Face Value

Our doorbell rang one sunny mid-morning shortly after the letter.  Jeff was in his chair in the den, so I went for the door. As far as I knew, we had no visitors planned that day. I suspected it was one of our neighbors, so I opened the door with a smile.

I think my smile surprised him. He sure surprised me. Skipping ‘Hello,’ he gruffly grunted, “Is my son here?”

“Of course, he is.” I answered.  Bewildered, I stepped aside to let my father-in-law in. He’d never dropped by before.

Dispensing with any potential pleasantries, he blustered by me and near -barked, “Where is he? I wanna to talk to him!”  

I jumped in front of him and led the way to the den, calling out to my husband. “Jeff!  Your Dad is here.”

We were already stepping into the den, as Jeff put down the recliner foot rest.

“Don’t get up!” Roger sternly ordered. “I’ve got something to say to you.”

Before he sat down on the couch next to Jeff’s chair, he turned to me and said, “I’d like to talk to him alone.”  

When I hesitated, Jeff suggested, “Maybe, you can take Sadie out?” I went to grab her leash, and while I was fastening it, I overheard the first part of the conversation.

“What’re ya doin’, Jeff?” Roger demanded. With a bit of humor, Jeff shrugged, “Watchin’ TV…”

“No! Jeff!,” he exclaimed. “I mean WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? You wanna know something, Jeff? You wanna know what I carry in my wallet? I’ll show you…”.

I was still in the kitchen, where I had previously been unintentionally eavesdropping. I  now intentionally began moving a little slower. Roger’s back was turned to me addressing Jeff.  He sounded angry and a little shaky, which was alarming to me. Peering into the den, I watched as he opened his wallet, reached in, and pulled something out.

“This!” he shook the paper toward Jeff. “This is what I keep in my wallet.” I only caught a glimpse as he put it away, but easily recognized it as the same baby picture Sally and Nannee kept.

In tears, I routed Sadie out of the kitchen, toward the back slider.

As she and I went out the door, I glanced over. Jeff, sitting forward, staring at the floor, didn’t say anything.

Roger, in exasperation, blurted out, “I don’t want to bury my first-born son!”

Something changed for all of us in that moment.

For Roger and Jeff, it was the beginning of a deeper relationship. I later learned that Roger had told Jeff that he would be available to drive him to appointments, so I didn’t have to miss work.

For me, it was the beginning of my relationship with Roger. I’d never taken Jeff’s Dad seriously. I never looked beyond the clowning. Mostly because, he made tremendous efforts not to be serious. I honestly, did not know he had it in him. That isn’t a dig on Roger. That’s me saying, I’d never tried to have a meaningful conversation with him.

I took Roger at face value, letting others perceptions, including Jeff’s, color mine. I didn’t know he’d listen to whatever I had to say, or that he’d be a steadfast ally.  Especially, after the letter. Especially, after Jeff died.

I took Roger at face value, when, the whole time, all that bluster and nonsense deftly camouflaged  a deeply caring heart.

Quote for the Week:

2018 05 08 If you never ask someone a serious question











The letter led to some good things. Calls from folks Jeff might not have spoken to in a few months, cheered him up greatly. Most of the calls that came when I was home were lengthy, full of laughter, and ended with some sort of promise.

“Yes, I’ll call you.” “Yes, I’m doing ok.” “Yes, I’m going to try harder.”

More people stopped at the store to see him, which he loved. He’d end up with a few new stories to tell me. Keeping current meant he was making new memories.

Jeff spent his time at the store talking to people, too. Other business owners, hot sauce heads, and entourages of brides and grooms – each and every one had a story to tell. Somehow, he always managed to extract them. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this one or twice, but truly, you only ever met Jeff once. After that, he was your friend.

I’m not going to say Jeff and his dad didn’t get along, but they weren’t always close. About the time Jeff and I started dating, Jeff and Roger, began to have more of a relationship. Our dating wasn’t the reason for that. It was just timing, the stars aligning, the universe sending peace, whatever you’d like to call it.

The three Korte men in my immediate life, Jeff, Eric and Roger, were always joking, laughing, guffawing, boisterous and generally loud. The loudness startled me at first, but it didn’t take long to figure out the Korte laugh was a genetic trait.

I enjoyed an abundance of that joyful and wonderful noise that to this day remains with me. I hear it in my head when I see something funny. I feel it in my heart and chest,  reverberating. If I’d have thought to record it, I’d probably have been able to sell it as a starter warm-up for laughter yoga. Or maybe I’d have just made a CD to play when I needed a reason to laugh, or just wanted to not laugh alone.

Also, genetic, I suspect, is the Korte tendency to smile and report all is right with the world, even when it wasn’t. There was only seriousness when there had to be seriousness.

Quote for the Week:

2018 05 01 I_d rather not have to say

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Serious: What it Means

Serious: Try Not to Be So

Serious: Fun