Tag Archives: Cousin

The Hug

May 20, 2013

Maybe it’s just me, but while I was growing up, I guess I never really gave any thought to the fact that my heroes and I would ever be adults at the same time. Of course, back then, I didn’t exactly think of my role models or my relatives as heroes either. Quite honestly, I didn’t understand myself or my truest values very well either. I guess there are a couple of points I should get to. One, in my eyes, I’m still just a kid compared to my parents, and to my aunts and uncles. Two, many of these people are, or were, my heroes.

I wrote these words while lying in a hall bed at my mother’s double cousin’s house. I was in town for the calling hours and funeral of my Aunt Janette. After driving six hours, enjoying dinner with family, going to the calling hours and visiting with family, I laid down to crash. But before sleep found me, I reached for these words and recorded them, raw and real.

Tonight, I saw pictures that brought me back to another time, visually, and ultimately in my mind I was taken back to a whole different era. Also tonight, one of my, bigger than life, heroes was standing right in front of me. I was waiting in line to visit with him, and his family, during calling hours for my Aunt Janette, his wife of 45 years, who had passed away three days prior. And even though I would put my Uncle Lloyd in the “hugs aren’t absolutely necessary, a handshake will do” category, I had long since decided that I was going to give him a big, warm hug upon my chance to be face to face with him. A big hug, that’s exactly what I was going to do. You might say, okay, big deal. Or maybe you’d even ask why a hug at all. I’ll explain. I wanted to hug my Uncle Lloyd and hold him for a moment, or two, to let him know how much he and Aunt Janette meant and always will mean to me. I wanted to hug him because here stood this man, no longer with his best friend at his side, but still greeting all who approached him in the best way he knew how, as his wife would also have done. I wanted to hug him because I love him. I wanted to hug him because I was hoping the genuine action itself would speak the volumes that my tear-soaked face, and emotionally overwhelmed, cracking, voice was not going to be able to get the words out. I wanted to hug him because he looked like he needed one, and I felt I did too. I wanted to hug him out of pure respect. I wanted to hug him because, while a handshake with a man of his caliber still means an awful lot, a hug would be unforgettable. I wanted to hug him in hopes that in some out-of-this-world way I could give him strength, support, encouragement, energy, stability, and reinforcement during such a difficult time. So, finally, I faced him, just he and I, suddenly alone in this little sliver of space, among the many in that sanctuary, and I gave my Uncle Lloyd a big hug. He said some things to me that I hope I never forget, we cried, and my voice worked just as poorly as I thought it would.

Pictures I saw at the front of the church, along the entrance to the sanctuary, and out in the hall took me down my own memory lane. I saw again, the beauty of my aunt and how it was always present where ever she was. I also saw the fit, strong, fearless, young man who my uncle was as I first remember him. Present too in those pictures, in a person who was so comfortable in his own skin, was the gleam of youthful, good-natured, mischievousness in his eyes. There’s more to the memories and visions that swirl through my mind when I think on those times, those days, those visits, and those interactions with versions of these same people before me tonight, but I will save them for another time. In the church, before the masses that gathered to share memories, condolences, and prayers, the gleam was elsewhere, and the beauty was in a better place. So, I just tucked those memories away and carried on with the evening. I visited. I cried. I hugged family. I heard stories. I sat, seeking the comfort found in numbers, among my aunts, my cousins, my second-double cousins, and the others somehow related but beyond my scope of properly defining their relations with appropriate lineage terminology.

May 22, 2013

Fast-forwarding through several hours, after sleep, after breakfast, after a visit to the farmlands, after the service, and even after the committal, I was standing out behind The People’s Church next to the burial plot as the Pastor finished the proceedings in prayer. I had family all around me, an aunt on my left arm, and aunt on my right arm, and my mother and my uncle directly in front of me. The prayer ended and I lifted my bowed head and opened my watery eyes. I looked around and for a second or two those who had gathered did not move. Silence prevailed and movement was scarce. Then, as if put in motion by something greater than himself, my Uncle Lloyd turned and just started greeting the dozens of family members and friends who had gathered throughout the little cemetery. He went to every single person. I stood among my aunts, cousins, and second-double cousins, and quietly, I waited.

Finally, my Uncle Lloyd approached me. We stood face-to-face on the soft, uneven, grass of the rain-soaked hillside. Again, every one else seemed to disappear and I heard no other sounds. Standing before me was this man who I revered more than he knows. Actually, maybe only my mother would have an idea as to how much he means to me. This day, there was no doubt, and we both welcomed the opportunity to share a manly hug. I said the only words I could say before emotions rendered my voice-box useless, “I love you.” He hugged me and said a few words to me that I will hold to myself. Simple words, simply stated, a few times, and they meant more to me than all the words I could ever write in description of knowing him for my entire life, right through to that moment. We parted and he made his way up the gradual slope toward the church and another gathering that I will also, some day describe. For now, I will just sit and treasure these moments too. Again, I bow my head and say a prayer. A prayer for him, a prayer for me, and a memory made between a couple of hugs. Amen.

Generation Jumping

This weekend I drove my parents to New Brunswick, Canada, where my mom was born and raised. The trip was planned, and made, to visit with my Aunt Janette who is currently sick with cancer, in the hospital. We arrived in Woodstock late Friday afternoon and visited with family throughout the evening and even into the wee hours of the morning. Another aunt of mine, a second double cousin, and I stayed at one of my mother’s double cousin’s house. My parents stayed with another of her double cousins. If you are not familiar with the term ‘double cousin’, it goes something like this. A long time ago three brothers married three sisters … the definition: A set of brother and sister married a set of brother and sister, so their children will be double cousins (meaning they’ll be cousins with the same people on both their mother and father’s sides). Not only that, two of the families actually lived on the same farm for a while, but that’s a story for another time. Continue reading

My Friends, My Cousins

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.