My cousin Mark called this morning. I should have known something was up because my family, especially my cousins, never call unless something is up. It’s a bad habit that runs in the family. As I sat there praying it wasn’t his parents, he broke the news to me. Our cousin Henry had passed away.
I still keep thinking this is one of Henry’s pranks. Like the time we were at the beach when we were kids and he made everyone’s cigarettes explode all week. That was the same week he slept in his bathing suit the entire time, leaving deposits of sand all over our shared room. By the end of the week, he had left sand in all the beds, all over the floor and somehow, in all our clothes. He had a real aversion to bathing as a kid. That was the same week of the infamous run-in my dad had with the crab on the dunes, where he sliced his leg open to the bone and was in the hospital most of our vacation. Henry shared that sort of over the top childhood with me, which was good. You need a fellow survivor.
Henry was three years older than me and as probably any member of my family will tell you, he was my favorite cousin. I don’t even try to sugar coat that to any of the rest of them, he was my favorite cousin. He once traded me to a bunch of Mexicans for a pitcher of beer (And a t-shirt I can hear him saying) and is probably the only person on the face of the earth that could get away with it. The same members of my family would tell you that you should never, ever send us out together to pick up anything like dinner because we’ll show up three days later empty handed.
That last part is a small exaggeration. It was more like three hours not three days and it would be because he found a bar with a really great beer I needed to try that was on the way. Then again, it was widely known that Henry & I couldn’t walk down the street without stopping off for a beer. He was one of my first drinking buddies and certainly one of my favorites. He was like my big brother really – he’s run interference for me my entire life. Pat & I were famously on a break when he came down to visit and meddled until we got back together. He went on to save our wedding in a few ways, but those are all stories for other days. We had a childhood of fantastic stories that Henry & I dragged into our adulthood. Our adventures together didn’t stop when we got older, although we did get more responsible along the way. Life has a way of doing that to you.
My entire life I have sat next to Henry at family weddings & funerals. He was always one to pull me aside to go grab a beer, maybe take a drive down a country road with a six pack and listen to Van Morrison. As long as I can remember, there was Henry. Only now there’s not. And I’m not exactly sure how I’m supposed to sit through his funeral without him.