Legacy Blog #18: Uncle Jeffrey

My Beloved Daughter,

One usually thinks of an uncle as an adult who is in a position of respect over the niece or nephew.

Yeah, that’s not how it happened with me.

You see, your Uncle Kenny married his first wife, Debbie, when I was around six.  They had their first daughter when I was ten.  Of the three of them on my side of the family, I only remember Sarah’s actual date of birth, October 6, 19885.  I was so excited to be an uncle, I bragged about her to everyone who would listen.  And, when she was a baby, we got along great.

Then she started walking.

I’d be hanging out in my bedroom with my friends and she’d come in and bug us.  I’d be watching T.V. with your Grandpa Chuck and she’d walk up to the television and turn down the volume or shut it off.  If Grandpa Chuck picked her up and moved her away from the television, she’d prove that she was your Uncle Kenny’s daughter by using, at the ripe old age of two, a bad word for a female dog.

Then your Uncle Greg had a daughter.  Jaimilee wasn’t raised around me, so I didn’t really get to know her until I was a senior in High School.  Prior to that, she was the adorable, freckle-faced, strawberry blonde who saw me infrequently and didn’t really know me that well.  My earliest memory of her was when your Grandpa Chuck and I visited your Uncle Greg and his now ex-wife in Springfield.  I was a freshman in high school and I could already tell that Jaimilee was going to be super smart.  She caught everything that everybody said.  I remember her doing something that got her dad angry and he said, “I’m gonna whip your !

She frowned and begged, “Please don’t whoop my .”

Kody was the third to be born.  He was Sarah’s little brother and “Kenny Jr.” in every way.  Sarah said the “B” word as a child and Jaimilee fearfully repeated the word that her dad had just used but Kody practically came out of the womb sounding like the proverbial truck driver.  I wouldn’t be surprised if his first word were a swear word.  He was also a slugger.  He’d trade punches with his big sister and, eventually, other kids at school.

Over the years, as they grew, their personalities also grew.  Sarah and Kody, since my parents watched them while your Uncle Kenny and his ex went out to party every weekend, were really more like little siblings to me.  I got so frustrated with them and was so happy when I finally had a bedroom with a door and a lock.  Jaimie was more like my little buddy.  I even babysat her when she was little.  On Saturday mornings, I’d go to her parents’ house and watch the mid-90s Spider-man cartoon.  She listened and rarely argued with me.  She liked school and liked to study.  Sarah and Kody showed their love to me by tormenting me.  I didn’t see it that way at the time, but I look back on that fondly now.

Sarah and Jaimie grew into beautiful young ladies.  Jaimie graduated from high school, married C.A. Counts and settled in as a pretty awesome housewife/photographer.  When Kody and his girlfriend had their daughter, Hannah, Jaimie fell in love with her and would spoil her every time she was around her.  Due to troubles with the law, Kody and his girlfriend couldn’t take care of Hannah.  Your Grandma Pat and Uncle Greg took turns raising her.  Finally, Jaimie and C.A. adopted her and have given her a loving home and have raised quite the Southern Belle.

Your oldest of two male cousins, Kody, has done the best that he could do.  He’s had his issues but he’s doing what he can do to get back on his feet, as of now.  Hannah’s biological mother died too young.  I’m not really sure how that affected Kody.

The sad ending truly comes from your oldest cousin.  Over her short life, Sarah grew up quickly.  She dropped out of high school, got into drugs and started smoking.  She moved to Florida as a teenager, living with her boyfriend and some other roommates.  Before she was nineteen-years-old, she awoke next to that boyfriend to find that he had died in his sleep . . . an allergic reaction to a medicine that was supposed to help him overcome a heroin addiction.

She met another boy, Cody Blackburn.  The most respectful boy that I ever saw her date, he adored her and did anything your Grandma Pat asked of him.  Sarah, quite honestly, treated him like dirt, from what I remember.  But their love sired a child.

A few months into the pregnancy, Cody left Missouri to work with his father in Utah.  He would send her money but she really did miss him.  Finally, she decided to go out to live with him in Salt Lake City.  So she bought a one-way ticket on Southwest Airlines from St. Louis.

I remember that day well.  You and I got up super early and drove from Springfield to Poplar Bluff, where we picked her up.  It was so different to see her pudgy belly with the baby in it, as Sarah was NEVER overweight.  She drove my car to the airport in St. Louis, you and me enjoying her company and me realizing just how much she’d grown since those days when she would intrude into my D&D games and interrupt our television time.

You and I each hugged her when we dropped her off at the airport, then headed back to Springfield.  She called me to let me know that the plane had made it to Salt Lake City.

Cadrian, your second-cousin, was born in November of 2008 (I think).  For a month, Sarah was the best mother that she could be.  Cody said that she adored their baby.  The day after your GG died, (December 3, 2008), Sarah called me, overwhelmed by the fact that she wouldn’t be able to go to her funeral, as she (like ALL children) adored your GG.

A week to the day after GG died, Cody Blackburn came home from work for lunch to find Sarah unresponsive.  She had rolled over on the baby, but he pushed her off and saved Cadrian.  Sarah had died within minutes of his arrival home.  A week of autopsies went by, with no real explanation for your twenty-three-year-old cousin’s death.  Cody’s father told me, over the phone, that he figured that she had died of a drug overdose.  Thankfully, the autopsy redeemed her.  The only drugs in her system were prescription drugs in the proper dosages.  We never truly figured out what happened.

Cody married a girl and moved with Cadrian to Tennessee, where he and his wife got all of their kids taken from them due to drugs.  They were given to the girl’s family, even though Cadrian had family in Missouri.  As of this writing, I’ve never met my eldest niece’s daughter.  That family did allow your Uncle Kenny and Grandma Pat to meet Cadrian, something of which I am happy.  Your Grandma Pat wanted me to take some time to drive her back to Tennessee again but she passed away before I could.  Cadrian is eight-years-old now and doesn’t know her family.

Had I known then what I know now, I would have hugged a little more tightly that day at Lambert Airport.  I truly miss Sarah.  I miss arguing with her and I miss telling her about Jesus.  She and I were baptized on the same day in the same creek in Ellsinore, MO.  Brother Tanner, the pastor who preached Grandma Pat’s funeral, baptized us.  I pray that it truly was an outward depiction of an inner faith within her.  I hope, when I finally leave this world, to hug her again.

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