I was going to write about something completely different for my monthly participation in Julie Valerie’s Hump Day Blog Hop—I had no idea what, but it definitely wasn’t going to be this—and then, well, my cousin died yesterday.
It wasn’t unexpected. She was suffering with ALS for a long time—she survived longer than anyone expected—but even when you know it’s coming, it still…sucks mightily. She wasn’t very old, either, which makes it worse. She should have been able to stick around a lot longer, to watch her six grandchildren grow up.
Anything I say at this point wouldn’t be original. After all, wonderful people die every day, some from really heinous diseases like the one my cousin had. So I’ll just share a memory of Charleen that seems to summarize her spirit.
My first cousins are all 20 to 25 years older than I am, because I came along late (*go ahead, insert joke about always wanting to make an entrance here*), so I was the same age as Charleen’s oldest daughter. Lori and I were the poster children for those t-shirts and Facebook memes that go on about your cousin being your first best friend. We pretty much grew up together.
Even though Charleen was many years older than I was, she was way younger than my parents, and the fact that she was young, pretty (I always thought she looked a little like Goldie Hawn) and, most notable, young acting, was fascinating to me, because my parents were so much older and carried the pall of the conservative ’40s and ’50s with them.
So there was this one time, when Lori and I were tweens, Charleen was driving us somewhere. Can’t remember where, and it doesn’t matter. The top 40 station was on—unbearably exciting and exotic to me, as my Sinatra- and Dean Martin-loving parents never allowed “that noise” in the car—and The Knack’s “My Sharona” started up. Charleen was “dancing” in the driver’s seat, jerking the wheel back and forth a little, and tapping the brake to the beat—you know, da da DA DA da DA da DA…
Yes, Lori and I were flying all over the car. I was shocked. And loving every minute of it.
And…that’s it. For some reason, that’s my most vivid memory of my cousin Charleen. Oh, I remember tons of other stuff about her—she was a great person, and I have a lot of fond memories of her—but I know I’ll never, ever forget those few moments in the car.
Why? I think it’s because it was probably the first time (one of the only times?) I saw an adult acting silly just for the sake of being silly. Although I didn’t realize it at the time of course, it was one of those life lessons you get when you don’t expect it—thirty seconds, if that, that lodged deeply in my consciousness just as I was starting to form my identity, starting to decide what type of adult I wanted to be. I realized, in that brief moment, that I wanted to be able to carry silliness, and joy, and music, through my entire life, no matter how old I get, no matter what kind of garbage life throws at me.
Thanks for that, Charleen.
And now, in my cousin’s memory, I will go fire up “My Sharona”. Safe passage, cousin. You fought the good fight. Get some well-earned rest now.