Memorials and Memories…

May 30, 2005

Yesterday, I went to my uncle's for a family cookout. It was pleasant, the weather beautiful, and the multiplying next-generation were able to play out of range of the adults. Along with the massive amounts of food, the wise-cracking laughter and catching up, and the regular group of aunts, uncle, parents, brother, and cousins, my aunt and uncle from Indianapolis came down with two of their sons and their families, whom I've not seen in several years.

These are the parents and brothers of the cousin I've mentioned elsewhere, my best friend for most of my life whom I've not spoken with in years by his choice. I'll refer to these cousins as J2 and J3, being that everyone in that family has a name that begins with J.

J3 looks like a younger version of his eldest brother, just a shade larger than he should be, with brown hair, glasses, and a beard. He has three young children, and he's focusing his two sons on sports as he did when he was growing up. His daughter is blond, and pretty, with the eyes of her mother.

J2 — the middle brother — and my brother usually paired when we were growing up, as my cousin and I paired off. All four of us used to ride bikes and play baseball during those 1-2 week summer vacations at one another's houses. J2 still smokes but has lost a great deal of weight and hardly looks like the old J2. ("What happened to the J2 I used to know?" I asked. Unlike the other cousins he looks like my grandmother's side of the family now that he's lost weight. He laughed. "Oh, I lost him about 3 years ago.") He's a good fellow, and I miss spending time with him too.

There was a weight in seeing them that I tried not to feel, a melancholy of remembrance and hurt in seeing them without seeing the cousin whom I called my best friend for more than half my life, the one I wanted to see and talk to as I've wanted to for the past 10 years, but have seen only once and with only a handful of words at my grandmother's funeral a few years ago.

Seeing this side of the family that I rarely see anymore brings back much that I sometimes wish I could forget, but then again, is so much that was me for most of my entire life.

It seems that when I have got the wall high enough, or the memories buried deep enough, the disinterest and coolness practiced enough, something happens to remind me — a dream with my cousin in it, or a book, idea, or event that I want to share or discuss like we used to, writing reams of letters and talking for hours. Then the longing comes back and tugs somewhere in my chest for the longest time, and it takes days to shake, though it never fully fades.

It never will, I know. All I have to do is feel the briefest instant of memory, and I'm filled with longing for what once was and will never be again. It just occurred to me that this friendship was the larger part of my youth, and is now symbolic of youth lost. How sad for me, again.

But the damage is done where once we thought nothing could be damaged. Perhaps distance will someday provide closure, but I think not. He's changed. I have too.

But I will never say it was for the best.


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