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George Jones seemed like one of the family

My heart is saddened with the passing of a family member. I hadn’t seen him since last summer, but he didn’t have time to talk and seemed a bit tired.

I last spoke to him in 2007 when he, my dad and mom all had a pleasant, but brief, conversation before he went on to thrill his friends with his stories and music. He was commiserating with my dad about how the best part about “cutting the grass is the cold one at the end of it!” My mom was rolling her eyes and giggling at the two of them, acting like old cronies.

Of course, I’m talking about the incomparable country legend George Jones, who left this earth last Friday at the age of 81. And of course, he’s not a blood relative, but I always looked at him that way, like a distant uncle, the big brother my Dad never had.

He performed at Fraze Pavilion in July 2007, and my parents got a rare chance to talk with him. My dad was speechless, but George was able to draw him out, making Dad feel in person what he’d already known in his heart: George Jones was his brother, a peer.

George wasn’t just someone who sang well — he lived the songs he sang. He battled those demons of alcohol and drugs and was saved by the love of a good woman, just like scores of men who listened and lived through his music.

I was dreading giving Dad the news of George’s passing, but I wanted him to hear it from me first. I was teary eyed but pulled it together when he picked up the phone. “Dad? Got some news to tell you.” “Is he gone?” Dad asked, knowing George had been hospitalized. “Yes, he is, Dad. I’m sorry.” He didn’t say anything for what seemed like forever, then, simply, “OK, I’ve got to go.” He immediately called my sister to let her know Greatest Living Country Singer had left us.

I know it doesn’t make sense to be that upset over a man I really didn’t know, except through my father’s eyes. He certainly wasn’t the greatest role model, coming by the nicknames “No-Show Jones” and “The Possum” honestly. Still he was someone who was real, warts and all, just like us.

Maybe that’s what upsets me so much. You want those people you love to live forever. I give George Jones, via my father, full credit for my love of country music. To me “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is the best country song ever, but it’s wrong. George Jones, I will never stop loving you.

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