My entry for the end of the month of November is late by a few days and I apologize for that.
Things were humming along just fine and then I got the news--my cousin had passed away. One of the things I've been struggling with the last week plus is that, when people ask what happened, that's the sentence I give them--"my cousin passed away." But that doesn't come anywhere close to what I mean.
In a technical way, that sentence is correct: he was the youngest son of my mother's oldest brother. But we're a Southern family (for all the ways I try to run away from that idea). Southern kinship is unique to say the least. So much so that there are studies on it. My mother was the only girl in a family of boys, so when her brothers married, their wives and my mother immediately bonded (of course it helps that they were also amazing human beings). In that kind of situation, all the children are raised together--one big passel of kids and whoever happened to be nearest by when one of them needed something or had to be corrected, that's the one that did so and the others backed her decisions. It's a bit lion pride, really. I tell you that to tell you what I mean when I say that "my cousin passed away" just doesn't get at what I mean--we were all raised together, like brothers (all of the grandkids by happenstance were boys). All of my memories of growing up involved all of them. In a lot of families I've heard of, a cousin is someone you only see on the holidays and really don't talk to much beyond that. That's not how we were.
It was especially true with Nathan, my next oldest cousin (even then, I nearly typed 'brother'). We were inseparable to the point that it was remarked on out loud at every family function.
He taught me everything I know about so many things.
I was hit hard by the loss of David Bowie. I was hit hard by the loss of Prince. I kept saying that we now exist in a post-Bowie world, a post-Prince world, and how much I hated how things have turned out.
Now I exist in a post-Nathan world. This feels something like what twins describe when they lose the other twin. I realize that sounds like hyperbole, but that's where I am right now. Who am I now that my other half is gone?
After I graduated from high school, we moved back to the city where my mother had grown up. There were a lot of reasons but the main one was that my oldest cousin had passed away. The family came together for that. I lived there in the South for the next 12 years or so. When I moved back I was newly 18, not out of the closet yet, and lost. Nathan, even though he was going through is own pain at the loss of his older brother, took me in and became mine. I went through a period of time where I had to learn a lot about myself and he was always there to help with that, even when I was in the wrong (and man did that happen a lot more than I am comfortable with). Even when I had done some really terrible things, he never blinked. We had terrible fights that would have ended any other friendship (I mean some BAD ones), but we always came back together.
Way leads on to way, and I moved for school. My trips back there became less and less frequent, but when we would see one another, we immediately picked up right where we left off. It was as if no time had passed.
Way leads on to way, and I moved for my job. My trips home became even less frequent, to the point that when I finally added it up, this trip home for the funeral was my first back in nearly 6 years. I never meant for it to be that long but...
The funeral was so well-attended that we were spilling out into the streets. The building wasn't big enough to hold everyone who knew him. The funeral home panicked so badly they called in people who were supposed to be off that day just to help with crowd control. He would have loved that. I told the person I was talking to at the time that if ten more people showed up with a drum or two, it would turn into Carnivale. That, he would have really loved.
Another woman, someone I had been close to but hadn't seen in nearly twenty years said that there had been plans at one point to have a reunion much like what we were seeing there at the funeral, but it just never came together. I wish it had. I like to think I would have gone to it.
I wound up having to drive the 1600 miles home and then three days later the 1600 miles back. Bereavement fares do not cover cousins--they are quite specific about who is covered, and they very much mean "nuclear family." Thing is, though, that's sort of what I'm getting at...for all intents and purposes, he was. The fact that my mother and his mother were different people meant absolutely nothing to either of us.
When I tell people "my cousin died" it feels imprecise...like a lie, somehow.
"Where are we now, where are we now? The moment you know you know you know" Bowie sings, and though I thought I understood what that lyric meant before, I understand it in a whole new way, today.