Inside looking out

July 28, 2011


I have spent a lot of time in my life feeling like I’m on the outside looking in. As a kid, I wasn’t popular—not unpopular, but not part of what I perceived to be the in-crowd, and now that I think back on who at the time I thought those people were, there probably wasn’t as much of a difference as I might have thought. In high school I didn’t really feel like I was part of any particular crowd, neither in nor out, just there, with my little circle of friends.


24 hours later:

Just as I thought I was getting into the swing of things last night, I got a phone call from my dad. I think I’ve talked before about how small my immediate family is. My dad was calling with the unfortunate news that the older of my two first cousins and her fiancé had been in an awful car accident earlier in the day and that they were in intensive care with head injuries. My other cousin, her younger sister, was traveling to be with her via Minneapolis and was at the airport with a long layover, and I needed to go get her.

All of a sudden I was the sole representative of the in-crowd.

I wouldn’t call my relationship with my family close. That undersells it. It isn’t close, it isn’t far, it just is. We all like each other well enough but don’t bust our butts getting together. My aunt and uncle do the best job of making the effort to stay in touch. My parents have always seen more of my cousins than I have of my aunt and uncle.

The two parts to my relationship with my cousins is that the older of the two, the one who was in the accident, is seventeen years younger than I. Her sister is twenty years younger. And we were geographically separated by hundreds of miles. Last summer was the first time that I got together with either of my cousins without any of our parents around, when the older happened to be in town for a professional engagement. Last night was the first time I met up with the younger, one-on-one. Her layover was long enough for us to come back to my place so that she could close her eyes for a few hours. 

I’ve never had to do the family thing before but I know that she appreciated it, even though we don’t come close to needing a full two hands to count the number of times we’ve seen each other during the course of our lives.

For forty-eight years, it was always somebody else who had extraordinary personal circumstances. Now it’s me and my six people. It’s a weird sensation.

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