The end of the year is upon us. I joined the TIMES-REPUBLICAN in the middle of it and found a new home and a new calling (only one of many), and my wife and I are expecting our third child. She has been very ill, as she is during all her pregnancies. But this too shall pass, as Doctor Baker told me as I drank coffee and waited for my wife in the halls of Wayne County Hospital. This is the last one for us, and Jennifer can then retire from the baby-producing business. She is due in July. It is no secret we are hoping for a girl, but a boy would be fine too. We just have not thought of any boy names yet, and the girl’s name we have in mind, Jasmine, has no masculine equivalent. The only thing Jennifer can think of is Jazz Man. I don’t think that’ll work, as my oldest son likes to say about anything he disagrees with.
I found my Christmas gift for her while I was researching my last main article, and interviewing Jeanie Divide—or whoever she is, exactly. Before sitting down to talk with her, I still thought that was her real name, a native one like Black Elk or Sitting Bull. While I was at it, I bought a beautiful silver necklace with a green stone and motley beads that Jeanie had made. She also fashioned matching earrings. I think Jennifer deserved them just for this last month of 2013. I wish for my wife a less nauseous 2014.
God decided that I did not do a good enough job writing my story about Jeanie. The first time I finished her article, the heavens were not pleased, and erased my text from existence. Though I had saved the document, as I worked on it in the editing phase my computer suddenly stopped allowing me to save. File permission error. The document’s name changed to some incomprehensible garble. I believe it was in a forgotten language such as cuneiform or Sanskrit. And then the file was gone. On the phone with our IT guy in Alabama—who ironically is named Hal, for those of you familiar with the book or movie 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY—we could not find evidence of its existence.
I went through the stages of grief, as Jeanie could describe to you in full as a licensed mental health counselor. Anger, denial, grief, some more anger—I even considered telling Rhonda I needed a timeout, leaving for the day to recollect myself—but I finally found acceptance. I realized I had not done a thorough job the first time. I had not exerted my best effort. The message the universe sent me was, 'Get back to work, and do it right this time.' And, wonderfully, the story during this second go-around fit together like a puzzle. For one time, I can say, ‘Thank God my computer completely erased that file, which I only had one electronic copy of and no hard copy, and sent me on a wild goose chase with a computer programmer with a southern accent and an ironic name.’ Yes, I can finally say that.
I met Jeanie in college during a figure-drawing class. They had models that wore only underwear, a couple of older gentlemen we were supposed to sketch. Our professor, Janet Heinicke, had the models pose in action shots. One time, one of the men was supposed to be a pickpocket, and the other was a Good Samaritan chasing down the thief.
“They both just happen to be naked,” I said.
Of all the students in class that day, Jeanie laughed the loudest.
Her article was my favorite from this year. It was that much sweeter because it came with a struggle. I also enjoyed talking with and writing about Tork Hook, Josh Baynes and several others. They all made my job much easier. As always, I invite ideas from the public about new articles.
I’ve never been a big celebrator of New Year’s Eve. I’ve spent almost every turn of the calendar at home, as I shall tonight. The farthest I’ve been from home on this date is Orlando, Fla., and by far the warmest. We drove down there. I think I enjoyed the drive the most, being through the southern states for the first time. In North Carolina, we drove through the snow-covered Smoky Mountains. In Charleston, S.C., I saw the ocean for the first time. Driving through Jacksonville, Fla. was beautiful at night, with water on both sides of the interstate. There was a cold snap throughout the country, so we didn’t reach 70-degree weather until Florida. Then, at Universal Studios Orlando, we spent two hours waiting in line for the Harry Potter ride, which lasted about two minutes. For my stepdaughters, it was two hours of sheer boredom for two minutes of sheer terror.
Things are not always what we expect them to be. Our best plans get skewed and sucked into a Black Hole. Good intentions are only the cocoon stage. Our work must hang upside-down in the darkness like a chrysalis. Sometimes it doesn’t emerge where we can see it. Occasionally it is for the next generation. You should never do work for the results, whatever they may be. Work done for the sake of the work itself is far superior. Then, if we are fortunate, on occasion, a butterfly stumbles out of its Black Hole cocoon. And we are allowed, humbly, to give it a name.
Another story Jeanie Divide told me was about visiting Westminster Abbey in London. There are several great men with great minds buried there, including Charles Dickens. When Jeanie stood on his grave, she whispered to him, ‘Thanks for writing.’