Extended Family

When my father stopped sculpting, and after he decided that leaving the house ought to be optional Jaimie moved in.

Ever since the Victorian carriage house of my childhood my father had had a studio, and a studio assistant.

They were an interesting lot, the first won the lottery and stayed with my dad, if that tells you what the work environment was like. He must have screened them carefully, or I just don’t remember the short stints, but for someone who made a lot of enemies these assistants were remarkably loyal. In the 25 years that he was making art there were four of them.

In the early days, when my father was creating monumental sized sculpture they had true heavy lifting to do. As time passed, and eventually my father was not strong enough (or willing) to stand and sculpt he gave up the third dimension altogether.

Jaimie was his last employee.

He can tell it better, but as far as I know his job was to buffer my father from my mom’s intrusions, fetch coke from the store, change light bulbs, and wheel the trash cans to and from the curb so that my dad never needed to exit the climate controlled environment of the house.

Unlike the other assistants Jaimie moved in, living in the loft above the studio. There was no furniture up there, just an Iris inkjet printer the size of a volkswagon beetle. It was unclear where he slept, somewhere amongst his clothes on the floor I guessed. He also got 1/3 of our enormous basement, access to my fathers air compressors and tools, and the electronic refuse from our age of planned obsolescence.

He bugged me.

We had both gone to Brown and he was just a few years younger than me. But where I considered my degree one of my proudest achievements he disdained the school and all it stood for. Years later he would burn it on youtube, once again exemplifying how he could walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

And walk he did. Often barefoot, his feet had grown their own leather like blackened sole. He would run and swim in the lake, construct anything he imagined, and he delighted my father, who had spent his life trying to live outside the system. Jaimie just did it. He was Canadian and had done something that made it impossible for him to cross the border for a while.

An only child I felt an odd sort of sibling rivalry, and would feel annoyed when he joined us for dinner, and accompanied my mom to the movies. With his semi ex pat status he was with us for holidays and other things.

Then my dad died. I don’t remember him around the deathbed, but he must have been there, since he lived in the studio before and after. I do remember that he was so gentle with my father as he raged against his decay. After my dad died things changed. He didn’t move out as I expected but stayed on, changing light bulbs and doing the garbage. My father’s task avoidance had provided him perfect training.

It helped so much to know my mother wasn’t alone in the big house. He was just an atrium away.

First my dad, then my mom paid him to drive her things around, move art etc. Eventually I got into the mix, having him re-roof my house, put in flooring, and other construction jobs that took advantage of his dexterity but not his creative problem solving. I was hypocritical, hosting him, paying him, and judging him all at once. It was a bit of the not quite sibling rivalry, and a bit of jealousy that he was completely the architect of his own destiny. I was impressed and pissed off that he could live on 4,000 a year. And live happily.

As time went on my irritation grew to tolerance and then fondness. Living just as he wanted he began to build a life for himself. He owned land, and built a saw mill and milled lumber to build a dome. He started a family, and stopped living alone. He built a road to his dome, and invited people to visit in person and online. He negotiated a contract with a toy company and flew back and forth to China helping the factories create the prototypes. This strikes me as a great example of how he makes decisions based on his beliefs, not dogma. He had lived off the grid for years, growing much of his own food, bathing in a spring, using his own power not machines to accomplish so much.

He makes lots of choices that seem weird to most of us, particularly those of us living in Shelburbia. In our disposable world, he never takes the easy road. Unless he builds it himself. He is however, exactly the person you want with you during the zombie apocolypse. I dont think he’ll mind me sharing his secret about stealing the solar panels from road signs to derive power for his walking robot. Because most of us arent seeking power sources for our giant robots.

He has sold his land in Vermont and is hitting the road with his family. I used to joke that his girls would be dome schooled, now I guess it will be Khar Academy.

We haven’t spent much time together lately, and will spend less once he is roving, but he is family. So it doesn’t matter.

Happy trails JME

Do you have a Jaimie? Someone who has been woven into the fabric of your family. A not quite friend who you respond to with the mixed intimacy of a sibling?

Published by

Anna Palmer

Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.

8 thoughts on “Extended Family”

  1. What a cool memory, some times we take the people, past events and things around us for granted, its good to be able to see these things for what they are in the light of a new day.

  2. What an unlikely combination, you two. I love when that happens. I actually have a Jamie who’s family from my martial art days. Had we not spent eight years training together, I doubt we’d be as close as we are now. Our personalities are very different and it’s challenging for us but we gain perspective from each other.
    I’m glad you and Jaimie will always be in touch, it’s a cool thing – especially as a single child – that he became your brother.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.