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Jed’s still a child in my mind’s eye. We’re running across the bluff by Lake Bonaparte where our lake house stands today; his brother Johnny is still alive. Jed’s a skinny kid who knows more than me, taller,  wise with eyes clear enough to see through. We’re laughing for good reason—we don’t know any different.

The wild outside had nothing on our childhood dreams, hopes and expectations. The cool lake water tickled our toes and pleased our fancy. Our younger days passed so quickly, days never tethered but set free by a glistening lake so perennial and steadfast as the universe.

Jed, you’re forever my cousin.

Truth: the lake bunk house rocked with laughter. Sleeping bags kept us warm on cots as nights made of stars crept overhead. Jed had then and always a special knack that makes me belly laugh. I’d roll inside bent over after hearing his pensive hilarious words so dryly spoken without a wasted syllable. Recently, there was this moment:

“Oh, being a tax collector has it’s tough moments.”—I could see the painful far away look in Jed’s eyes— “Catching people cheating on taxes, fining them more than they can afford to pay and then working them through payment negotiations; it’s all tough. But that’s not the most fun I’ve had working-other things come up, too.” It’s belly laugh roll on the grass time for me.

We stood together, grown men on the bluff as the setting sun dazzled rolling lake waves. The wind seemed at our back; Beer Island, High Rocks, Birch Island and Round Island so distant punctuated every day we’d spent in the spot as children.

A few years later we visited the lake again…

“I’m not sure about going to the castle.” Jed puffed on his cigar as he looked my way.

“Why? It’s our family’s castle; we should go to Germany.”

“We’re so different now— I don’t know how that would work.”

“Ah, that’s all just politics; this is blood; it will be good.” (Jed told me eight years ago that he had a ‘special’ circular file where he put all my blogs*, especially the political ones…)

“Well,” puff on cigar again, “let me think about it.”

I thought Jed would come.

He belongs.

As it turned, Jed never did make the trip to Europe this past September. Opportunity, so often a doubled edged sword, has struck its blow. No, Jed was only there in spirit with me just as it is for every cousin of mine. To me, the bonds of family never break but boil in the blood and remain as resilient as images of  Lake Bonaparte appear in my head. Some cousins long dead 11 or 13 years ago, and even Johnny now 55 years gone, still linger in my heart.

Long ago, Grandma Franque smiled at our young, prancing feet at the lake in a way I can only appreciate some 60 years later. She saw what Jed and the rest of us had then; family. I feel that now.

Goodbye, Jed, my lakeside cousin.

It’s impossible to weigh a heavy heart-

Franque23

 

  • *.i.e. trash can
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