Today I got an email from my cousin’s wife telling us that my cousin is back in the hospital in extreme pain with complications from his leukemia. This is not a memorial and I pray it does not become one, just my thoughts on someone who has been a part of my life for 34 years.
We came back to the States from Japan when I had just turned five. I met the first baby I remember, my cousin J (my mother’s sister’s son). He would have been about four months old. I remember lying next to him on a sheet on the floor of our grandparents’ house and having him grip my finger.
J and my aunt and uncle moved to Missouri with us that summer. We all lived together in our little house while my dad and uncle built a house for them in the back. Once they moved into the back house, we would visit back and forth. J, with his thick curly blond hair and clear blue eyes, learned to walk, and he would come into our house calling for my brother. He couldn’t have been very old, maybe just a year, but he sure did know my brother’s name. My parents say he came through like a tornado, leaving a path of destruction in his wake. Sometime that year, my aunt went back to California to visit and decided to stay. She packed up the baby, left his father, and went home.
For the next 10 years, every time we went to California, J and his mom were a big part of our visits. For a long time, my brother, J, and I were the three cousins. He’s the only other cousin old enough to remember our grandfather.
When we first moved back to California when I was 15 and J was 10, I babysat for J and his little brother semi-regularly. My parents would drop me off or my aunt or uncle would come get me (and the next year I drove myself) and then I would spend the night and hang out with the family. J and I would get the baby to sleep and then play games. He also came and stayed with us occasionally. At least once we rode bikes to the movies together.
Later, he was hanging out with me in my college apartment, I let him drive my car across town to my folks’ house. It was just a few months before that would have been legal. I made him stay on surface streets.
When his folks moved to Arizona just after he graduated high school, J stayed in California. He’s never left. He lived with my parents for a time.
He did shuttle service at my wedding reception, taking people to and from the reception house and the school parking lot. A couple years ago at Christmas, he and I hung out in my kitchen as he helped me get all the food ready.
J and I are companionable friends, but his original adoration of my brother has never changed. They are like brothers. My brother was best man at both of J’s weddings. When it was my brother’s turn, J had just been diagnosed with Leukemia and was in the hospital. The next year he had a stem cell transplant. I gave platelets a couple of times. It was what I could do. That’s been a little over a year ago.
He’s still hurting. The Leukemia is still there. He’s on medication. He keeps pressing on. He has a beloved wife, stepson, and baby boy. He’s a really good guy: joyful, helpful, hopeful. And my heart is heavy. And I pray he makes it through this current episode. And I pray God holds tight to him. And I pray…
His website: Kling for a Cure.