawn radio program at a local college station. It was called “GB and the Neutral Drop”. Greg and I would talk about music and politics quite often. Sometimes we got on each others nerves, but we stayed friends.
Several years ago, Greg retired. I can’t remember how long ago that was. At first, we only heard good things from him. He was enjoying his retirement, and he and Jeanne did a lot of traveling. One of their sons was working in China, and Jeanne and Greg visited him there.
Then Greg got sick.
He had a seizure. He was subsequently diagnosed with cancer, both in his brain and in his lungs. Greg wasn’t a smoker, so I don’t know the cause of his cancer. I think he had to have both radiation therapy and chemo. His life changed radically, and so did Jeanne’s.
Karin and I were invited to a party at the home of Greg and Jeanne. It was a small get together. There were only eight of us there: Terry and Patti, Dave and Anne, Greg and Jeanne, and Karin and myself. I remember that we all spent most of the time in the basement, a place where Greg had his old school juke box. He spun 45’s, and some of us played pool. Jeanne wanted people to get up and dance. We did. It made Jeanne happy to have us all together, and to see Greg enjoying himself.
The radiation and the chemo hit Greg hard. He lost his hair, and it then it grew back differently. I went to visit him at his house one day. We talked. I think he was in his pajamas, but I’m not sure any more. Jeanne made us sub sandwiches. I ate all of mine, and Greg ate about half of his.
Jeanne was so excited about that. She smiled and said,
“Greg hasn’t eaten so much in a long time!”
Then she turned to him, smiled, and said,
“See, you’re getting better!”
In the summer of 2014, Karin and I had a party, a big party. We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. We had tents in the backyard, and lots of food and drink. We had two bands that came to play music for us. Randy Van and his boys played the blues. Lee and Ian played horror punk. We invited all and sundry. It was a wonderful time.
Karin and I invited many people to the party. Most of them came. We also had people come uninvited. I was told that the true measure of a celebration is how many strangers show up. We had a few. God smiled on us that day.
When Karin and I decided on having a bash, I was determined to invite Greg and Jeanne. Actually, they were the very first people to be invited. It was important to me that they be there. They came.
Greg looked okay, but I could tell that he was tired. He wore a huge straw hat, and he generally sat in a chair while the bands did their thing. Greg sucked in the music like oxygen. I could tell that he enjoyed it.
Jeanne danced with me on the lawn (with Karin’s approval, and assumingly with Greg’s). As we whirled, we talked. I told her how much it meant to me that she and Greg were with us. She smiled.
There was no funeral. Both Greg and Jeanne were atheists. A funeral seemed both pointless and unnecessary.
Months later, Jeanne and the rest of Greg’s family had a party in a local park to remember Greg. Karin and I were there. So was Randy Van, Terry and Patti, Dave and Anne. It was a good memorial. I don’t recall any ritual, but that wasn’t the point.
Jeanne told me repeatedly, “Let’s just remember the good times”, and then she smiled.
I kept in touch with Jeanne after Greg’s death. She traveled extensively. She visited her kids in Chicago and DC. She lived. I know that Jeanne grieved for Greg, but that didn’t stop her from being in the world. I admired her for that.
Last year, sometime, Jeanne wrote to me. She told me that she had stage IV pancreatic cancer. She knew that she was dying. I can’t remember if she sent me an email (since deleted), or a snail mail letter (since misplaced).
I sent her a Christmas card. I wrote to her. No response.
I finally wrote an email to Terry. I asked him about her.
He replied, “Call me.”
We really didn’t need to talk. I knew.
Let’s just remember the good times.