Monday, August 15, 2011

Cousins by the Dozens

Today I talked to one of my cousins who I haven't seen for several decades.  I spent most of my childhood in Chicago, and my parents took me to Wisconsin frequently, at least once a year.  Since most of my cousins were there, I saw them regularly.  Both of my parents  have been living in the Midwest until my Dad came to Washington state a little over a year ago to share a house with me.  My parents have kept in touch much better than I have. 

Both of my parents came from large families.  Mom was one of 11, and Dad was one of 7.  Then three brothers from one family married three sisters from the other.  My Mom and Dad were the last of the three brothers and sisters to marry.  One of Dad's brothers had 10 children, and one of his sisters had 9.  Of all the families, only two had only children, and I am one of those.  But I counted 100 first cousins, including 8 double cousins.  All of us double cousins were fairly close, especially Maggie and me, the nearest in age.  We fought and played and loved each other.  I have lost Maggie's phone number, so if you read this, Maggie, please get in touch!

I called my cousin Joanne today, and we had a great time.  She just got back from a family reunion picnic in Iowa, and told me about next year's picnic in Wisconsin.  Hopefully, my Dad and I will be able to go.  I had such mixed feelings: I was happy to reconnect, and also sad for all I have missed through the years.  We all get so busy in our lives, and it is all too easy to lose our connections.

I remember how easy it was in the small town where my Dad grew up, and where my double cousins grew up.  We went down to the river and waded, and in the winter we went skating.  It is a resort town in the summer, and my cousins and I all worked in the family restaurants at some time or other.  Everyone knew we were Kimballs just by looking at us.  We would ask to get into attractions for free, and the ticket takers would ask which brother was our Dad.  They did let us in for free.

Today we also talked about one of my "double" cousins, who died in a car crash.  Living in a resort town in Wisconsin, at the end of the summer season, teenagers would drink and celebrate the close of the season.  My cousin Bill was drinking and driving during that weekend, crossed the center line and got hit by a truck.  Bill was such a gentle young man.  He often baby sat for us younger cousins, and was very caring.  When Maggie's mother died, Bill babysat all of his younger cousins.  He was always gentle, kind, and had a great sense of humor.

 Joanne also told me a story of when Bill was very young.  Uncles from both my Mom's and Dad's family owned a restaurant in Dalhart, Texas. This was near the end of WWII and somewhat after.  Segregation was still the norm.  The family didn't like it, but would lose their business if they went against the pattern of the time.  So the African-Americans, many of them soldiers, ate in the back room.  And Bill, even as young as he was, knew it was wrong.  And he treated them with great kindness.  I wish I had more time to know him.  He died too young!

I guess that is what my feelings were in the phone call.  Time slips away.  I made a promise to myself to keep in touch with family and friends. Joanne and I decided we must have a list of phone numbers and email.  We are too scattered and busy - so we need a reminder every so often.  We need our family.

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