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Yesterday was December 7th. Pearl Harbor day. It's also my cousin Tony's birthday. He lived with us when he was about four or five, and I was in the fifth or sixth grade. His mother and father had split up, and through some familial machinations, our family caught the duty of taking care of him.
I don't remember Tony being a problem. Mom would later tell me that the symptoms of neglect; low weight, behavior, speech, dissipated under our family's care. Things must have really been hideous at Uncle Jack and Aunt Ethel's house, because things were always pretty tense in our home.
Tony was round-faced, and I remember him having all his teeth. I don't know why I remember that. Maybe he bit. He had blue eyes and light blonde hair. My main rivalry was with my brother Dan, but Tony got on my list, too. Dan and Tony were close in age, and they worked in tandem to drive me nuts, at least from my pre-teen perspective.
One summer afternoon, my mom told me to make them lunch. I don't know why I resented this, but I did. Dan and or Tony must have "got me in trouble" that morning, an egregious violation of the childhood code. I dutifully made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of hamburger buns and took them out to the picnic table in the back yard.
Mom soon came into the kitchen enraged, showing me an incriminating dollop of Tabasco on each sandwich. Out the kitchen window I could see both my brother and cousin bawling and holding their mouths. I caught hell, but at the time I thought it was worth it.
at the time, I didn't grieve for Tony. I was young, and already short on empathy because of my own family situation. Today, I'm feeling powerful waves of grief and fear. Grief that plays in my dreams cruel tricks. I speak to my lost loved ones, amazed that they live only realizing that I am dreaming while still asleep. I wake, wounded and weeping bitterly. Faith makes the pain bearable, but only just.