Wednesday, July 06, 2005

July 3 (part 1)

July 3rd is my cousin’s birthday. He lives in England now, estranged from most of our family. Even my mother now appears to have given up on him.

Once upon a time, my cousin and I were babies together. My mother liked to tell the story of how she and her sister-in-law were reunited after a long separation, and how they bumped pregnant bellies in their rush to embrace. “Hello, baby. Meet your cousin,” quipped my aunt.

My cousin is just two weeks older than I. But he was one grade, and then two grades, behind me on account of all the operations he had to have while growing up. His mother died when we were ten, and which brought us briefly together again. For a while, he was a friend to my brothers.

Then our lives diverged in a hundred irrevocable ways. We had one last conversation, at Christmas of ’99. My cousin seemed a little happier. He was also going through some startling transformations. He had given up metal bands for country. He had met someone on the internet.

He told me that night that our grandfather was crazy. He predicted the family would splinter without our grandmother. He promised he would send me a song he wrote about his mom.

I cringe to recall what happened next. He emailed the song. I couldn’t open the file. Myopic with my own concerns (divorce, prelim exams), I never wrote back.

My cousin has stopped showing up at Christmastime. I know I’m not the reason, but I will forever regret having added to his alienation. The family has quietly split now, between those who stuck around to watch our grandfather in his decline, and those who did not.

I thought about all this on a queasy Sunday afternoon. And silently wished my cousin a Happy Birthday.


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