My cousin Bobby died last week. It was expected after a long illness, so it shouldn’t have thrown me like it did when I got the call. But my heart sank to a very sad place that I didn’t get there to see him.
I had thought about packing up and heading south a few months ago, when I learned he was sick, and then again earlier this summer, when balmy sunny weather made me restless to blow town.
But things piled up as they always do. I got busy and have been going through a lot. And then, as I learned the other day, best intentions are one thing, but if you miss your opportunity, well, you have missed out.
Bobby was related to me on my mother’s side, a romantic, intriguing family of Virginians I hardly know. She came north to work and met and married my father. She stayed in touch with her folks, but her acclimation was to the north, and she made her real life here.
Still, the affinity I feel with her people is strong, forged by the mysterious strain of southern blood that also runs through me.
It’s been a good lesson the last couple of days. Everyone has a tendency to plot a course for a better time, but the question is this: does that time ever arrive?
I have been at a crossroads of choices for months, which all depend on one thing that just refuses to occur. The frustration is indescribable and I fight every minute of every day not to succumb to it.
I take refuge in my relationships, which range from fabulously wonderful to challenging all at once. These are the components that make each of us who we are, and I welcome them.
Showing the people I love what they mean to me — in the here and now — has been my mantra this year. When it comes down to it, I feel it’s all we have. But then comes a total fail, like what happened with my cousin, and I know I still have a lot to learn.
At my wedding, my brother described me in his toast as the keeper of the flame, the one who tends the family fire and holds things together. Lately, though, my role has changed: the only flame I can feed seems to be the one burning within me.
I have to focus on what make sense to me as I work to open up that stubborn path. I am mindful of how this fiery passion for life can be shared with others, and I offer it freely.
Still, as circumstances made clear last week, life isn’t often tied up with a bow. It flows forward consistently, yes, but you have to make a choice, and then accept the accompanying consequences: are you with it, or aren’t you?
Both answers involve risk. But, as I ask myself a lot, doesn’t it make sense to do what makes the ride worthwhile?