A couple of friends recently emailed me, asking if I was okay. Not only have I not been blogging over the last several weeks, I haven’t even been visiting my friends’ blogs.
Shortly after our return from our best-road-trip-ever, I was told that one of my cousins was in jail. C and I were born the same year so he’s not a young’un who was caught behaving badly. (Out of respect for him, I won’t use his name (C=cousin) and the details of his arrest are nobody’s business.) This is the very first blot on his record … very first … ever. So, this isn’t a case of people shaking their heads and saying they saw it coming. Nobody, at least nobody I know, saw it coming.
I don’t know C very well. We grew up in different towns, went to different schools. Our moms were ten years apart with a few siblings in-between. I say were because C’s mom died last year. While it’s not surprising for people to die in their 80s, my aunt’s cancer diagnosis and her death two months later shocked all of us. And devastated C. I tried to reach out to him when his mom/my aunt was ill, but we played the usual phone tag and then when we finally connected, we couldn’t talk because we were crying.
And over the past year or so, we had both thought to call again. But life happens. You go to work. You think, I’ll try tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow. Now this.
My sister told me, thinking I already knew from my mom. Hell, no. This is how my family rolls: if you can’t do anything about it, why tell about it. I’m in Florida. What the hell can I do for my cousin in New York. I could … and I did … get his phone number and started playing phone tag. Sometimes his phone was off and that totally creeped me out. He was out on bail and awaiting sentencing and I was so worried that he might … he just might … decide he couldn’t face jail time. Yeah, I was actually worried he might take the permanent way out because in so many ways I imagined he felt like his life was over.
Then he called me back. It was such a good call. Damn, I was so glad to talk to him. We laughed. We got choked up. He said my mom was a “freak of nature” because at 94, she’s still sharp and strong. I almost peed my pants laughing.
This guy I hardly know. This guy that I have no other reason to talk to except for a few interactions over the years. This guy that I have always thought of as a nice guy, a really nice guy. And he is still that nice guy. That hasn’t changed. He fucked up, to put it simply. No lives were lost. No serious injuries. But still. Jail time because he did fuck up.
So we talked and I asked him if he wanted me to write and he said of course that would be great. He had served in the military and still remembered how important mail was back then.
So I have been writing, but I’ve been writing to C and it’s really weird. It’s like I’m writing my autobiography because we didn’t grow up together and I left home when I was 21 and there’s so much we don’t know about each other. It’s awkward because my letters are all about me when I want them to be all about C. When he writes, he asks questions. He wants to know about the accident I had in 1981 and the cancer I managed to sidestep. He wants to know what I think about faith. And because I’m writing, I tell him everything. Sometimes it’s really hard because I’m awakening memories and feelings that I prefer to keep buried. But they are stories that help him get to know me better and, perhaps more importantly, distract him from his immediate circumstances.
And as I read his letters, I think gee, he really is such a nice guy. I want him to find within himself the strength I know he has (hello, he was in the military). I want him to stop beating himself up. He’s remorseful. He regrets what happened. Now let’s move on and look forward and see this as an opportunity to put his life back together in a way that will be so much better than it was. I want to make it all better. And I can’t.
His letters are full of his concern for how all this impacts the people he loves. If only if only if only. You want to turn back time, just one day, even just one hour. When I think back on the accident I had in 1981, it still gives me chills to remember that I almost didn’t go to work that day, and that if I had just gone home instead, I wouldn’t have gotten hurt. But we can’t live life that way, can we.
So. I am surfacing to share this much. There are other things going on in my life that would have derailed my blogging anyway, but this is the most important, most immediate thing. If I had to choose between spending two hours writing a blog post and spending two hours writing a letter to my cousin, well, the choice is obvious.
But. The need to write for my blog and read my friends’ blogs is still there so I’m surfacing. To be continued … 🙂
Marie A Bailey
Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.