Four hundred and forty-three days and counting. This is how long Stuart and I have lived with my brother-in-law, Jay, and sister-in-law, Kami. How in the world do you begin to repay two people who have opened their home to you for 443 days plus more to come?
My first real interaction with Jay and Kami was on a ski trip in January 2009. Jay and I actually went to the same school from kindergarten through 12th grade. We knew of each other but never really knew each other. I had met Kami briefly one time a few months before the ski retreat. But our first memory of the four of us spending time together came in Wolf Creek, Colorado. Did I mention this was my first time to ski? Did I also mention that Stuart, Jay and Kami are awesome at skiing? For those of you who have skied, I’m sure you can relate to the awkwardness of snapping into the bindings for the first time and attempting to stand, much less move. They all thought it would be a great idea to teach me instead of attending ski school. Humbling is the best word I can think of to describe that experience. Stuart and I had been dating for just a few months and this is the way I would try to impress the family: falling down a mountain. As humiliating as I thought it was, that trip was the start of something beautiful.
I continued to get to know Jay and Kami a little better over the coming months but became closer after Stuart and I were married in March 2010. We quickly discovered how much fun it was to travel with Jay and Kami. They came to visit us in Colorado several times, we met them for vacation at Disney World, they helped move us to Florida, we met in New York City for the 4th of July one year, and always enjoyed seeing each other during the holidays. While the trips were fun there was always an ache each time the trip neared the end. In all honesty, I think I cried every time we said goodbye.
In July 2014 we found out Stuart had an opportunity for a job in Texas. Not only would we live in the same town as two of our best friends, we would actually live in the same house as them until we got settled. None of us could have foresaw that because of another possible move across state lines, that time for us living together would last for 443 days plus some. Crazy? Maybe. We have received all kinds of comments over the past year! But only the four of us got to experience how special and fun this time has been. I have gone from knowing of Jay and Kami to making memories with them to knowing them really as a brother and sister.
Let’s start with Kami. I first thought that she had to be too good to be true. Stuart would always speak so highly of her, as would her family and friends. But what stood out is I never heard a negative comment, not a single one. This may sound bad but I kept thinking that they had to be missing something. We all have flaws, right? While of course no one is perfect, all the comments people have made about Kami turned out to be more than true. It wasn’t just her closest relatives seeing her through rose-tinted glasses. I can attest to this on a deeper level after living with her. What everyone says is completely accurate. She is thoughtful, loving, a hard worker (as all the Joys are), selfless, constantly putting others ahead of herself and just fun to be around. For those of you who know Kami, she is everything we think she is and more.
Jay. Okay, I cannot write about him without first laughing. He was legendary at our school. Stories about him are endless. But from what I knew of Kami, Jay had to be more than the ridiculous stories I had heard or she would not have married him. We could talk about how in junior high he would crawl out the window, run around to knock on the door of the classroom, and make it back to his desk while the teacher was dumbfounded as to who had knocked on the door. Or we could talk about how he waxed his chest because of a dare or got a perm just because. But let’s not dwell there. Jay is genuine. Possibly more than any other person I know; what you see is what you get. You never have to wonder what he is thinking. A recent example? One night last month I came into the living room in my white robe. Stu told me I looked huge. Jay confirmed by telling me I looked like Frosty’s wife (I looked in the mirror and must admit they were right). More than that, Jay is a strong leader. He gives sound advice. I have come to him many times over the years for guidance. He has a way of diffusing tension-filled situations. He has good rapport with people in the community. We joke about all the things he can get away with that would otherwise cause people to become upset. One time the four of us were out for breakfast on a Saturday morning, and he ran out of coffee. The next thing we knew, he was walking around the restaurant serving coffee to everyone! Only Jay… He has become one of our closest friends, the brother I never had.
The stories about the special and unique people that Jay and Kami are could fill many pages. The gesture of letting us live with them for so long in and of itself tells you of their character and hospitality. We have taken over the house! And more than that, they would like us to stay even with a baby, offering to switch rooms with us because theirs is bigger, and even offering to take shifts staying up with the baby during the night. Who does that? Jay and Kami.
The point is this: Jay and Kami are so dear to my heart. They mean the world to me. All the good things people say about them are more than true. While we are excited about our next move and adventure, my heart breaks thinking about having to say goodbye to them… again. Even now I write this with tears. I am blessed for the 443 days we have had to live with them. I am blessed that our child will call them uncle and aunt. We decided a while ago that it was time to drop the “in-law” part of our relationships. I am blessed to have such an incredible brother and sister. And while a “thank you” seems less than adequate, I cannot say thank you enough to Jay and Kami for giving us this time with them. I love them both dearly, and our lives are forever changed from the past 443 days.