Thursday, August 8, 2013
I snuck into the barn to get away from the crowd for a moment. I felt strongly that I should come to the family reunion this year, since I am now home from Wyoming and it is close. Most years in the past I have avoided it like the plague but this year I felt it was important that I go.
My mother has been feeling better but not quite to the level of spending an entire weekend with my father’s extended family. It was decided that we would go up on Saturday morning in time for breakfast and stay until after lunch and then head home. I sat and visited with various aunts and uncles and cousins. My father is the oldest of eleven and has five brothers and five sisters, which usually makes for huge family reunions between all the children and the children’s children and all the little grandchildren. This year was no different although it seemed there were less people this year than in times past. We arrived by eight and I was ready to go again at nine thirty.
My sister and her husband were going to run to the store and I asked if could ride along.
“That’s how agoraphobia starts,” my brother in law stated in his EMT terminology.
“I’m not afraid to leave the house,” I told him. “I’m not even afraid of crowds to be honest. I just have a hard time with our whole family in one little area.”
When we got back, I made the rounds again. A little chit-chat here and a rowdy story about the guy with the tongue there and sooner than I would have thought I had visited with everyone there.
Inside the barn were tables and the remains of last nights partying. Half full gallon jugs of rum were sitting on the table surrounded by empty beer bottles and over flowing ashtrays. People came out here to smoke but I figured no one would be here this early in the morning and I could read a chapter in my book before anyone began to miss me.
My cousin Jon came in to smoke a cigarette and I put my book down. I was never really close to him, not really, although he was always one of my favorites. He was several years younger than me, one of the younger cousins so we older cousins usually ignored them for the most part. He was a grown man now but he still looked so much like a boy. He was small and wiry with a shy smile and big blue-green eyes. It was good to see him and we talked about school and life and other stuff.
I remember years ago before I got married, before I went into the military, Jon had attempted suicide. I saw him a couple months after it happened. He couldn’t drive and asked me to drive him to the store and take him to look at cars. We spent the afternoon hanging out and smoking cigarettes and laughing. Although we didn’t talk about what happened it was still there, like a silent shroud, wrapping him in a wall that couldn’t be reached. There was a part of me that wanted to take him away and protect him and tell him that I loved him, but the wall was always there, even though he never meant for it to be. I was sad when that afternoon was over and I had to leave.
As we sat in the barn, I looked at his face and thought about how beautiful he was. Some girl is so going to fall in love with you Jon, I thought, don’t worry. I asked him what he was doing and he told me that he was care taking for a man and living in his house but that the job was going to be ending. “After I leave here this weekend I will have to find a new place to live.” He smiled that sad smile. I wish I had a place that I could have invited him to come live with me but I’m still staying at mom and dads. Another of our cousins joined us and I figured I had hidden out long enough so it was time to go back out to the reunion.
When it was time to leave he came to give me a hug. “It was really good to see you again Jon.” I told him. He put his hand on my shoulder. “Bye” he said. I didn’t know it was going to be last time I saw him.
My father got the call this morning. “Last night Jon’s roommates found him. He was unresponsive,” he told my mom and I, “He’s dead” I've been crying ever since.
I wish I would have told him that I loved him. I wish I would have told him he was beautiful and that someday some girl was going to love him. Now she never would.
It’s okay Jon. Your journey is over and you will have peace now. Some day all your tears will be wiped away and there will be no more pain.
Farewell, my friend.