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And Other Light Topics for a California Morning
"What's with your family?" asked my cousin -- let's call him Mark -- at dinner last night at a Turkish restaurant in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco.
"My uncle died and we're here on Sunday instead of at the funeral; my dad was estranged from his brother, so we'll just go to the shivah to see his kids when we get back, but we wanted to be here and see you and not cancel this trip," I had just finished saying.
And just prior to that, we had been talking about how my mother and her sister had been estranged until the very end of their lives, too. My mother and my aunt both spent time separately with his mother of blessed memory, but never together.
"Ruthie [my aunt's name] was great --" Mark began.
I really didn't want to hear this; I was jealous that Mark knew my aunt and I didn't. "Was she funny?" I asked competitively, since my mom can be hilarious.
"She was...eccentric --"
Good. Not funny, though.
"I remember being at a wedding of cousins in Ohio [I guess we weren't invited to whatever the wedding] and Mike [her husband] and she were doing yoga on the balcony of their hotel-room. Everyone thought that was just...."
So I'm here the next morning, overlooking Union Square from our 18th-floor hotel-room and can't start the day in earnest before trying to figure out how I'm feeling:
Mark's and my childhood is so gone. Mark is half a year younger than I and his mother was the social-glue that kept our families together, and she's been gone from cancer for several years now.
My mom still calls Mark now and then, and Mark loves her, but when we were kids through college, our families would get together for holidays at their home in northern-New Jersey and spend full days together. Mark and I always were the tall ones among our siblings, and the gay or lesbian ones...though that was not revealed till we were 21; our height was always visible, and probably our sexual orientation, too, but....
"Your mother called my mother when you came out, for advice," Mark mentioned last night, and I'm trying to picture the two of them, puzzling it out. Pat recalled last night that when Mark's mom met Pat, she said simply, "Welcome to the family."
Pat and I loved her. His mom was a sexy version of my mother -- fun and funny and very kind. And he's like her.
Mark lost his leg, from the knee through his foot, to cancer a couple of years ago. And he's HIV+. And still tall and charming and fun and funny. He walks with a cane, but otherwise, he's the same tall cousin I've always enjoyed walking down the street with. I feel especially formidable when we're together.
When will he die? When will my mother die? When will Pat die? When will I die? My uncle's death accentuates my mother's longevity and adds a desperate edge to it for me, meaning, makes me feel more anxious about how much longer we've got together. Any of us, and especially my mom and me....
If the view out my window, of sunny, home-filled mountains in the distance, and Louis Vuitton windows decked out in Pride colors in the foreground isn't God's reminder to live in the present, I don't know what is.
Time for breakfast and more pride.