Okay, the purpose of this post is not to cause a familial incident. I am not blaming or shaming anyone with this post (except myself). Nor am I trying to turn anything into a melodrama or a tragedy.
With this post, I am simply stating a fact.
And that simple fact is….
….I miss my cousin Gina.
I always have.
For years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to restart a conversation/relationship with my closest cousin.
And it turns out, I just don’t know how to start.
I say ‘closest’ and I mean that. Gina, along with her twin brother Brian, was born when I was just six years old. We spent many summers together growing up, at Nana’s house in central Illinois. I’ve said often times that I wonder what life would be like if we’d never moved from that small town. Part of it would be I know I would have had a closer relationship with Gina.
But I don’t.
And I regret that.
I miss her dearly. And it took her wedding to make me realize that.
Egad, I am such a selfish, vain, and self-centered person, aren’t I? She has her own great life now, which, for the longest time, did not directly include me. Now I would like to have a friendship again with her.
I am so incredibly selfish, aren’t I?
She wanted me to stay longer at the wedding reception – told me about the s’mores bar, and asked me to stay. For a moment, I thought about staying, and having someone drive me back to the hotel, and maybe that way I could try talking to her. But I was all emotional, and I didn’t want to cause a scene on her wedding day of all days. I didn’t want to upset her. So I declined. And I left.
I regret that, too.
Even during my darkest days, I would often think of Gina. I would hope and pray to God that the same depressions wouldn’t befall her. I would look forward to summers spent in her company; the best being the summer I was eighteen. (That one is well documented in my journals, let me tell you!)
Times spent with Gina are among some of my most treasured memories. Who could forget the time she taught us the risque “Miss Suzi” song? Or the time we got drunk on caffeine and sugar (again, well documented)? All that time spent at the pool, and weeding in Nana’s garden, and at 5th Street Park. The trip to Colorado stands out, too – Gina, Melissa, and I were almost inseparable that whole trip.
My short story “Railroad Rocks” even includes and is based, in part, on Gina.
But the moment that stands out the most to me may be one of the more solemn ones. One summer’s day, we were walking from the pool back to Nana’s house, and for whatever reason we took 4th Street instead of 3rd. We eventually crossed in front of Mrs. Taylor’s house, with its tall wrought iron fence in front. I think the fence was up to about our elbows; point is, we could easily reach the top. Because we were both thinking and said aloud the same thing: “Hasn’t this fence always been taller than us?” We both distinctly remembered having to reach up to touch the top of the fence, as recently as even a year ago at the time. We were silent for the rest of the walk home, having realized we were growing up fast.
I know it sounds idyllic, but it wasn’t like we shared all out secrets. For me, there was a little matter known as mental illness. To this day, I don’t think Gina knows that about me.
In a way, we’re kind of like Elsa and Anna from “Frozen.”
And that analogy is actually interchangeable between us.
Gina is like Anna, because she is optimistic and brave and generous and caring and adventurous, all those things that make her shine so bright. I am like Elsa, in that I am cold and aloof, because I have a terrible secret, covering it up with kid gloves and phrases like “Conceal, don’t feel.” And actually, during my suicidal days, it was a rather hard thing to do, to act in Gina’s presence as though nothing was wrong. After my official diagnoses, I wanted to protect her from the knowledge, because, like I said, she was younger than I was. So for years, I withdrew. Didn’t even call or write or e-mail her, even though I wanted to. But I thought about her every day.
But now the roles are reversed, to a degree. I am like Anna, in that I want a better relationship with Elsa (Gina). Elsa, who has suddenly become distant, no longer close, closed in behind that beautifully decorated door. Living another life.
And that’s the thing. Life just got in the way. I know that sounds like a cop-out, and it is, but it’s the truth.
Gina went off to college, and the Armed Forces, where she had great experiences and great friends, and eventually met her husband Jonathan. She’s had a great and blessed life, and thank the Lord she is the way she is.
I am not angry about it. I am not jealous of her, or even envious. I love Gina dearly. I am so happy for her and Jonathan. I wish them nothing but the very best, and I hope they have many blessed happy years ahead of them, full of light and laughter and love.
I just wish I could say wholeheartedly that she is still my friend.
Should I “Let It Go”….?
….or should I continue a plaintive refrain of “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman”?
Gina, I know you’ll probably never see this, but I just want you to know I am so proud of you.
And, really, there are no other words.
Congratulation again. So happy that we were there for your special day. You can call, text, or e-mail me anytime. And I hope that perhaps you’re back in Illinois around Christmastime this year, because we will be, too.
I love you.