It was a challenge for Jay Griffin to get out of bed in the morning. He was still having trouble coming to terms with leaving his dream job (not to mention Krista) to try to pick up the pieces following the family's unbelievable tragedy. He loved his life in Atlanta, his perfect job, and of course Krista but all of that felt like a lifetime ago now that he had been back in Hillsboro for nearly three months.
Jay asked Krista to come home with him but she wasn't willing to give up her career and while they promised to stay in touch and give a long distance romance a chance, Jay knew that Krista had moved on with her life without him. She wasn't returning his texts, his phone calls went to voice mail, and she had deleted her Facebook account which only made the already depressed Jay all the more morose.
His life had become an endlessly surreal nightmare and Jay couldn't believe it was happening to him. He once thought that any book or television show that killed off the parents was stupid and unrealistic. How many people actually die in fires or get killed by ax murders?
But Jay's parents really did die together six months ago in a plane crash and as the oldest child Jay had no choice but to quit his job and permanently move back to Hillsboro because "it was the right thing to do" he told Krista.
Thankfully, Jay's Dad had the forethought and common sense to make sure the family's finances were taken care of and the business was stable with Uncle Ron overseeing the dairy plant but Ron insisted that Jay return to take over for his Dad. Jay worked at the dairy as a teen and when home from college so he was familiar with the routine - although he wasn't interested in the business. Jay loved his PR job with the Atlanta Braves and even now he fantasized about returning to it someday.
But the twenty-five year old Jay had four younger siblings to be responsible for and he knew his mother wouldn't approve if he abandoned them in her absence. Terrie, 23, was pursuing her Master's Degree at Green College while waitressing at Serguci's Italian Family Restaurant. Judy was a freshman at Blue County Community College. Liz was a senior at Hillsboro High, and George - the youngest – was a Sophomore at the same school. Jay found himself in the role of drill sergeant, coach, warden, and Rabbi in his often thankless position of substitute head of the family.
The untimely tragic death of their parents affected the siblings in different ways. Terrie immersed herself in her degree pursuit, her job, and her boyfriend Richard "The Big Dick" Nestor, with whom she spent most of her free time instead of helping Jay out at home. Richard wasn't a jerk – "The Big Dick" was the nickname he earned after Terrie foolishly revealed that the guy was generously endowed.
Judy was a drama queen who recently came out of the closet. Her siblings didn't have time to process her sexuality while dealing with their grief and it was a subject that was largely ignored.
Liz revealed that she was secretly sleeping with her softball coach and while Jay was enraged by the revelation he didn't have the energy or interest to confront "Coach Pervert" hoping that Liz would come to her senses before her affair turned into a true soap opera.
George obsessively lost himself in competitive sports to distract himself from his missing parents but it seemed that Jay was the only one in the family who showed up for his brother's games.
The house was a mess. Jay was unable to keep up with the laundry and cleaning and the meals consisted mostly of take out and junk food. There was a layer of dust on the never used anymore dining room table. Jay had no social life. When he wasn't trying to learn management responsibilities at the Dairy, he was attempting to parent his parentless siblings, clean the house, run errands, and provide taxi service. George didn't have his license yet, Judy didn't like to drive, and Liz had her license suspended following several driving infractions.
There weren't enough hours in the day and at night Jay found himself drinking in front of the television while waiting for the next crisis to unfold.
The only saving grace turned out to be Donna "Ditto" Parker, Terrie's best friend growing up next door. Jay didn't complain when Ditto offered to help out by cooking a meal or cleaning up the kitchen. He was certain his mother was rolling in her grave at the condition of the house - nobody bothered to vacuum, the trash overflowed before someone got around to taking it out, the vacuum cleaner was missing, and nobody had changed the sheets on the beds in months. Jay's father would be equally as disappointed in the un-mowed lawn, dying flower beds, and weeds growing along the side of the walks and driveway.
It was Jay who bestowed the nickname on "Ditto" because she parroted just about everything Terrie said and did as youngsters. Young Donna often wore the same clothes, joined the same teams and clubs as Terrie, and she even slept with the same guy (after Terrie dumped him).
Ditto went to Green College with Terrie but she dropped out after two years, leaving town to pursue a relationship with a military guy but that didn't work out and now she was back in Hillsboro working at Fontaine's Family Grocery Store.
Ditto and Terrie weren't as close now that they travelled different life paths but Ditto came through for the family following the tragedy by being supportive and helpful and even now, all these months later, she continued to stop by the house and offer assistance and morale to the family.
Jay got along fine with Ditto in their younger days but he was too fatigued and distracted in his current state of mind to pay much attention to her presence. He was mourning his parents and grieving the loss of his relationship with Krista. Ditto was too cheerful in her demeanor for Jay's morose frame of mind and he resented her positive attitude when he was so miserable.
Nobody bothered to go food shopping much but there seemed to be plenty of booze in the house and Jay was happy to drink his fair share. Ditto wasn't shy about giving him a hard time when she found him in various stages of drunkenness at night. It was usually in his inebriated nightly state when Jay realized that his life had turned to shit.