This I Believe

Leslie - Denver, Colorado
Entered on January 11, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: family

Long Lost Cousins

I believe in cousins – first cousins, once or twice removed cousins, any and all cousins.

Last December my husband and I took a trip to San Francisco. I decided to look up two cousins I hadn’t seen in decades.

I warned both with early Christmas cards. “Dear Cousin, we’ll be visiting San Francisco and would love to see you. We’ve booked a hotel and we’re hoping we might get to meet you for lunch. Here’s my cell in case you’d like to call ahead of time.”

I didn’t hear back but bravely decided to call them. After all, I had really obligated myself with those Christmas cards.

“Hi Cousin Roger. This is your Cousin Leslie. (I found comfort in emphasizing the cousin part.) Yes, we’re here. I know you must be swamped with holiday preparations but do you have any free time this week? Really? You’d like to pick us up for lunch? Wow, see you tomorrow.”

The lunch date started at noon in North Beach and ended near midnight at Twin Peaks. Roger and his wonderful wife Diane insisted on giving us a tour of their city – Castro, Pacific Heights, Coit Tower, Fishermen’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, to name a just a few of the sights. But what was most special for me was Roger’s smile. His catch phrase “how am I doing so far?” was always followed by a gentle grin that seemed so familiar somehow.

The visit with Cousin Bob was equally wonderful. I learned that he had become nearly deaf so our meeting was arranged by his son Raoul.

On the stoop of his large Mission District home, we were greeted by Bob, his children and grandchildren. It was a wonderful welcome from folks we barely knew and many others we were just meeting for the first time.

Raoul’s wife, Candelaria made a delicious dinner for us. During the meal, cousin after cousin kept commenting on how I looked so much like a younger version of their mother – grandmother – great-grandmother, especially when I smiled. Jenny had lived into her early nineties and passed away a few years ago.

I knew firsthand how special this was for them. My father had passed away many years ago but I could see the gleam of his eyes whenever Bob smiled. I wrote on the notepad we used to keep him in the conversation “You remind me of my Dad.” This made him laugh “Oh no, not me. I’m not that religious.”

But family smiles go so much deeper than religion and when Bob laughed, he looked even more like my Dad.

We willingly spent more time with the cousins and due to a blizzard back home in Denver, we stayed extra days with Roger through Christmas.

After looking through vacation photos I finally figured out why Roger’s smile looked so familiar. It’s just like mine.

I believe in cousins. They have the ability to illicit a flood of fond memories with a simple smile.