Monday, June 29, 2009


Julie, from Through the Barn Door, is dealing with damages left from a "temporary" tenant in her guest house. That's her story, so I won't go into details, but an email exchange with her brought to mind all the folks who have lived with us over the years.

Abandoned by his parents, J-Man was raised by an aunt and uncle, until the uncle became so abusive, J-Man feared for his life. Friends took him in and he lived in their basement apartment for a while. He's always had a soft spot for people with nowhere to go. As a result, lots of friends and relatives over the years have lived with us for one reason or another. Some stories have ended well, some have not.

Shortly after J-Man and I got married, my 17-year-old brother was planning to leave home. He and my dad never did have a very good relationship, so J-Man and I invited him to live with us for several months, hoping things would blow over. All it did was cause a rift between my dad and me, and still my brother would sneak out the bedroom window at night. After several months, he decided living with us was no better than living at home, so he moved to the YMCA, which advanced his life lessons considerably. My dad forgave us, and though their relationship was still bumpy, he and my brother were on speaking terms again. I'm happy to say my brother married a great gal and fathered 3 boys of his own. I'm sure my dad is chuckling from his grave over that one.

J-Man's best friend also lived with us part of that time, sleeping on the living room sofa. It was only supposed to be a week or so, but I think he was there at least 3 months. Since he was the pianist where J-Man was the choir director, and we lived right behind the church, he found it very convenient, staying with us. Eventually, though, Jerry moved out and moved on. We heard from him less and less often, which is sometimes how it goes with college friends. About a year ago, we learned he'd had a heart transplant--and didn't survive. We hated to hear that. I always liked Jerry. He and his girlfriend were responsible for locating a Cabbage Patch Doll for DD's 6th Christmas, at a time when you couldn't get one for love or money. I think she still has that doll.

Then J-Man's sister came for a visit with her two kids and "decided" (after she got here) to leave her husband. He got mad, came from 4 states away to stand in the yard with a gun and threaten us all, and then they made up and ALL of them lived with us several more weeks. Later on, after her husband died, we took her and the kids (now teenagers and with a pre-school niece) and rented a big house that had been for sale for a couple of years. We combined incomes to pay the rent, tried to help her get back on her feet, drew up a budget for her, and paid off some of the rubber checks she had strewn around town. That lasted about 3 months, at which time she and the kids got tired of the financial restrictions and moved back in with her stepdad, leaving us responsible for a huge monthly rent and repairs for damaged property.

A couple of years afterwards, she and the kids got a big settlement for the husband's untimely death, and blew through it all in less than a year. Her son got in with the wrong crowd, got hold of some crack cocaine laced with household cleaner, and died a horrible death. The last we heard, his sister and her daughter were living in an apartment with no furniture, struggling to get by, but angy at us for not letting them have one of our cars. Some people are slow learners.

For a while, one of J-Man's brothers lived with us. He was a divorced dad, with custody of his daughter for the summer. It was nothing for him to disappear for a few days, leaving his daughter in our care. I never forgave him for taking off while we were on vacation and leaving our dog without food or water. She managed to get out of the fence and went searching for us, and was hit by a car. At last count, he was living in California somewhere, close to his daughter. I hope he spent more time with her.

In the late '90s, DD, ever her father's daughter, persuaded us to take in a friend for a few weeks til he could get on his feet financially, maybe get a second-hand car, and go to school. He stayed a year, bought himself a Sony PlayStation, DVD player, and other electronics, and skipped classes at the community college even when we drove him there. DD gave him grief for his attitude and behavior and finally kicked him out herself. She recently heard he has apparently mended his ways and is in law enforcement now. What a happy surprise.

So this is the kind of guy I married, a sweetheart with a penchant for taking in "strays". Right now, the only stray living with us has 4 legs.

Who knows if that will change? Or when? I just hope J-Man never does.


Catherine said...

What a big heart your husband has -- and you too! How sad that people don't realize just how lucky they are when someone is as generous as you and your husband have been.

Libby said...

Even if the immediate result isn't positive . . . . you just never know what an impact you've had on someone's life *s*

Stephanie D. said...

He does have a big heart, Cathi--he's the most generous person I know.
Me? Not really. I grumbled too much to be considered generous.
But we have received help along the way--even living with his stepdad for 6 weeks one time. It's only right to pass it on.

Stephanie D. said...

That's true, Libby. I can still remember an offhand compliment a patient gave me back in the 80s; it made me feel so good, and he probably didn't remember it the next week.

MightyMom said...

what an interesting life you've had............

AnnieO said...

Wow, that's quite a list of temporary tenants! I can't imagine taking in extras like that but it would be impossible in our not that big house and five already living here. J-man is lucky his generous nature is backed up by his willing wife and family!

jenny said...

My sister is like that, always lending a couch or a room to people that need a place to stay. she currently has her MIL living with them and a Russian dad with his 2 kids living in the renovated garage. They have a full house and I don't know how she does it. But bless her heart she is a good person.

I can admire people that open their homes to others, and you have done much over the years. I hope that one day they will be grateful to you and your husband and count their blessings. :o)

Michele's Quilting Journey said...

Unbelievable collection of the bits and pieces of your life! You know you've had a stash collection, a scrap bag, and an ongoing lifetime patchwork quilt that beats any movie plot that I've ever heard of! Amazing, really, when we write it down and truly take a look at how life imitates art or vice versa. No wonder you're have to be to go with the patched up and colorful flow. But what richness, and texture and color this has added to the strong seams of compassion and kindness and love!