Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More Musings About Family


I wrote a few weeks back about my UncleTommy's death which was followed three weeks later by the death of his wife Aunt Mary Rita. It was sad but they'd had good long lives. This week I found out that Uncle Tommy left his house to his first generation of nieces and nephews of which I am one – one of about twenty or so. It is a lovely thing that he did and I'm sure we're all touched by this. It won't amount to a whole lot of money but that's not the point.
Uncle Tommy's House

I found out about it because of a call from my cousin Michael who helped Uncle Tommy out a lot in his later years. I haven't seen Michael in many years – I remember him as a very cute, dark-haired kid with a sunny personality. He's several years younger than I am. But in our email exchanges over the last few days I got thinking about all the cousins I did know growing up. One of them was Michael's older brother Bobby who was a few years older than me. The truth is I sort of had a crush on Bobby – he was a big guy with dark hair and he was usually happy. I always liked talking to him.

When I was in my late teens/early twenties, Bobby had a very cool car. I can't remember what it was – maybe a Camaro or a Firebird – that was black and he used to cruise around town in it. Whenever he saw me he'd stop and talk and I just remember how great it felt to have this older guy cousin with a cool car who'd always pull over to gab with me for a little while. I actually had quite a lot of cousins and many of them were older boys. I suppose it is perfectly natural for girls to develop crushes on their boy-cousins, especially if they are older and nice to them.

I have this memory though I can't put an absolute time on it but I was probably about 19 when it happened. I was coming out of a downtown drugstore and Bobby and his cool car were in the parking lot and there were a bunch of other boys there. It was at a time in young men's lives when they have more testosterone than brains and a fight was brewing. I heard what was going on and the last thing I heard was one of the guys challenge Bobby to meet them at a place out of town in an hour. Bobby said, “I'll be there” and sped off. It worried me because, of course, though he was a big guy, there was a bunch of the other guys. I went home and my brother Jack was there. He was a big guy too and I told him the story. He just nodded and said he'd be back in a little while.

About an hour later Jack came home looking none the worse for wear and I asked him what happened. He said, “Nothing. We showed up and those other guys left.” He had gone and picked up another cousin of ours (who had a reputation for being kind of nuts) and they went to the appointed meeting place where Bobby had arrived a few minutes earlier. Jack said he and our other cousin got out of the car and walked over to where Bobby was and the would-be tough guys couldn’t get out of there fast enough. End of story.

Later Bobby told me that he never felt better in his life than he did when his two cousins showed up prepared to do whatever needed doing on his behalf.

Not long after that Bobby was in a motorcycle accident and his back was broken. I went to visit him in the hospital and I still remember him laying there with all these machines and pulleys and rods and gizmos. It wasn't good and everybody knew it. He was so happy to see me and we talked for a long while. When it was time for me to leave I leaned down to give him a kiss and he said, “You know, there have been a lot of times I really wished you weren't my cousin.”

I knew what he meant. I felt the same way.

Bobby didn't live long after that. I still miss him. I guess these are the kind of memories that, even after decades, can still put a lump in your throat. Bobby's gone and so is Jack... and I don't know about the other cousin. But Uncle Tommy's gift to us will stir up lots more memories I'm sure. And I will be grateful for them.

Thanks for reading.  

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