Who helps define you?

My cousins, all amazing women.

My cousins, all amazing women.

My cousin died. On Tuesday, July 21 she lost her battle with cancer.

In this blog series I’ve talked about my mother and sister, my grandmothers and other women who’ve influenced who I am. Today I’d like to talk about cousins. Yes, this isn’t about flowers.

We weren’t overly close. However, my cousins were women who I grew up with and I became “me” in part because of who they are.

I remember being envious of the eldest, because she was allowed to keep play-doh in her bedroom and she had lots of books. I remember playing with the twins’ expansive Barbie collection while my aunt ironed and did Jack Lalanne on TV. I remember their excitement over cheerleading and while I really wanted the cool outfit, I was horrified at the thought of performing in front of a crowd. I remember teaching them how to cut worms in half (like my frugal father taught me) to bait fish hooks and later wondering why I was all “fishy” from worm gook and removing fish while they still looked pretty (yes, they were older and smarter). Its little things that shape us.

When I left home to go to college, my dad’s parting shot as the van pulled away from Elizabeth Waters dorm was to stay out of trouble and if I needed help to call my cousins. We belonged to the same sorority but we had different friends and different majors so our paths rarely crossed. It didn’t’ matter, as they were a security blanket I knew was there if I ever needed them.

We grew up. Followed different career paths. Attended each other’s weddings. Lived in different cities. Sent cards at Christmas to keep track of children’s achievements and life changes. Gathered to celebrate parental birthdays and significant wedding anniversaries. And when we lost their brother and father, grieved together.

Our connection is loosely held. Or maybe not.

Today I’m adrift in pain. Someone who helped me figure out who I was and defined me is gone. I’ve lost an anchor in my life.

I’m overwhelmingly heartsick for her husband and her children, and her sisters and mother, and her whole family. If a voice can sound gray, that’s what my dad sounded like when he called me. I expect the rest of my family is also wounded by her death.

I’m angry that she lost the battle and cancer won. I was naïve to think that no news was good news.

I’m sad and sorry about missed opportunities. I spent a sleepless night Wednesday playing the very unfulfilling game of “should have”.

Today I’m realizing that though we didn’t see each other often enough, she was/is an extremely important person in my life. I love her.

Pick up the phone and call that someone in your life.


About Kary Beck

Mother and wife, gardener, wine enthusiast, avid online bargain hunter, and owner of two black-and-tan cocker spaniels.
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