Friday was a splendid day for me. I spent the day visiting with my cousin Phyllis, something I hadn't done much of in the last, oh, 40 years or so.
At one time, our families were very close. My dad had only one brother and my mother is an only child. So the five cousins I had were all in one family. We spent time together on holidays, birthdays, summer vacations at the lake, attended each other's graduations and weddings. I even attended college with two of my cousins, overlapping several years. But it was like attending college with your sister. I knew them too well, they weren't new and exciting like the other people at college, and I didn't really spend much time with them. As we grew older, "life" intervened and we move apart, physically and mentally.
So after Phyllis had a car accident and was housebound for awhile, I knew I had to visit her and catch up on the intervening years. Sure, we send Christmas cards, we see each other occasionally at the lake, but neither of us makes much effort to get together.
We had a wonderful time. We caught up on our families, we talked about our joint memories of our childhood, we shared things that neither of us knew about the other, and reconnected in a way I would never have thought possible. We talked about our worries (old age), the things we love to do (music and hiking), and where we'd like to travel next. It was better than meeting up with your best friend from high school.
When you think about it, a cousin might be as important in your life as a sibling. Your siblings share some indelible memories with you, like the time my sister gashed her leg open tripping over a coffee table while we were spying on a party our parents were having in the back yard. My cousin and I have some similar memories. She is one of those few people in my life who know my past almost as well as her own. In the early years, we visited the same grandma and grandpa, loved the chocolate cake we had on holidays, and played "Office" with the family typewriter. We sang in the same college choir, celebrated family births, and mourned the loss of our parents together.
But our visit on Friday was special. It made me think about the time we waste and the joy we miss by taking the people closest to us for granted. So I'm pledging to not neglect the people in my life for the duties and chores I think I need to accomplish. Because in the end, it won't be the accomplishments that will visit you and bring you joy when you most need it. It will be your "family", in whatever form that happens to be for you.
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