Friday, December 16, 2011

On my way to you, old county, hoping nothing's changed




Talking to Sean Purvis in front of his boyhood home really reminded me why I want to make this documentary. He talked to us about watching the older generations drink coffee and debate the Bible. He told me about the time Roy sold a song to the Judds but then couldn't find anyone to help him record it. Sean talked about Roy with such dumbstruck awe --- "Her poems were like something Edgar Allen Poe or Shakespeare did, and I was just blown away," he told me --- that I left our interview re-energized to tell this story. Sean talked about a Delhi that no longer exists. It's a town he worries no one will remember because no one has written it down, collected the memories. He was just a boy when Roy was already in his 60s. The people who really knew Roy have mostly passed.

Sean did remember one person who was a contemporary of Roy's. Miss Irby is at the nursing home still, he told me, so Aubree and I headed over there to meet her. She was a Jehovah's Witness who used to get into debates with the devoutly Christian Roy. By the time we met Miss Irby, though, she could barely form full sentences, let alone whole paragraphs. She couldn't stop touching me. She pet each one of my fingers, telling me how beautiful each one was. Then she kissed my hand and my neck before rubbing a snotty tissue over my hands. I kept thinking she was having a moment of clarity when I asked her about Roy. "He's up there, and ..." she'd say before trailing off. If she remembered Roy, she couldn't tell me. But when I stood to leave, she clung to me in the most sincere and sweet hug. Her smile was one of the widest I've seen.

Sometimes I feel like all the things I want to know about Roy are trapped -- in unfindable documents or in brains I can no longer access. But meeting people like Sean, who was so honest and simple in his love of the town that reared him, pushes me to keep searching.

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