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See also Stuck in a World Not My Own,
EORGIA'S WAKE WAS A FINE PARTY. I got to participate more than any I've had here. Janice Sperling and Jutta Clifford helped clean up and get stuff. I'd decided when Janice suggested a wake, it would be a very positive time. Except for those who'd inevitably have just found out.
Heavy rumors rumbled about her Mom's partially loaded shotgun — True. And blood splattered all around the room her brothers cleaned it up gone from the neck up — Which was sheer morbid fantasy. According to the autopsy, Georgia Lynn Stafford died of an overdose of barbiturates. She'd just filled her usual Rx for two hundred caps. When she did that, she'd always call everybody who loved her. But they'd disconnected her phone. Jackie was the last to talk to her. From NY.
She was the saddest at the wake. She'd just found out and flew back. Food was plentiful. It started at five. The house was never packed. It was a celebration of need. You were there if you needed to be. Georgia friends all mixed in with Mark Bartos and Ardith Gibbons friends, familiar faces from the funeral and drinking at her and Mark's favorite Granbury bar C&W semi-sleeze on the town square and the lost caravan finally finding, thirty, forty miles south of town, where the river makes a swimming hole.
We all watched Bartos strip naked and sling out high over the water on a yellow rope. Tuck in tight and double back flip splash. Nobody else stripped. Some waded, hiking up dresses and pants. There was skipping of rocks and hesitant singing on the shore. Mark wanted to read Georgia's poetry. But still wet from the river, could only cry and cry and cry. Harriett Hearne helped him. Ardith blessed us all with fierce intentions into the sky.
By ten, most people had left the wake. Somebody brought a bunch of rhythm instruments, but only one guitar. Jamming lasted another hour and a half. I shook under a fat leather vest of jingle bells to free the spirit of the dead hiding in me.
The time before last when she called, I begged her not to die. But had to tell her it was hers. Nobody else could decide. And when she finally did it — she tried so many times — it would be okay with me. And I'll miss her but it is okay. I took a beautiful color slide of her casket and some lovely purple thistles Bobby Reagan found along the long highway from Dallas.
Everybody else had left the graveyard except the sweaty guys who'd have to put her in the hole. The preacher only threw some dirt on the shiny box. When he did that, I thought it was holy water and cringed. I got to be alone with the box in the middle of the mow-easy yard, “I hope you're finally happy,” I griped silent at the box of Georgia.
HE CEREMONY WAS TOO JESUS. She wouldn't have liked it less than I hated it. But she wouldn't have liked it at all. There was a powerful spirit in there. Christ didn't have much to do with it. I'm sure “if there is a” will take her lost soul in. Robin Milsom said I shook my head all the way through the service. It wasn't for her friends, and it certainly wasn't for Georgia. All the religious bullshit was for Georgia's family.
Dixie even went up and hugged Pete the Creep, Georgia's long lost father, about whom everyone had something negative to say. He seemed stunned and cold. I told him in the clear memory sunlight at the reception by the motel on Lake Granbury, after the graveyard scene, that I'd been in the room a coupla times when she'd called him. It was always paradoxing love hate hate hate. He was the first man to leave her.
Bartos had left her Friday. And taken his son Alex, who was gonna go with Georgia and Mark and eventually baby March Berlin to Germany. The Sheriff was her friend saw her Saturday afternoon. He lives down the street from where she settled on a cul-de-sac in green Granbury on the only street in town without a Bridge, Street. One hundred block higher than 914 here.
Mark came back without Alex Wednesday. The door was locked and an awful smell of something dead. He saw her through the bedroom window. He can't remember anything from the neck up.
The tiny little girl miraculously growing inside Georgia was gonna be born in Berlin, a fond memory of hers from summer in Europe before her and Lisa's fall from SMU. Some art school there was gonna pay all her expenses including transportation for her family and medical stuff, and Mark was gonna drive Georgia's little orange Datsun pickup around that grey partitioned city with sculpture in the back. They were going to video everything, and Georgia would paint and how wonderful it would be. Their proposal was wild poetry.
Bartos briefly turned from an arrogant asshole while he was with Georgia. I remember him proudly announcing “We're pregnant” in awing shy silence. He pregged her first time in. She'd always told me she couldn't have another baby, even though she wanted one so desperately. Preg envy real bad.
SPECIALLY SINCE Lisa brought Zack back from the safety of Indiana parents paying for everything. Georgia always had to fight to get support from her family. They had her convinced since she had epilepsy and all that crazed talent energy charging through her, she could never make a living, and so she didn't mostly. The brothers paid her way through life. Once, long before scouting sites for Lorimar — a job she got through Jackie, I remember her talking about “going deaf at the blind factory.” But like most jobs, that one only lasted a few weeks. She was late and too many demerits piled up.
October 17, 1985
This story is from a letter to my friend,
the late poet Gerald Burns, who had asked
about Georgia's death, funeral and wake.
DARts Archives Index
See also Stuck in a World Not My Own,
a non-objective review of
Georgia Stafford's life's work.