Not seeing my second cousin, John, in his usual spot at the 5:30 p.m. Sunday Mass when I stopped at St. Charles on my way through Parma a few months ago, I assumed his health took a turn for the worse. I called another cousin who I knew kept in closer touch with him than I have and asked how he was doing. She said he was at a nursing home in Lakewood and she had been advising him to sell his home and go into assisted living since he now needed more medical care than he previously required, but he was resisting. She said he was worried about all his “stuff”. It was the same reason he would not hire anyone to help him with housekeeping though he really needed help and of course, Marilyn knew just the right person. The nursing home had dialysis service right there, so it was easier for him than going to a facility from home.
Well, I had not been particularly close to my second cousins, but I do have many memories of assorted events, weddings, funerals, and oddly enough, family picnics when my parents were invited and we did join the fun. There was even one holiday picnic when I was in town with my children and I introduced my daughter to a third cousin of hers and told them both, your great-grandmothers were sisters. They nodded, not nearly as impressed as I was.
Armed with the name of the nursing home and its address, I set off to visit John. I got a little lost as usual when I am on the far west side of town, and when I stopped and asked a man who was mowing his lawn if he knew the place I was looking for, he at first cast a suspicious glance at me, but then readily helped me clarify where I was headed.
John smiled and talked easily and said Marilyn told him I might come so we spent about an hour catching up and agreeing to get together for a bite to eat when he got back home. He jotted down my name and phone number on his yellow lined pad of paper and I left. I did not want to tire him out by staying too long.
Neither of us called the other and I had seen his vacant seat at St. Charles again and thought of calling Marilyn when a few days later she called me to say he had passed on.
At the wake I did not see anyone I recognized, but overhearing one man say his name, I immediately recognized it and introduced myself. I found John’s brothers and spoke with them briefly and after an hour of sitting in the room, I decided that was respectful enough and I left.
My plan for the next day was to attend the funeral Mass and then go home, but at the church I found Marilyn and she thought I should attend the internment and the celebration of John’s life luncheon as well, so my car was tucked between others in order to easily find my way to the cemetery plot and afterwards I followed Marilyn and her husband’s second son to the restaurant where we not only had a lovely meal, but enjoyed talking and catching up and greeting other cousins I have not seen in too long. Marilyn said she had him over to dinner once a week and her lip quivered when she said she’d miss him.
Even though we don’t see each other often, the connection is still strong and I feel certain that our grandmothers, wherever they may be, are pleased that the family bond has held for at least these three generations.