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Memories of My Nonnie and Dancing with George

I have always found it fascinating how something you see or hear sparks a specific memory. I saw on my Facebook feed that on this date four years ago, legendary country music singer George Jones passed away. When I think about George, I am always immediately transported back to when I saw my very first concert as a kid. It was John Anderson and George Jones, and I was sitting with my mom, dad, and my mom’s mother. She was my Nonnie, and she was the biggest George Jones fan I have ever known.

My Nonnie, or Ruby Earl as her friends called her, was a no-nonsense woman. She never wasted time mixing words, and was quick with a hand to anyone who she thought deserved it. When I was growing up, she lived in a little house up the hill from what was then Cryer’s Camp on the southwest bend of Lake Bisteneau. We spent nearly every weekend at the lake with my Nonnie, aunts and uncles, and dozens of cousins and friends. If there was music playing at Nonnie’s, you better believe that there was some George Jones in the mix.

I remember when “He Stopped Loving Her Today” came out, and watching Nonnie shed her own tears as the 45 spun through what would become one of her idol’s biggest hits.

But the fondest memory I have of my Nonnie and Mr. Jones is when we got to see him in concert.

It was sometime in the early to mid-80s at the Hirsch Memorial Coliseum, and Nonnie was beside herself that she was going to see George Jones through her very own eyes. John Anderson was before George and we danced and swayed to “Swingin'” and other hits before the stage was cleared for Nonnie’s man.

The arena went dark and when the lights came back on, there he was…George Jones himself…and my grandmother…my Nonnie…

Was nowhere to be seen….She had vanished. My mom asked my dad if he had seen Nonnie, to which he said, “No. Maybe she went up to get a closer look.”

Dad was right.

About 30 minutes later, we spotted Nonnie, wobbling back to our assigned seats. She had a mostly crushed, but still half full plastic cup of stadium beer in one hand, and her shoes in the other. My mom looked at her with a puzzled look when she made it back to our seats and asked her, “Mother, where have you been? We were starting to get worried.”

Without missing a beat, my grandmother extended her shoe hand to indicate the security guards standing at the stage stairs and said in her thick East Texas accent, “Those men ov’thar wouldn’t let me go daince with George.”

She had attempted to just walk on the stage to dance with George Jones. And why not? She loved him. Alas, those men just didn’t let her.

We watched the rest of the concert and Nonnie was over the moon that she got to see George Jones, but she was mad at those men until the day she died.

Nonnie passed away in 1991. At her funeral, we played “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

Four years ago today, George Jones passed away, and on that day, Nonnie finally got her dance, because I know that she never stopped loving him.

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