Beginning with trips, visits, and times before they ever registered with my conscious memory, I had many friends. These friends weren’t from my neighborhood or from our church, and I wasn’t even old enough to be in school yet. Nevertheless, I had friends. And as each year passed it seemed as though I had more friends. These friends didn’t go away either, they were just always my friends (they still are), no matter how far time or distance took us from one another. These friends were, and are, my cousins.
I was born on the Canadian border, in northern Maine, and before I got back to the homestead in New Brunswick, I already had friends. I had cousins.
My mom will correct me if I’m wrong here, but I will throw this out there anyways. On my Dad’s side of the family there have been 9 cousins born to my Dad and his siblings. On my Mom’s side of the family there have been 40 cousins born to my Mom and her siblings. Now that’s a lot of friends! My cousins, my brothers, my sister, and I were all born over a span of many years. Naturally I was closer to some cousins than others by way of age, how often we were able to visit, which of course was affected by how far away we lived from our Aunts and Uncles.
So it was. Cousins everywhere. Our vacations included cousins. Our Holidays included cousins. Year after year, we saw cousins over and over again. My family and I grew up in New Hampshire, with cousins who were in Maine, New Brunswick, Ontario, and even out in Western Canada eventually. As grownups, we are all over the place now. But still, they’re my friends, they’re my cousins.
I feel badly that I don’t have stronger, better relationships with all of my cousins. Some I barely knew or know. Others I knew pretty well and have remained in more consistent contact with over the years. A few years ago, after my Uncle Carl died, I remember sitting with his son and talking, connecting, and reminiscing into the wee hours of the morning. One thing we had agreed upon was that some of the greatest, stand up, honest, wonderful, genuine people we had ever met were those in our family, our Aunts and Uncles. His dad was certainly one of them. So, with this idea agreed upon, it was more factual than it was our humble opinion, this also lent instant credibility to the offspring of our Aunts and Uncles, our cousins. Now I know that what we get in life or make of life is up to us and the decisions we make. The people we are, the people we become, is up to us and I feel the chances of that being a genuine success is greatly improved by a strong foundation created through family, worship, and our overall upbringing. This does not mean we have a free pass based on our elders’ achievement or status, nor does it mean there is fault on them if we make bad choices or allow undesirable circumstances.
So here are these kids, these cousins, who are at the family gatherings, birthday parties, Holiday celebrations, vacations to Maine or New Brunswick, visits to our grandparents, etc. We came together as the adults did their thing, we were the kids, the friends, the cousins. We were as involved as we were allowed to be, which in our families was pretty involved, provided we behaved in a manner of courteous respect for those around us. We learned early on to be mindful of one another, to bow our heads and pray, to love each other as is, to be courteous and respectful, and to speak when spoken to. We learned a lot of things through family, including the fact that we had a group of friends who had a vested interest in the quality of the time spent with each other. We looked forward to (still do) the times when we could spend time together even if it was for a short time.
We were friends. We shared many moments together over the years. We shared an unimaginable amount of laughter and brilliantly delivered, clean humor together. We shared some of the best times of our lives together. We also have shared in times of sorrowful loss as family members have expired here on earth. We also have, in those moments, shared in rejoicing their everlasting life, as well as the celebration of their time walking among us these many years. There will inevitably be more to come and for the sadness these thoughts bring, I know that my friends, my cousins, will be there too, supporting and loving. How many of our friends during any time in our life, let alone all of our life, would know the depth of those around us, and seemingly, always be there for us in person, in spirit, or in prayer? Probably not too many.
I have; We have, lost 3 cousins already. Mark Peterson. Rachel Peterson. Conni Beal. All three were lost way too early in earthly measurements. I do look forward to the day I see them in Heaven, my friends, my cousins.
I write this now, today, with the hopes that all my cousins will share in these thoughts, memories, and sentiments. I know many of them follow my blog, at least from a distance. I value, very much, the indelible marks made on my life by my friends, my cousins. If I had my way, those times we shared would never end and last forever. So I write while the words can be read and shared. I write while the laughs can be heard and the moments that made the laughter can be passed on. I write while the tears can necessarily be released and still be wiped away among my friends, my cousins. I write to remember. I write to share. I write to make sure the moments weren’t all for not. I write with the hopes that we will all be there for one another even more so than we have been. I write now so my family never has to guess as to where I stand. I write with the hope that one day our nieces and nephews will also reflect on us in the same ways we feel about the greatness that came before and all around us. I write because the anticipation of time together should never be lost. I write while smiling a smile that visits my lips with just a thought of the mental pictures I’ve filed in my memory. I write for all the reasons, and lack thereof, we ever had for spending time together. I write to recognize the warm smiles that accompanied any visits. I write in thanks for suffering through the countless stories endured about athletic and scholastic accomplishments. I write knowing that we all grow up at different speeds. I write in thanks for the patience shown while we matured among one another. I write with the hopes that we pass on the sense of family the way our parents did. I write as I remember then, and now, the sparkle in the eyes of my friends, my cousins. I write to feel once again, the warm embrace of my friends, my cousins.
Recently I made a long overdue visit to my cousin’s house. I visited with her and also with her younger sister. We spoke for half an hour or so, and they met my wife and four of our kids. We reminisced a bit, caught each other up on recent travels or something to that effect. I enjoyed the time very much and am so pleased that the visit happened. But what I will never forget from yesteryear or from last week, is the warmth and expression in the eyes of my friends, my cousins. Words were an added luxury. Laughter a constant companion. But the eyes always told any story worth hearing or any sentiment worth sharing. Always the eyes. Last week’s eyes. The eyes of my cousin from Ontario whom I had not seen in 30+ years. The eyes of the kids when we would pull into the old homestead after a visible trek up the old dirt road. The eyes holding pain, but for that moment, joy and love beat back the strain, and a child’s excitement beamed. No words needed.
Finally, I write because some things need to be written, or at least written about. I don’t know that I am qualified to determine which should, or should not, be written about. For me, this needed to be written. In honor of, in tribute to, in remembrance with, my lifelong, best friends, my cousins.