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Susan Sleggs

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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cousins

Grief Can Do That To You

Today is National Grouch Day. Sesame Street has Oscar the Grouch and he is constantly complaining, about something; anything. He’s a glass-half-empty kind of fellow. The picture above shows a definitely unhappy child: maybe he’s hungry; he didn’t get to have a new toy; he doesn’t know when he’ll see his Mom again because she left in her military uniform; or his father is crying and he’s never seen him do that after talking on his cell.  The reason for the tears: he just found out his favorite uncle died.

My husband and I spent the last couple of days at the funeral of his cousin Jerry. The first of fifteen cousins in his generation we had to say good-by to. It can be frightening to think our age naturally puts us in line for it to happen more often and closer to home. The fear of the unknown date can cause you to get grouchy; the riled emotions and sadness can cause you to get grouchy; trying to find a funeral home in a big, unfamiliar city can cause you to get grouchy; and so can the noise being made by other guests in the hotel you are trying to sleep in.  It’s an emotional time for everyone involved, especially for the spouse left behind that has to figure out what the “new normal” is going to be.

Jerry had been sick for a long time. Sometimes you couldn’t even tell there was cancer in his system; other times, you didn’t think he would last another week. So when the end finally came, it was not a surprise. How much it hurts was a surprise. We all said it was a blessing he was no longer in pain. We added, he wasn’t here long enough to suit us.

I’ve been to far too many funerals already. I’ll share with you that both of my parents funerals were like a party week. The relatives came, the neighbors, the friends. People we hadn’t seen in a long time made contact with calls, cards, and flowers. It was festive. The pain set in afterwards when the house was quiet, and the company disappeared. Then the mind asks, “What just happened?”

Jerry’s funeral was like that. Cousins converged on Baltimore from Chicago, Boston, Knoxville, TN, Rochester, NY, and Miami. Friends came from next door, Washington, DC and Maine. We laughed about some memories and cried over others. We hugged each other; we said I love you. One of the family members didn’t speak to me and it really hurt my feelings. I thought he was mad at me, but then I found out he didn’t talk to hardly anyone. Grief can do that to you when you aren’t ready to face it yet.

I know this isn’t my usual type post, and there are lots of other reasons to be a grouch, but this reason is on my mind. The National Day of calendar suggests spending time with a grouch on this day and give them a reason to smile or pass them one of your own. It may help them be less of a grouch, and just maybe help them to heal from the pain of loss.

 

 

National Day of Cousins

It just so happens this day falls on the last day of a family reunion for my  husband’s family.  These cousins know how to have a good time, and keep the family close.  Not easy to do considering there are cells over the country.  Not everyone attends, but those that can still travel, usually do.  We aren’t as young as we used to be.

The group my age do their best to carry on the family tradition of togetherness they learned from their parents.  I wish I had been part of the family when they were alive.  I missed knowing some hard-working, intelligent, caring people.

Friday night we gather at a restaurant for dinner.  There were 21 this year, including two ladies we claim as family that really aren’t.  Most of the discussion is updating each other on personal news.  The conversation was extra special because we heard stories from the next generation that are now all over 21, about their memories of being little.  Some tellers wanted their parents take of what they remembered about certain happenings.  After dinner there is a pub crawl, starting at the local Elks Club.  Cash registers like it when we visit.

Saturday there is a picnic at Stony Brook State Park.  There is food, conversation, laughs, memories, and the obligatory trail hike.  I didn’t get the exercise gene, so I skip that.  This year we figured out this reunion has been happening for over fifty years.  In the evening we all go out for dinner again.  By this time the conversation has slowed a bit and we all look a little bedraggled, especially when it’s hot.

Sunday morning we all say good-by in the hotel lobby and have already started planning for next year.  This morning a three year old was walking through the hallway, with big eyes, saying, “There’s more cousins!”

One comment made a few years ago by a lady cousins sticks with me.  It was honest, and oh so true.  “We are together just long enough to not get under each other’s skin.”

Ain’t family grand?

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