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 probably from his mother) 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.


  1. Great post. I can relate 100%. :/

  2. Yes. This is exactly what I struggle with day in, and day out. My husband was deified after only 2 months of being dead. People have come out of the wood-work claiming to have been great friends of his - these are people that I had never heard of in the 11 years we were together. Even his family is making him into a saint. He was not a saint and that is what I loved about him. He had so many flaws; that's what makes us human and real. When they take that away, it really means that they are forgetting who he was.

  3. I needed to hear this today. It has been an issue with me, it seems someone always has a story to contradict what I say about Matt, like I didn't know him at all. I lived with him day in and day out for 14 years and I think I know him pretty darn well. It is a major issue with extended family, almost a competition with one in-law who insisted that she knew him better than me and was his closest confidant. BS, she hadn't had contact with him in the last months of his life at all! Why wouldn't the wife be the expert on her husband?! Nobody knew him better than me and he was not who they have created in their heads. To tell me that I am wrong is just cruel and mean.

  4. I have dealt wtih this more with my teenage boys than I have with "outsiders". Sometimes when I'm being the "bad guy" and trying to be a consistent parent, I get "Dad wouldn't do that!" thrown up in my face. After this occuring a few times I had to stop and remind him that Dad, indeed, would have done just that. I still make my parenting decisions based on what Jim and I did/thought/said "before", even though the kids sometimes have a convenient case of amnesia.
    Jim was not, nor ever will be, a saint.
    Nor will I.
    He was human.
    So am I.
    He was fallible.
    So am I.
    He loved them very much.
    So do I.

  5. i've been waiting to read a post like this.It seems so petty and disrespectful to think in these terms but it's been stewing a while.
    people put my husband on a pedastal everyday. its as if me and my children will never live up to what they feel he was.we live in his shadow with no way of ever being good enough. when in fact, we were a great family and we still are. he alone was not the only good thing that came from this family. we were together 22 yrs. i love him,he was a wonderful person, husband and father, but he wasn't perfect.

  6. thanks for sharing this with us Jackie. Recently I have become almost obsessive about the minutiae ... the accuracy of the story-telling about Cliff. He was well known, and many people think they knew him and didn't. Many people re-tell stories about him and get the facts wrong, even his family do this. AND IT IS REALLY REALLY BOTHERING ME RIGHT NOW. So I am actually writing many of the stories down, using his actual words and sticking them in a memory book. It's my way of dealing with it.

    People never cease to amaze me ... why don't they think before they speak? Why would they tell you what Jeff would say or think ... when you are the only person in existence who could actually accurately and intuitively know what he would say? grrrrr ... it makes me mad.