My family lives all over the country. My Dad’s people are from Illinois and Indiana; my Mom’s are from Boston and its environs. Some of us are in NYC now; others in the Pacific Northwest.
Not a big deal, til someone dies.
On Wednesday, near as we can figure, my cousin committed suicide. He was only 21, and he was upset about how things were going. I remember 21. Things were a lot more dire.
Anyway, I tried to figure out a way to get out there for the funeral, but it’s just too far. And you only get a day for a cousin at most companies, so that’s another wrinkle. In the end, I ended up staying here, where I’ve mostly been sitting very still with my mouth open for the bulk of the weekend.
“This is really hitting you hard,” Mom said, during one of our fifty phone conversations this week. She was supposed to go out, but she got the stomach flu. This is significant, as she never gets sick. Mind-body connection, and all of that. I myself have opted to develop adult acne.
“Yeah,” I said. “And I feel really dumb.”
“Why? I think it’s normal, don’t you?”
“It feels like I’m overstepping, somehow. Like, cousins get X much grief, and we should mostly be rallying and being useful to his parents.”
I can’t seem to help it, though. I just keep thinking about how he was the youngest of the cousins, and now he’s gone. He was also one of only two boys in the family. He got very manly Christmas presents, as you might imagine. Little footballs and things like that.
“If you ever did anything like this, I’d find you,” Ma Smash said. “I’d find you, and I’d bring you right back.”
It’s really tempting to think about that. I picture us all on horseback, or something, with daypacks, going down into the afterworld to get him. “Sorry, we need six grandkids,” we’d tell him, “You’ll just have to reschedule. Excuse me, various deities and sprites. We’ll need this one back.”
In the meanwhile, I pace my apartment, picking things up and putting them down again. It feels like my whole body is full of novocaine, and I can’t imagine how much this will hurt when that wears off. I’m making myself notes: “Eat something.” I’m making little plans: “Clean the tub.”
When I get out from underwater, though, maybe things will be easier. And I probably won’t think about this every second of every day, after awhile. That’s something I wish I could have given him, that thing you only get when you get older: Knowing that painful things, like joyful things, cycle away on their own. Tincture of time.