It’s never good when the phone rings in the middle of the night. Good news just doesn’t usually come then. If it’s good news, it can wait until morning. Our phone rang last night just after midnight. I never expected what was coming.
It was my mom calling to tell us that my cousin, Jeff Newgent, had unexpectedly passed. Jeff. How could that be? If you want to get technical, Jeff wasn’t my cousin by blood. He married my first cousin, Donna. She was a few years older than me, but we lived next door to each other growing up. I spent a lot of time at her house, and I can remember when she and Jeff were dating. Jeff drove an old blue truck, and I can remember it parked in the the drive.It wasn’t long until my daddy performed their wedding ceremony. I can still remember that day clearly. The green and peach dresses, my cousin Wendy and me keeping the register, how cute Dana was as the flower girl, Uncle Richard watering down the dirt road all morning so there would be no dust during the outdoor wedding. That’s when Jeff became my cousin.
He was a carpenter by trade. A very good carpenter. The one we trusted to build our house because we knew it would be done right. I can remember us sitting in my grandpa’s front yard looking over the plans with him. Yes, we live in the house that Jeff built. We spent lots of time with Jeff over those 18 months. I can remember the day he put up these columns on the front porch.
We have a loose shingle on the front of the house now. One that was blown loose in March storm. I asked Chris not long ago if he was going to fix it. He smiled and said he wasn’t getting on that roof. It was too high for him. He would call Jeff.
Call Jeff. That’s what so many would do. For whatever reason. You knew Jeff would be there. My mom has called him times when I wondered why in the world she didn’t call Chris. Always dependable, Jeff.
The word that has come to mind over and over again is good. Jeff was good. Just good. He was just a good person. A person you couldn’t help but to like.
That was Jeff.
A lot of people are going to miss him. I know I do. But there are lots of things that I see in this house that make me think of him. From the “drawer” he made for me to carry my dishes to potluck dinners, to the hardwood floors he installed, to that very tall roof I remember watching him climb onto as I held my breath.
He may be gone, but I’m proud to say that I live in the house that Jeff built.