I didn’t intend to be in another relationship at 20, but there I was living with a man in a tiny home in Bend Oregon. I met Jeffrey in July of 1979 and by the fall of that year we were living together.

It only seemed natural to move my belongings and my cat in with his belongings and his cat. I had a kitten named Jeff when we met and it didn’t take long before my boyfriend’s name became Jeffrey instead of Jeff.

I had a gray cat named Jeff, then I met a man named Jeff Gray

Life was good in that little house at the end of a dead end street. We both worked and had friends and did all of the normal things young couples do. I was happy and what made things even better, was my best friend in the entire world lived just a few towns over.

I’ve written before that my brother Johnny was my best friend since childhood. Nothing change about that as we got older, except that we got even closer. He was always just a call away and I spent most of my days off at his place.

Johnny was in a relationship and even though he was only two years older than me, he was already a Daddy. It must have been hard for his partner LeeAnn, being around Johnny and me. We had such a close bond there were times when we inadvertently excluded those around us by getting caught up in our own conversation.

LeeAnn managed to hold her own though, and once Elizabeth was born, that baby girl was the center of our attention. It was great having my brother so close. Everything was falling into place and I was enjoying life.

My brother with his daughter

I turned 21 on May 10, 1980 and Jeffrey surprised me with a trip to Lake Tahoe to celebrate. We packed up the car and hit the road. I remember sitting in the passenger seat looking out the window watching the tall pine trees go by when all of a sudden I felt a profound sadness wash over me.

Jeffrey said I looked pale and asked if I was okay. I told him yes, but that something bad was going to happen, and there was nothing I could do about it. We didn’t speak anymore of it and continued on with our trip as we both wanted to enjoy our time together.

We arrived back home on Monday after our long weekend, and the first thing I did was call my brother to tell him about our trip. He didn’t answer, but there was no need to leave a message. I knew he would phone me back.

I was a little upset when it took him several days to call me. After all, this was my 21st birthday we were talking about, and I wanted to share it with my brother. We finally spoke the night of the 14th and unlike our usual hour-long conversations this one was short.

Johnny listened to me talk all about our trip and then just said, “I’m glad it was fun sis. Happy birthday. I gotta go.” Then he said goodbye and hung up. I remember looking at the phone after he hung up thinking, “that was weird”. Something didn’t feel right.

(To be continued…)