My cousin Terry and I are about 15 months apart in age, and when I was growing up, he was my companion in the summers when I went to up north Wisconsin to stay a week or two with my dad's mom. We'd ride bikes, swim at the community pool. We'd hang out in the neighborhood park thinking we were cool, just talking and staying out until maybe ten o'clock. And even though I knew that he was pretty much full of shit as he'd talk about this girl or that girl, his heart was always big, his desire to share, to connect with me, was always endearing. And when I left for the summer, I couldn't wait to get back up there, to hang out with my cousin, Terry.
Our lives, though, went different ways: Terry bounced from job to job, seemingly snakebit by what I couldn't always discern if they were real or exaggerated health claims--it always seemed he was dying--or get-rich-quick plans or persecution by employers or those around him. I went to college, had some problems, but ended up as a teacher in my home state. We each married above our status, so to speak, to wonderful women who love us, whose every action affirms that everyday.
But Terry and I drifted apart, which I guess was no big surprise. Our interests were different, as were our lives. But when we did see each other, a couple years ago at the funeral of his father, Uncle Dean, and then shortly thereafter, at that of his mother, Aunt Bev, the conversation was comfortable, authentic. We shot the breeze as sincerely and as easily as though we were back in the village park as kids, pretending to be cool. He discussed some serious health problem in low tones, as he had throughout his adult years. I nodded, and knew he was actually going to be okay. And I felt that which I had missed, that easy conversation, that genuine connection. As we parted, the vague agreements to keep in touch, however, never materialized. The only address I had for his Christmas card came back undeliverable, so, regrettably, it was out of sight, out of mind.
My sister called me today. She was talking to Terry's sister, and, it seems that Terry, my cousin who always seemed he was dying, now, sadly, really is. And it is all too real. There's cancer in his bones and in his liver. They go to the hospital on Monday to discuss what steps can be taken. They: his wife, his twin fifteen year old daughters.
So I'm going to give him a call. There's nothing I can say, really. Just as there was nothing to say, really, at the funerals of his parents. And I don't know if there's any reason he'd want to hear from me, but I want to. I don't know what I'm hoping for. I guess maybe I just want that easy carefree conversation as though we were hanging around that park, maybe sitting on the merry-go-round, a warm, comforting summer breeze, watching the sun go down, and knowing it was time to be going home.
I'm just sorry we missed so many summers.