Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My name is Jime, you big ball of slime.

Ah, my brother. He is a legend in his own time.

Kevin is one of the most bizarre, direct, good-hearted, weird people I've ever known.

We were born 15 months apart and looked like twins until about age 10.

I did everything early- walked, talked (first word was "owl," was reading by 2 1/2. So my parents didn't think anything of Kevin's delays.  We have a whole series of attempts at getting a picture of the two of us under the Christmas tree because he kept falling over backward into the tree and I wasn't strong enough to hold him upright myself.

By the time our sister, Katie, came along, they knew something wasn't right with Kev.  We spent every weekend going up to Rochester to have specialists look him over.  They tested Katie and me, too, as comparison. It was easily an hour & a half drive, on a bumpy two-lane road (390 hadn't been built yet, for those of you familiar with upstate NY). I got both easily bored and easily carsick, so I couldn't bring a book or do anything to occupy myself except look out the window. We had a used van that could have a slight whiff to it at times, and my parents were on a sugar-free kick, so they gave me Carefree gum. The saccharine in the gum made me almost as sick as the motion did. To distract me from upchucking (and to ward off the following clean-up and potential peristaltic chain reaction), my dad would try to distract me by quizzing me about the music on the radio.  I rock at music trivia, specifically classic rock, thanks to my dad.

They finally determined that the left side of Kevin's brain had been deprived of oxygen during birth and he had suffered damage, resulting in a lowered IQ and loss or reduction in some of the areas the left hemisphere controls. 

We later learned that Kevin also has a screamin' case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, although that has nothing to do with his brain injury.  He has less control over it because of his brain damage, but the OCD was clearly an inherited family gift.

My folks had no idea how to deal with this, and talking with parents of other challenged kids didn't really help, because Kevin is so unique and his situation really different from other kids'.  His disability is slight-- he's in the gray area at the low end of normal on the IQ spectrum. If you watch Forrest Gump when Forrest is first diagnosed, Kevin's score is right about where Forrest's is.  My parents' coping strategy in most situations was to laugh.  When my dad came home from a long day of work and my mom silently led him into our formal dining room to show him the 3-foot-tall hamburger-head people Kevin had drawn all about the room (there were at least a dozen of them) in bright blue permanent Sharpie, he just shook his head and then broke down laughing. They referred to it as Kevin's "Blue Period."

Kev's an interesting case because normally long-term memory resides in the left hemisphere and that should've been knocked out by his damage. But the dude has the creepiest, most accurate long-term memory of anyone I know. He puts elephants to shame. He remembers where you were, what you were wearing, what was going on, what we were eating, who said what. His memories are always verified, so we don't even doubt him anymore.  Short-term memory is another monster. He'll need to have a simple direction repeated several times before it sticks:

"Kev, could you go get my red shirt? It's on the blue chair in my room."
He leaves. He returns.
"The blue shirt?"
"No, the RED shirt. On the blue chair. In my room."
He leaves. He returns.
"In the office?"
"No. In my room. On the blue chair."
He leaves. He returns.
"On the bed?"
"No. On the blue chair."
He leaves. He returns with the red shirt. Success.

One of my favorite Kevin stories involves his name. He's officially Paul Kevin Barnes, Jr. "Little Paul" did not work. "Junior?" Not a chance. My parents settled on "Kevin" but he didn't like it because we have a cousin Kevin and it could get confusing.  So Kev decided to change his name to Jimmy. But he spelled it phonetically so it became Jim-E. He went through a brief phase where he would only answer to JimE, but it proved hard to keep up. He did, however, sign birthday cards for several years as "JIME." (Kevin frequently writes in all caps.) One friend of the family saw this and pronounced it "Jime" rhyming with "mime" which cracked us up and resulted in much chanting of "What's the time, Jime, you big ball of slime." In recent years, just to get a rise out of people, Kevin's become fond of telling people that he's just met that our father wanted to name him "Shit Head" when he was born.

Another time, many years later, we were out at a bar in our hometown and this smarmy guy my sister used to date came up to say hi. He chummily put his arm around Kevin who threw it off immediately and yelled, "Get your damn hands off me! I don't know where they've been!"

And I've written about Wilson and Stacy here before.

My very favorite story has to be his prozac overdose. Don't get all up at arms, he only took one or two more than he was supposed to (and he was on a lot so it was really a drip in the bucket) but it got him worried when he realized he'd taken the wrong dose. I was at Brett's apartment at the time, and my mom called to tell me, then kept calling to give me the play-by-play. I eventually came over to see for myself. He was giddy, guffawing and giggling and writing notes on his Dallas Cowboys stationery. He wrote me two notes to take over to Brett: 1. "Do you have any pickles?" and 2. "Doin' the bacon."  No explanation. I took them back to Brett, after shaking Kevin's hand and telling him to take care of himself, which made him explode in laughter.  When I called my mom to check back in a few hours later, she said he'd crashed off his happy-high and spent the rest of the night sitting "indian-style" on his bed crying. The "indian-style" part was very important, she said. Disclaimer: he was perfectly fine the next day, just a little sheepish, so a lot of it could have been acting.

There are many more Kevin stories and Kevin-isms that I will post here later, as well as embarrassing photos.


  1. I can't wait for more Kevin/Jime stories! This was fantastic. Your family sounds so awesome!
    My Dad and I play the songs on the radio game. You mean when you have to guess who it is? My Dad does that all the time. I never ask him who anyone is, I just have to answer.
    Doin' the bacon!

  2. Thanks! What I wouldn't give to get him on Twitter. Kevin's thoughts in 140 characters would be PURE GOLD.

  3. The pictures of the two of you are THE CUTEST! Oh my word! I bet you guys had so much fun growing up!

  4. I'm loving your baby pics on facebook! So cute, yet so devilish!

  5. Kerry and kasey, BOTH devilish little kids :) Thanks for sharing all this Kerry, gosh, he is fascinating, and I can totally understand the bar scene with smarmy guy!