The summer of loss.
I just heard today that one of my English cousins passed away. I have known her for over 35 years, having first met her in the late 70's when my mother, father and I made a visit to the UK and Scotland. I thought she was a very hip woman, she dressed very stylish and was fun, although her sister in law, the quieter, deaf woman, was more my speed and I tended to latch on to women who I could bond with. Years later it would prove she was a bit of a manipulative cousin and I would prefer and adore, the more fun loving cousin.
The next trip I made to the UK was with a high school friend and my father, who was British and born in the UK, but emigrated to the US, was living there after he and my mother split up. My high school friend and I went to stay a month in the UK with my father and spent a lot of time with my cousins.
When I graduated from high school I decided I wasn't sure college was my cup of tea and I had the traveling bug firmly planted, and I decided to spend 6 mos in the UK with my cousins. Since my last visit, my cousins had lost their beautiful daughter and my cousin's husband. So it was just my cousin M and her son J. J was off working in a hotel so it was just M and I in the country. She thought and often remarked years later how she felt I was going to be bored in the country. I was not. There was a whole host of friends, family, locals, etc., that kept me well entertained. In fact I had a young flirtation with the produce, or greengrocer, as he was called. Enough so, that when my cousin J made a trip to the UK, he asked about me, many years later.........blush............ ;-) I enjoyed my 6 mos and didn't want to come home. I had an interview with the highest nanny college in the UK, Norland, and I was set to go a year later. However, in between that time, I decided not to go as I had my first love, and a year makes a difference in a young woman's life. My dad never forgave me for it as he felt I should have the experience.
Over the years I visited many times with my cousins and friends in England. I met on my six months stay there, cousins of M and J, friends, etc. I felt at home and loved each and every one of them. My father and brother visited during my 6 mos stay there, and my brother married an English woman and lived in the UK. It was nice to visit my cousins, they never judged me, we had great laughs and adventures and I really enjoyed visiting. I had another chance to work as a nanny in the north end of London, but I believe I was only going to get $40 a week as the couple's children (met them through friends of friends) only needed a nanny after school hours, etc. so I would have the days to myself. At that point I was not sure I wanted to have to try and find another job in London on my own, and I wasn't sure I wanted to leave, so I didn't choose to take the job. I guess I just wasn't sure I was meant to live in the UK and I felt that leaving my mother was also not an option. I think my poor father was disappointed in me, as my brother ran off and had his adventures and my dad was at sea a lot on ships. My mother had lived in Guam and Japan so I came from a family who traveled and lived in other parts of the world. I did, I lived in the UK for 6 mos, but if you compared who had lived where, I fell way behind.
I sort of lost touch with my English cousins when I did decide to move to Northern California (which was a step in moving somewhere else, however, I'm still here so I didn't move for a few years and then leave, which my family apparently did a lot). I got married to Dave and we started a life, they moved to Spain and settled into their house, had their German Shepard doggies and lived their lives. I did keep in touch by cards and letters, occassionally and then email when they got a computer. Sometimes phone calls, but the phone was very expensive. Recently after my brother died we began to establish phone contact again and I made occassional calls to Spain and they called when my brother died and we spoke again briefly when my mother died in May. I meant to call again, but I didn't because the girls were home and they NEVER allow me to talk to anyone on the phone EVER. So my plan was to call when they went back to school.
On the day they went back to school my cousin M had her first stroke. At first we were assured it was mild and she would recover. However, M had traveled (at 87) to the UK for her last trip in June and had seen the UK doctors and then was told to come back in Oct for a follow up, which she was planning. My cousin J her son, emailed as best he could and kept me posted on her condition. He said she was doing well, but it would be a long road. Then on Monday I saw on FB that J's ex girlfriend, R, had posted that she would miss M and about how people come into your lives, etc. I started to feel a rush of sadness and panic, had M passed away??? I tried to get R to post it but she wouldn't so I finally had to send her a private msg where she confirmed it. I then called J and spoke to him at length yesterday. M had a massive stroke on Wed and Thurs, had some brain damage and passed away on Friday.
I feel lost, yet once again. When my mother passed my English cousins assured me there were there for me and always would be and that I was not alone. I felt comforted and tried to figure out if there was any way I could make a trip to Spain to see them. I had hope we could meet up and see each other. I yearned for a hug and a nice chat with M.
Life does go on and I know that M would not have wanted to live in a wheelchair and not be the active person she was. She overcame a lot in her life, losing her daughter to a freakish horseriding accident, then her husband to cancer not long after that. She lost friends and her two closest cousins, H and B. She still had a great life, traveled to the UK and to FL, and with one of her closest friends, Z, took trips to different places. I'm glad she isn't suffering anymore, but I'm at a loss to explain her passing so soon after my mother's passing. I am feeling some sadness for J, as he spent the better part of his life caring for and living with his mother. I hope he can find some peace (he seems to, but grief is funny that way, you are so busy attending to details in the beginning that it just sort of hits you like a ton of bricks one day and that's it, you are in the stages, till you get to acceptance).
I have fond memories of my cousin, and she was a lifeboat at a time in my life when I was feeling lost and tired, tired from my parents' divorce and being an anchor for my mother at various times in her life till she had grieved the loss of her 23 yr marriage and moved on. Life became better, but England and my cousins, and their friends and family, became a refuge/cocoon for me during a time I needed it. I remember lots of special talks during cups of tea in a country home kitchen, walks up and down the lane with the dogs, feeding and mucking out horses, hanging laundry out on the line, going to the shops, going to horse events, dinner out, holidays, etc. It was a very special time in my life between 18 and early 30's, and I will never forget my memories of those times. Holidays when the cousins visited my mother and I in Southern CA and my mom as she was so good at doing, mapped out a trip north to San Francisco, Monterey, where we just spent the weekend (and where I bought postcards to send to M to remind her of some good times) and a great holiday one year in Florida. It was the best times. I'm so glad that we had them and that we can look back on them fondly, I know M did. She told her son that she thought of our times fondly.
I feel very lucky to have experienced some fun times. M was not a great kid person, she much preferred her dogs and horses to kids, but she had two of her own and she always remembered the girls, she sent them costume jewlery, money, personalized notes. She never missed a birthday or Christmas. As my mother couldn't do any of it, M stepped up and did it for mom. I will never forget that. She was a beautiful, wonderful woman, with a GREAT sense of humor. I have never laughed so hard in my life, when I was with her.
I guess this is a new phase in my life, no going back to the 'old' times. I'm sure lots of people having lost loved ones, find their way, and I will too. It seems odd and I haven't yet had a good cry. Dave was home yesterday and we had lunch and ran errands. Today I just feel sort of numb and I am back to not wanting to do a thing. I thought I had sort of got a bit past that, but I just feel numb right now. I want to go back and look at all my pics, but they are stored and I would have to dig deep to get them out. So I'll go back there in my mind, I do believe I have a journal I found at my mother's and I will read it. It was fun to remember what happened at the time in my life. Unfortunately I didn't keep it up very long, as I was too busy having fun to want to write I guess.
I know that going forward there will be new memories to make. I''m ready.