Life and death, or Death and life.

Two weekends in a row I have visited my dying cousin, who was raised as more of a big brother to me.  I never remember a life without Mike in it.  When I was 10 and he was 14 he moved upstate with us, and he was our babysitter.  We had great fun, we were always outside.  Then 7 or 8 years later I was babysitting for his kids.  I went to Virginia with them, I went to North Carolina with them.   He pulled out some pictures yesterday of all of us on the Thanksgiving before I got married.  He moved here soon after I did.  I don’t have a lot of older connections in my life, but with him I do.

He has been inundated with our side of the family and he told me he really is enjoying it, because he never had time before.  On past occasions when I visited and left because “I have to work tomorrow”, or never made it over to visit because “I have to work tomorrow”, it was with complete awareness that he did too.  We always understood that of each other and it was never detrimental to our relationship.  He now wonders whether he should have dedicated that much of his life to work.

He has been medically retired, so the choice to go and sit there is mine alone.  He likes the company, Patty likes someone else occupying his time.  I enjoy being there, being with them – it satisfies my odd need of nostalgia.  And I wonder – will I one day sit and question whether my dedication to my career success really meant anything?

Mike had a different childhood than mine, but still, in some respects I think we are alike in that we created something from nothing – who we are and what we are.  That doesn’t come easy, but Mike and I are alike in that we aren’t afraid of hard work.  It took commitment and singlemindedness and time that could have been spent elsewhere – with our families for instance.  He had more of a choice than I because I had to feed my family – literally, but would it have made a difference?


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