I just called her Jan. She was my best friend since we were five years old. Her grandmother (Jessie) and my grandmother (Nettie) were sisters. So doing the cousins twice removed stuff, we were branch kin.
I do so remember when we were in school, as little girls, we would hold hands. I remember also, when she told me, she couldn’t hold my hand any longer, we were too old. I was just crushed.
We rode horses, played basketball, rolled our hair on big soup cans with gobs of Dippity-Doo hair gel and long hair pins early on Saturday mornings, so our hair would be full and STRAIGHT for our double dates with Johnny and Jimmy. Oh my goodness how I lived for those nights.
I was Jan’s maid of honor when she married Johnny O. Carter. She had gone with him since she was 15 he was so much older than she. She did graduate High School. I think it would have killed Loette, her mom, if she hadn’t graduated.
We used to go to Smith Mountain, to the fire tower, and we were skipping school. We didn’t do anything, but enjoy being away from everything.
Oh how I remember when I was with Jimmy on a date. We were double-dating, and scared I would make a mistake. The guys got out to go in the store. Jan turned around and looked at me as if I had two heads. She screamed at me, “Will you please loosen up some! For Goodness sake, he is not going to break you if you let him touch you. Let him put his arm around you! Do something!” I remember, when he got back into the car, I grabbed him and planted a kiss on him that would have curled his toes. She looked around and said, “I didn’t say eat him up!” Mortified! He didn’t seem to notice.
And I could tell you many times of when we laughed until we cried at things that didn’t seem to matter to others. I would go with her to her daddy’s, when her parents divorced, and we would ride horses all weekend. I loved being with her, all the time.
Johnny was not allowed at Herman’s house. Her daddy was so strict on her it was scary.
I remember when Herman took us to town so we could get our driver’s license. That would take a whole chapter of FUNNY to tell you all the things we did, but to put it mildly, it was good that Herman was a Deputy Sheriff for the County. We would have NEVER gotten our license if Trooper Dozier was not such good friends with Herman. When I failed to give all my turn signals, failed to show I was stopping in the middle of the road, and could NOT keep Herman’s car cranked, Dozier gave me my license. And Jan leveled a parking meter, trying to parallel park. Trooper Dozier told Herman to take us to the country and teach us how to drive. He did!
Jan and I were friends, all the way to the time she called me when she knew she was dying with cancer. I spent several weeks, almost every time I could break away to get to Lake Martin, to see her. We sat and talked about the Bible, our lives, our loves and our mistakes. By this time, she was re-married to Ed Blake and had been so happy with Ed. She had a son with Johnny, Jamey. But Jamey could not love Ed any more than he did his own daddy.
The only trouble I had with Jan, she was an active alcoholic. I talked with her every time I could about her drinking. She never believed herself to be an alcoholic. They never do! I talked with her sister, Ellen and even her brother James Oscar Claybrook, who was the head of the FBI in Alabama. They all told me they had tried to reach out to her. You could not help someone who did not want help was their answer.
Ellen called me, when she knew she was dying. I spent the last few days with Jan. I left the one night I needed to stay with her. She died through the night, and I was just destroyed. (I will never forget Ray would not go with me to her funeral.) I helped give her eulogy and I spoke at the graveside. I truly know what loving someone is like and losing them.
I loved Jan with a pure love from my heart! She was closer than a sister.
When I pray each morning, I ask the Lord to tell her hello for me.
I know she is waiting for me, and we will ride horses, eat for seven years and never gain a pound, and we will be in mansions side-by-side.
Jan, I miss you more as each year rolls by, but I am closer to seeing you too.
God, tell her she is so loved and missed…
Dee Bradley 5/10/2013