Back in the summer of 1986, Kev and I were in our mid-20's and had been married for 3 years. It was our first summer living on our property. Back then, we were living in our pole barn. Saying pole barn makes it sound kinda awful, but it was really nice. The pole barn was 32' x 56', and we finished half of it off into living quarters. Walls were chipboard, but we had carpeting on the floors and everything we needed. We lived in that pole barn for 6 years, and loved almost every minute of it... not that we were not very happy when we could finally have our house built. We look back on those years in the pole barn with great fondness.
That summer, Kevin's younger half-brother, Jeff, came from Arizona for a visit. I think Jeff stayed with us something like 3 weeks. So long ago now, I can hardly remember. Jeff was 11 years old, but his visit was either during his birthday or close to it, and he turned 12. He wasn't used to country living, that was for sure. My memory is that he had a pretty good time. We had a couple of adjustments to go through... Kev and I were no more used to living with a young boy than he was used to living in the country. I remember once he took a long shower and left the curtain on the outside of the tub so the water just flowed out onto the carpeted floor... soaked the carpeting out from the tub about 4' and I was all summer trying to get that dry. The floor underneath was cement, so it didn't dry very well in that humid summer weather. I really chewed Jeff out, and poor Kevin was caught in the middle. He thought I was too mean about it, but he wasn't too happy with Jeff either. Funny how I remember that now. Kev was 25 years old, and I was 26. Now, Jeff is 32... older than we were when that happened. And he has a son who is 12... his age when he came here to stay with us for that visit.
I found an old album, and I scanned in some of the photos. This is one of Kevin and Jeff, and I think I took these pictures toward the end of his visit.
Not very good quality, but I had only a cheap camera back then. It did have a timer setting, though... so here is one of the 3 of us with me talking during the photo...
Sammy asked what was wrong with my hair. Um... it was wet. Thanks, Sam. Anyway, we look pretty happy, huh.
And this is the best photo from celebrating Jeff's birthday.
I also remember that we got 2 kittens from my sister, Janet, during Jeff's visit. What kid wouldn't be thrilled with 2 kittens?
This is a photo of Jeff and my niece, Sara, holding the kittens while sitting on bales of hay.
We stored the hay in the garage portion of the pole barn that year because we didn't have the horse barn built yet. I had 2 horses back then. That was why I got the kittens, to keep the mice out of the pole barn. Jeff named the yellow & white kitten Sabertooth, which we shortened to Sabie. I named the gray one Elffie. Elffie died from an accident when she was about 6 or 7 years old, but Sabie lived until just a few years ago. She was a seriously old cat, especially for an outside cat. And she was wonderful to the end. I often thought of Jeff when I was with Sabie, and I explained to friends more than a few times that her real name was Sabertooth...
So... what brings on all these old memories? Well, first I have to explain something.
To start, Kevin and Jeff’s mother is a difficult person. By difficult, I mean difficult to get along with, difficult to communicate with, difficult to know, difficult to have a relationship with... she’s very, very difficult. Or at least when we knew her she was.
The difficulties with her were compounded by the fact that she lived so far away, in Arizona. Long-distance relationships are always more difficult.
In late October of 1994, I was very pregnant with Sammy. He was born Nov. 4th, and he arrived past his due date... so I was very pregnant. One day, while Kev was outside (I think he was raking leaves or using the riding mower to pick them up), and the phone rang. It was Kevin’s mother, and she was very upset. She wanted to speak with Kevin, but he was not near the house right then. I told her as soon as he made another pass near the house, I would get his attention and have him call her right back.
Kev called her back, and she was indeed upset. She was very angry. Jeff, who was by this time 20 years old, had arrived on her doorstep with his ex-girlfriend and their newborn baby. We knew nothing about Jeff’s pending parenthood, and neither did she. I believe she said to Kevin things like ‘he has ruined his life’ and ‘he’s too young’ and ‘what was he thinking’ and so on. I could only hear Kevin’s side of the conversation. I remember him kind of saying ‘whoa’ while kinda of laughing, and then he asked ‘was it a girl or a boy?’ From what I remember of Kev telling me, his response only made her a great deal more angry. I believe she asked Kevin why did that matter, and Kev said he wanted to know if he had a niece or a nephew. She didn’t know because she had kicked Jeff, the mom and the baby out of her house before she discovered. It was not a phone conversation that ended well. I think there were a couple more conversations in the days that followed, and definitely one when Kevin called her to tell her of Sammy’s arrival. His memory of those conversations is that his mother was not very communicative, and answered with mostly one-syllable replies.
And that was pretty much the last of his contact with her. Christmas that year came and went, and she has never acknowledged her grandson, Sammy. She also discarded her granddaughter, Joyce, as well as her son. How a mother could have a son as fine as Kevin and decide to discard him is something I can never understand. I don’t think she ever really liked me, and I used to think she wouldn’t like any woman Kev chose because they would never be good enough for her son. I was ok with that. And it wasn’t like she lived next door, anyway. She could have treated me like crap forever, and I would have taken it. But the way she's treated my husband and our children is... well, words escape me. I'm stuck on 'unforgivable' and can think of no other description for her behavior. Unforgivable and never are strong words, and it's troubling to me to use them. But it is what it is.
So Kev, who was never really super close with Jeff anyway... I think once Jeff became a teenager, maybe he had better things to do than talk with a brother he probably felt that he barely knew any more. And Kev was super busy with a young daughter, a new son, and working a shitload of overtime and rotten shift work. Those were some rough years for us... anyway...
Once Kevin decided not to pursue lines of communication with his mother any longer, after leaving a number of messages on her answering machine over several weeks with no returned phone call, it seemed that his relationship with his brother, Jeff, barely existing at the time, also was snuffed out. That was all 12 years ago.
Kevin has a sister, Lisa, who is a couple of years younger than him, and he talks with Lisa on rare occasions. I believe for a while, Lisa had a strained relationship with her mother, but apparently healed that bridge a long time ago and they get along now. Lisa, though, won’t talk with Kevin about their mother. Strange, huh.
So the other evening, I called Kev’s aunt to get some addresses from her for our mailing of Joyce’s graduation announcements... and she told me about this web site that Jeff has, and how he is a super talented artist. So we checked it out, and Aunt M. was right! His paintings are amazing. You can read about his art, and Dektown, here.
Seeing that photo of the man who Jeff is now, a person who we don’t know at all, was really strange for Kev and I. To us, he’s stuck in our heads as that sweet, gangly boy from the summer of 1986.