The other day while we were still in Miami, I got a text for my cousin Mida, “Call me, it’s important.” Rarely does she send messages such as this one so I know something bad must have happened. I called her right away and that’s when she told me. Our younger cousin, Johnny, shy of turning 39 years old, passed away.
I didn’t really know Johnny that well when I was growing up. I was closer to his older brothers since they were closer to me in age. To me, Johnny was always part of the younger generation of cousins, who always acted better-behaved and in some ways more mature than the ones from my generation. (I say this endearingly about both groups.)
Johnny’s death had me thinking about the times I spent with him and his family. You see, when I was younger, I would spend summers without my parents at a relative’s house, either with my paternal grandmother or an aunt who lives in the country somewhere. My parents did not want to spend money on sending me to summer camps. They thought the best way for me to spend my summers is at a non-urban setting getting to know my elders as well as cousins who I rarely get to see during the year.
When I was in my teens, I spent two summers with my Legaspi/Mesina/Granda/Cayetano cousins. I hold those summers close to my heart because while those summers were spent not doing much — just silly endless afternoons of teen talk, playing Mario Bros., going to malls and lip-syncing cheesy Lionel Richie songs — I grew up a lot by not being around my parents all the time. We were left mostly alone to our own devices, talking and doing stuff that teens do, enjoying our freedom while trying to respect its boundaries.
Lately, I’ve thought hard about those two summers. I pretend to place myself in those years with a crystal ball and see if I can project to where we are today. Yet, even with my best clairvoyant skills, there’s no way back then that I could have predicted where we all are today. We are all living such different lifestyles, in different towns, doing different things. It’s a curious thing considering all our parents had lifestyles that closely resembled one another.
Yet, here we are the next generation, the heterogenous bunch. Who would have thought we would be so different from one another? Who would have thought back then that fate would one day play such cruel jokes on us and take some of our loved ones so abruptly from us, before we feel that their time is due? I don’t get to see these cousins very much these days. Often, Facebook helps me know what they are up to. But no matter how divergent our paths are today, I know that our familial ties will always be there to anchor me to my past and keep me grounded as I try to go on with my life, with heartaches and all.