the summer of 1979 was life-changing for me. i was 7, and we'd packed all of our worldly belongings in our big ass pontiac lemans and a rented u-haul truck. we'd just arrived in california from our cross-country road trip from maryland, and i was excited and nervous about what life was going to be like.
when i walked into the tiny pasadena apartment we'd temporarily be sharing with about 10923874012 other family members, i saw him - my cousin, the future 420. he was only about five months old at the time, and i was drawn to him immediately. he was the first baby i'd ever been that close to, and i just wanted to play with him like a little doll.
oh, how i loved helping to take care of him. i changed diapers, gave him his bottle, held him, helped put him down for naps. i loved my cousin so much. i have some awesome pictures of those days - just a few - but they're all tucked away in storage somewhere. boo.
that love carried on through the years as we pretty much grew up together. we played all the time, i introduced him to the fabulousness that is blue-box mac & cheese, and (he's gonna kill me for this) he even followed me into the bathroom whenever i had to go. of course, as we got older, that pesky thing called life got in the way, and we grew apart as our lives went in different directions. but i still felt bonded to him - he was a groomsman in my wedding to the ex, and when it came time to baptize the teen, i knew without hesitation that i wanted him to be one of her two ninongs. when i left the ex and then decided to move back to my hometown before the teen started kindergarten, i moved into my aunt's house and he unselfishly gave me his room, because it was the biggest one.
i was shocked when he announced earlier this summer that he'd decided to move away to guam, where his dad had found a place to live and a steady stream of employment. as a lot of us still are at his age, he was still trying to figure out what to do with his life. so when the opportunity presented itself, he took it. despite the fact that i've known of his plans for quite a while now, i was still super rattled when he finally set a departure date - today.
last night, we gathered at his mom's house to see him one more time and say goodbye. i was pretty bummed that the teen wasn't around to say her own goodbye, but even if i'd have been able to "borrow" her from her dad, she's been home sick with flu-like symptoms over the last couple of days. when we got there, the bean (who's still not really used to big crowds of folks) was overwhelmed and played possum until she relaxed and opened up. of course, the fun toys she spied in a corner of the living room helped, too.
as usual, there was quite a spread (although we were among the later arrivals, so a lot of the grub was already gone). i made myself a plate and dug in, sharing bites of rice and steak with the bean.
my cousin seven was there too, having driven down from santa barbara to see 420 one last time.
the bean played quite happily with all the new (to her) toys.
this book is fantastic. i've gotta get one for the bean. i also giggled a little to myself, remembering 420's early years. we spoke nothing but tagalog at home, and again, he'll kick my ass for this, but he (and his brother, born a little over a year after him) ended up starting school without a super strong grasp on the english language. heh.
the bean was in hungry mode. i couldn't cut up the steak fast enough for her. "meat!" she'd say, trot over, and open her mouth like a little bird. certainly not like her sister, that one.
remember smiley? she's 420's niece. she was funny, running around with my aunt's camera, taking pictures of everyone and nothing. every time someone arrived (including us), she let out a bloodcurdling scream of excitement. the bean was pretty much scared shitless every time she did it. hilarious.
it didn't take long for the bean to spy minnie mouse, sitting in a corner.
and then it was time for us to go. i'd told myself that i wasn't going to cry, because although i'm super sad that 420's leaving (indefinitely!), i know it's a good move for him. he'll finally get out of our hometown, get a major change of scenery, meet a lot of people, learn new skills. he's going to do really well, and i'm really proud of him for taking this huge step. giving him one last hug and saying goodbye was so surreal, and i felt like i was in a fog as we left the house.
he's already at the airport as i type this, and i'm already missing him. it's kind of crazy, because like i said, we hadn't really seen much of each other in recent years despite the fact that we only live a couple of towns apart. it's that whole "you don't really miss it until it's gone" thing, i suppose. but 420 may very well be the only male in my life who's always been there for me - unconditionally and without question. anytime i needed him, he was there. and he's always got a smile and a hug for me. as the hub said, he's one of the most real people we know - with 420, what you see is what you get. there's no games, no pretenses, no bullshit.
i don't know that i've ever told him any of this, or even how much i love him. and my heart is heavy as i think of the missed opportunities i had to do so. i'm sure that he knows it - but i hate that i've fallen into that unexpressive, assuming pattern that i'm always so upset at my family for. i swore that i would be the one to change things, to actually talk about my feelings, and yet i still failed - with someone who's really important to me. damn.
bon voyage, 420. i love you, i'm excited for you, i miss you already, but i know you're going to go out there, kick some ass, and return triumphantly. come home soon, cousin! be safe.