I come from a huge family on my father's side. That might be an understatement.
My grandmother was the oldest of ten children. She had a bunch of children. I think that number was eight but five survived into adulthood. Her brothers and sisters all had children. Then the next generation has kids and then the next and then the next. Sigh. Lots of cousins..LOTS!
I always say our family tree looks like the IBM org chart. We may even have more people on our chart. There are cousin that I've never heard of much less met. It's been said that we could have two cousins in the same place and not know each other and it's true. When my daughters were young they went to a summer camp where another cousin was a counselor. It took half the summer for anyone to realize they were related.
I'm part of a cousin oddity. The year I was born, there were seven other babies born in our family. Apparently something was in the water that year.
Growing up, we saw a lot of each other. Our parents were extremely close to each other and in a lot of cases, best friends as well as relatives. They loved spending time together and dragged us along. Besides that, a few of us lived in same suburb and we went to the same school. We got to see each other every day. Every. Single. Day.
And then there was the year of the Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. It seemed like every week there was another one. OY!
As the years moved ahead, we all spread out. We all went to different colleges and afterwards ended up in different parts of the country and the world. Chicago, California, Florida and even Israel. We all started adult lives that included jobs and families. Maybe we'd see each other funeral or a family event but it was rare. Sometimes years would go by without a meeting. Although we are all okay with each other, we certainly aren't the BFFs that our parents were. Yet there was certain feeling about being part of that group of eight.
Occasionally I tell the eight cousin story. It usually happens when I meet someone new and we're talking about our families. The last time was a couple of months ago and the woman I was with was amazed. She was also amazed we were still all alive at age sixty-five. I don't know what the actuarial charts would show but I told her I had recently been thinking the same thing.
We really were lucky. Were because of one us died this week. My cousin Bob was the first of the eight to die. Fuck Cancer, again.
When someone you grow up with dies, you can't help but think back to some of the stories you know and adventures you might have had together.
When we were kids, he was always breaking his nose. At least, it seemed that way. Multiple times one of my parents would tell me that Bobby broke his nose....again.
When we got into college, I ran into him at a party thrown by a mutual friend. We were talking and engaging in an activity that is now protected by the statute of limitations. He needed a ride home and I gave him a lift. I remember having trouble navigating the route to his house which was less than a half mile away from the party. Lots of laughing and like I said statute of limitations.
Another time, I ran into him while I was hanging out with some girls that went to the high school that was on the same street as his parent's house. I introduced everyone and told him the girls went to Regina, which I pronounced as rhyming with the female body part. He laughed and said, "Howie, it's Reg-eeee-na."
Years later, we're both living in Southern California and I ran into him at a 1988 Dodger's World Series game. It was the game where Kirk Gibson hit his famous game winning home run. Ten or so years passed before we met up again and I reminded him of the moment. He told me he left before the home run.
The last time I saw him was about two years ago at a shiva for an aunt. We sat a table catching up. He told me about a few health issues he had been going through and I did the same. That's what sixty year old people do. We probably figured there would be another time but it wasn't to be. I'm sad and sorry it didn't happen.
There once was a group of eight cousins. We're now down to seven. Rest easy, Bob. I wonder how the others are doing?
Related Post: Eulogy for a friend
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