Many, many years ago my cousins and I made a pact never to let anything come between us. In our family, there is my sister and me, then my 3 first cousins, all boys. We all live here in South Florida, not by accident, and the love and support we have for each other adds immeasurable quality of life. My aunt and uncle moved to Florida in 1977 (approx) and with the exception of my middle cousin, who is more like a brother to me and spent summers in NY with his best friend, we didn’t see them as often as we liked. However, our beloved grandfather, always the glue and the sweetest, most fun grandfather on earth, kept us connected. When he died in 1983 there was a lot of bonding as adult kids. Over the years they have been not only my greatest support system and safety net, but the source of some of the most fun and belly laughs on the planet. They have witnessed the worst and best of me and have acknowledged both and teased me mercilessly, some of which I totally deserved and some, well give it a rest. I’m trying to get to the point of this blog, but bear with me. You see, when I am with them, in whatever capacity, happy times or sad times, I have my best sparkle. They understand the adult me because they watched the little girl me change and evolve over time. Some of my biggest calluses have come from the grittiness of my relationships with them and the imaginary mirror they held up to me over time. After Bryan was lost at camp years ago, I had lunch with my 3 cousins to tell them about it and share my anguish. The lunch was a combination of legal strategy (we are all lawyers), support group and of course, laughter. We embrace the “unfunny” with some of the most vicious jokes to cope and function. They lifted me up through autism, divorce, ill parents, life. Last year when my aunt, their mom, passed away one cog in the family wheel fell off and we still are a bit off- kilter. A week or two ago when I went to see my mom and observed a rapid decline, I let them know. I didn’t want them to be caught by surprise with the change. I didn’t really have to ask them to do anything, I wasn’t looking for that, just the usual, comfort, commiseration, acknowledgement, the virtual hug. My youngest cousin reached out to my dad; he’s been travelling a lot this summer, but let my dad know he was thinking of him and that he loved him. My dad couldn’t wait to share this call, feeling the support beams we are all accustomed to in this clan. This morning one of my cousins went with Bryan and me to see my mom after a warm family breakfast. We are all involved with each others children and they are like nieces and nephews rather than kids of cousins. My cousin asked engaging questions to each of my boys about camp and the start of their new school year. We each try to have individual relationships with the adult kids and perpetuate the nuttiness we have with each other. We also share in the collective parenting and help to guide and support our kids. We tell the kids goofy stories about us growing up and they absorb them like sponges. Sometimes they tell us to be quiet because they’ve heard them a million times, other times they beg us for the retell which always gets better and better with each account.
At my mom’s place, he might as well have thrown the bs flag right in my face because she was completely enchanted by his visit. She recognized him and there was this little glint in her eye I have not seen in months. She touched his face several times, hugged him and clearly knew him. He hugged her and kissed her a few times and she looked at me with wet eyes like she used to about a year ago. I told him he gave us a gift. You see all I had to do was mention to him and his brothers that she wasn’t doing great and the cavalry came in.