Friday, January 21, 2011

who you were

Some of the fishing companies that Jeff had worked for would provide jackets for the crew with their name embroidered on the shoulder. Once when asked what Jeff wanted marked on his sleeve (he had a plethora of nicknames that could of been used in his name's stead), he had remarked, "Just Jeff". When his coat arrived with "Just Jeff" scribed upon the arm, he had thought it was ruined. I had thought it described him perfectly.
Recently, I have noticed that the person who Jeff was and who Jeff is now imagined to be has shifted. I feel that I alone (aside from his mother and sister) can remember him with his real faults and with his true strengths. To others, he has become an icon.
I've heard him described as a 'Viking'. I've heard another express that he thought Jeff would have loved playing a Wii. When telling a dear friend how Liv had a MASSIVE temper tantrum and that I had (in the heat of the battle) told her that her father would have not stood for her hitting and kicking me, the friend said, "Oh yes, he would have. He was a sucker when it came to her."
I understand that the phenomenon that occurs when someone has died - they become someone in many people's eyes that they actually weren't while they breathed. But it angers me. I find myself correcting other's opinions, recollections and estimations of Jeff's personality. At times, the listener wants to stubbornly hold onto their new 'version' of Jeff. They argue with me, "I know Jeff would have given Briar a toy gun!"
But they're wrong.
He was huge, tall and strong. He could be crushingly terrifying - but he wasn't a least not once he was old enough to have some sense. Jeff hated video games and thought they were a waste of time. Although Liv had Jeff in her pocket, he believed that children must treat their mothers with respect and kindness and at times, he was annoyingly intolerant of her childish ways. Jeff did hunt. He had guns. But he swore that they were not toys and that he would teach both of our children the proper use of these tools.
I am amazed and resentful that some people believe that they knew him like I did. I despise the image that they have created. I want to remember him as he was - Just Jeff.


Sócrates Newbold said...

Yeah, I get annoyed when people create a bullshit version of my late wife, and get it so so wrong.

Anonymous said...

Ten billion 'yays' that you have written in your blog and ten billion 'yays' that you took some time away, when you needed to.
I'm sorry that Liv is having a hard time, emotionally. I work with kids who have lots of frustration and have had great success, over the years, working with a children who have experienced trauma, like Liv. Here are 3 things to add to your already extensive, parenting tool box! *1. Physical contact is key...hugs and cuddles, when you sense an openess to them and long enough that the CHILD pulls away from the adult(a sign that they have a full 'love tank'). This takes time, which means letting go of your expectations of other things you have to do. Even resting your leg against hers when you sit beside her, will help. *2. Eye contact is very important. Not forcing it (eg. don't say, "Look at me!") but finding ways to pay attention to what she is doing and then gently getting her eyes to look into yours, through comments of shared interest. Getting this kind of loving, eye contact BEFORE asking anything of her will make a huge difference in lessening power struggles.
Kids with one parent see it all. All your emotions in full force. You have to be tough and strong to get through this life as a widow but softness keeps the love flowing and tears help maintain softness. Liv needs to cry too. Every time she sheds a tear think 'hooray!' And your job is also to help her move from 'mad' to 'sad'. *3.You can do this by repeating whatever she is saying (yelling!) in an empathetic tone (eg. a) child:"I HATE YOU!", parent:"Right now you hate me." eg. b) child:"I'm NOT doing what you say." parent:"I hear your words. You really don't want to do what I'm telling you to do.") or saying 'mmhmm' in an understanding tone. You might be lucky enough to get some tears if she senses you have all the time in the world and want to hear what she has to say. I know you don't actually have all the time in the world but taking time to do these 3 things will eventually reduce the amount of time spent fighting!! Never ever take what she says personally, no matter how personal she tries to make it sound. A therapist can never do what you can do. You have all the love and devotion she needs. And even when you are tired you can squeeze out an empathtic, "ummhmm". Save your frustration for later and turn it into tears if you can. There is much strength in softness.

Suddenwidow said...

Hugs Jackie. I don't know why the human tendancy is to turn dead people into saints. But I know that wives usually know their husbands the best, the deepest, the most intimately, and perhaps it is our job to keep them real in the eyes of others (especially our kids). Living up to a perfect, dead father is not something I want my boys to have to face. I want them to grow up feeling supported by the memories and knowledge of a wonderful Dad who loved them unconditionally and also had a few flaws that made him human. Perhaps keeping that man in sight is our job, as wives and mothers.

I'm sorry Liv is having a tough time. Aidan's also been having a tough time lately with friends and social situations. It sure makes it extra tough to not have that other parent available. I hope the tough times pass soon for all of us, at least for long enough to give us all a break. Take care of yourself! Love ya!

Jenn said...

No-one can know a man like his wife. No-one. Not his momma. Not his sister. The relationship between a husband and wife is so intimate (given they are close and in love) and nothing can compare to it. My MIL often thinks of my husband like he's still a kid. She'll buy him things he would've worn 20 years ago but would never wear today. She reminisces all the time about what he did way back when and when we've argued sometimes, she'll say, "He's my son, I lived with him for 18 years..." and I go, "Yes, but I've lived with him for the past 18 and I know him NOW, not what he was but who he IS!" I totally get what you're saying. Hugs~

Phoenix Rising said...

New here. Just landed. It's annoying when people "get it wrong" when they are living; it's crushingly painful when the get it so very wrong after they are gone. Know that YOUR Just Jeff is that: YOURS. No matter what anyone says otherwise, you know. And some days, that matters most of all.

Ginger said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean. I am becoming increasingly aware of this in other people when they talk about my husband. Ugh.

Ginger said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean!