I had to go to see our attorney today to sign a health directive. We thought it would be a good idea and would complement our living wills. The attorney and I were talking about how who would be the designees to carry out the directives. I was reminded once again of how small my living family is. There simply aren't many relatives that I are still around or who I know.
All of this reminded me of a first cousin that I haven't seen in 30 years. He was older than I and was the only child of my father's youngest sister. I didn't know him well since the only time we interacted was when we would go to visit my aunt who lived in another state. I remember Michael had an aquarium, and he liked to show me his fish. He pretty much stayed in his room most of the time while we were there, except for the times that he would go out with his friends.
When he was a junior in high school, we all went on a trip together to New York. He was shopping around for a college to attend. I don't recall all the details but remember my father became very angry and had words with Michael when he wanted to be driven to visit Cornell. My father was doing much of the driving and was irritable. He yelled at Michael who yelled back. I remember feeling terrible because they both were saying unkind things to each other.
Later, I would hear my parents talking about Michael, voicing their suspicions that he was gay. Those prejudicial accusations seemed so wrong at the time and seem even more horrendous today. His mother suddenly died, he was drafted into the service, and for some reason that I can't understand he was cut off by my father and his other sister. It was as if he never existed. I would ask about him, but was told that he probably was dead. Of course he wasn't.
Later when I was a senior in college, he came to visit us. I was home on spring break, and he drove down from DC to see the relatives. I talked with him about my studies and graduate school. He seemed interested and promised to keep in touch. But that was the last time I heard from him. Whether my father and mother ever heard from him again is something they took to their grave.
Now as I think back on this, I am sorry that he was treated so badly by my father. I have a regret that I didn't get to know him better. And I wish that I knew what had happened to him. I don't know whether he is alive. I am going to do some searching online to see if I can find out more about him. I realize that I am not responsible for the actions of others or for their injustices. I do feel that I could have done more to let him know that I didn't dislike him. It seems totally unfair to have chopped off this branch on the small family tree.
I am glad that I thought about Michael today. The memories that we have of people, no matter how small and inadequate, are perhaps a way to honor them so they are not entirely forgotten.
Addendum: I learned this afternoon that Michael died in 1995 in San Francisco.