“Jack The Elder” is my first cousin on my dad’s side of the family. His older sibling was an inconvenience to his mother’s social life when he came along, so she pawned him off on the rest of the family at every opportunity. Ned was a likeable kid, though, so no-one minded. However, Jack turned out to be bratty know-it-all, so he was harder to get rid of. This started a life-long effort on the part of my aunt to brag about him for all of his sterling qualities (mostly imagined) and noble actions (done usually with an ulterior motive).
Jack had the unfortunate luck to be in the lower genius level of society so, of course, it went immediately to his head. No-one could tell him anything, because he already knew it all so, naturally, common sense was not something that he acquired in any appreciable quantity. That would explain why his girlfriend became pregnant while still in high school.
Patti was cute as a button, vivacious, fun-loving, equally as intelligent as Jack, and the life of any get-together. No-one could figure out just what she saw in Jack, but she must have had her reasons for being attracted to him. They “did the right thing” and got married and proceeded to raise their son, Jack Junior. Both sets of parents helped out, and the young couple managed to get their college degrees and get decent jobs. By necessity, young Jack had to spend a lot of time with one set of grandparents or the other. Patti was an only child, and Jack one of two so, when it worked out that Jack The Younger turned out to be the only grandchild for either set of grandparents, it was only natural that they should spoil him rotten. My aunt even did all the things for him that she should have done for her own sons. Needless to say, he thought the world of his grandparents.
As is often the case, Jack and Patti had a marriage that was probably doomed from the start, partly by their youth, but perhaps more so by Jack’s “charming” personality. Jack’s family silently blamed him; I don’t know who her parents blamed. I’m sure there were some flaws on both sides; there usually are. Young Jack mostly stayed with his mom in the beginning, but when his hormones kicked in, he got a little much for Patti to handle, so the boy was moved in with his father and his father’s new girlfriend. The resultant clash of raging hormones (made worse by divorce) and raging ego on the father’s part often sent young Jack to the grandparents’ homes. Not only was it more peaceful there, he got doted on, so he understandably grew to love his grandparents even more.
Both grandmothers were just plain silly over him, but the grandfathers made some effort to teach him manly and honorable conduct, mostly by example. Young Jack seemed to have the personality of his uncle, rather than his dad, so that was a blessing for everyone, including himself. His paternal grandfather tried to teach him how to be gracious and sophisticated without being stuffy, and how to be comfortable being whoever he was. While that was a wonderful thing, his maternal grandfather did him the biggest favor—he taught him a trade. From earliest times, he tried to get young Jack to go with him on heating, refrigeration and air-conditioning calls. When the grandfather retired (more like when he died), Jack simply took over the business and stayed busy.
It’s that business that caused me to contact him recently, when my brother-in-law left that sort of business to work in an office. Our aging appliances may supply him with a small stream of steady work, as most new appliance aren’t worth bringing home from the store, and I plan on keeping the old ones until they’re no longer repairable. It’s been nice to renew contact with him. I’ve missed his younger perspective and his easy laugh. Of course, I think Jack The Younger is probably about 50 these days. However, his father is still living, so the term yet applies.
Jack is learning to prioritize his life. Not every battle needs fought, and not every labor is worth the effort. He’s learned, for instance, that he likes working for older people, as opposed the younger, richer consumers. He says they’re more pleasant to deal with, and more appreciative of his efforts. They also are less likely to quibble over the price than the better-off younger folks. Of course, it may help that he seems to cut older folks a slightly better deal. I think it all goes back to his relationship with his grandparents. While he plans on trying his best to keep up with technology, he told me that he’s going to target the older segment of the market. Other businesses don’t seem to want them, and he PREFERS them.
He doesn’t have a wife or kids, so with both sets of grandparents now gone, his world is shrinking. His dad lives one state to the north of us, spending his retirement playing video games day and night. I don’t know what his wife does for entertainment. His mom, single for the second time, is doing a sort of legal work for a friend after “retiring,” and is active on the board of a local wildlife park. Over the years, she’s gotten multiple college degrees, and has worked as everything from a college professor, to an EPA scientist to a long-haul trucker. She’s also an author. I suspect that she’d STILL be the life of any get-together. Jack now lives in the house where she was raised (as was he, largely), while she bought a house two doors away. My guess is that they’re close.
I suspect Jack is a bit lonely for family. We’ve thought about having him out sometime. If we feel mentally energetic enough, maybe we’ll invite his mother, too! ;-) © 2015