Late yesterday evening I got an email from my cousin Kathleen, informing me that her brother Tony died. It’s no special shock to learn that a man in his late sixties has died, even when it is someone close to you, if they’ve been ill. But he was killed in an automobile accident on the way home from work. That sort of thing leaves you with all sorts of unfinished business, even when you didn’t know you had any business.
I would have told you that I wasn’t very close to Tony. For reasons best known to himself, he moved from Central Florida to Castro Valley, California many years ago. About the only times I’ve seen him since were one family reunion, his mother’s funeral, and maybe a couple of other times. When I got the news, I mostly felt — along with some relatively mild regret — concern for his two sisters and his long-time partner Lynda.
But you know, nothing’s that easy. Despite the separation, Tony and I do go way back. He was the older cousin (a couple of years) whose visits I most looked forward to for occasional relief from the boredom of being the only little kid on a failing farm. Later on, he was the Eagle Scout, the sailor, and all that. We never saw a lot of each other, yet he was with me during one of the major experiences of my life: my first beer. (I hated it.) Maybe that wouldn’t be such a landmark for some folks, but I am a recovering alcoholic.
Tony popped back into my life occasionally before he moved to the Left Coast. We blew a little weed together in the mid-70’s, got plastered a couple of times when he was living in Ft. Lauderdale — the passing experiences of young adulthood. His birthday would have been in a couple of weeks, and just yesterday I was thinking about sending him an e-card, maybe even calling him up.
What this brings to mind, once more, is how you just never know. Keep your relationships and your contact with the ones you love in good repair, if you can, because