My mother lost one of her cousins recently.
She didn't have that many to begin with. My grandmother was an only child. My grandfather had siblings, but they only had a few children among them. So while I had 13 first cousins, my mom had five.
Janet was one of my mom's favorites. A few years older than my mom, she was tall and regal and elegant. Very proper. She lived in "The City" of New Orleans, while my mom lived down the bayou. She also taught my mom how to shave her legs and, I believe, to smoke.
Editor's Note: A few minutes after this was posted, my mom messaged me to let me know that she was, actually, five years YOUNGER than Janet. That she shaved Janet's legs AND gave her her first cigarette. Duly noted, Mom.
I mostly remember her for her "fancy" house in the Uptown area of New Orleans. It was brick. It was two-story. It had a pool. To this country gal who lived in a trailer made of tin and had a bayou and no pool, it was a mansion.
There were occasional visits to "Aunt Janet's" house to swim, and occasional school breaks where I would spend a few days there with my cousin Jule or she would spend a few days with us. I much preferred to go to their house -- what with the pool and all. I was the country cousin come to town.
Jule had an older brother named Hugh. He was roughly my older brother's age. But he didn't talk very much. Not that he had much to say to a couple of giggling little girls acting stupid in his pool.
Aunt Janet lived a wonderful, rich life. She loved, she married, she divorced. She worked. She sang. She danced. She raised her children. She volunteered. She cared for her elderly mother in her old age. She moved to Florida where she knew barely a soul, then to Texas when she could no longer live alone.
She died on March 7 in Texas.
On March 24, she was brought home. Cousin Hugh brought her ashes back to New Orleans, where they were interred in a lovely spot in one of the city's biggest cemeteries. I didn't get to go, but I heard there was an egret there as well.
Afterwards, our little family gathered back at my cousin Jule's house for sandwiches and such. Hugh and his wife, Jule and her husband, my mom, my daughter, me and an old gentleman friend of Aunt Janet's. We're all grown up now.
Jule's young son joined us too. But, being a teenager, he spent most of his time in his room. And Lora Leigh quickly retreated to the room with the TV with her iPod.
But for a while, we all sat at the small table in Jule's small kitchen, eating and telling stories, sharing memories and catching up. We hadn't seen each other in quite some time. They all wanted to know what I was doing now, what I was going to do next, and why the powers that be didn't just let Tom Benson buy the damn paper. I didn't know Jule's husband had retired from the NOPD. I had never met Hugh's wife. The last time they had seen Lora Leigh she was a tiny tot. And little Robbie was so grown-up and handsome I couldn't believe it!
It was a lovely afternoon, in spite of the circumstances. We had been brought together by a death.
And also by birth.
My cousins Jule and Hugh both had been adopted at birth.
So had my daughter Lora Leigh.
So had Jule's son, Robbie.
It was Hugh who acknowledged it, for one brief moment. Pointed it out. Acknowledged it. We marveled at it -- the youngsters especially. Then we let it go.
It didn't matter. It didn't make one bit of difference.
We were all still a family, mourning the loss of one of our own.
No matter how we got there.