Friday, March 13, 2015


I talked last night to one of my cousins for the first time in, well, forever, for a talk like this.  I called him earlier in the week to ask his professional opinion, and he got back in touch.  (Imagine, for example, if you had someone who does something that's a local/regional thing, but knowing the thing in general means you know what questions someone should ask even in a different location.  Like that.)

I'd wanted to talk to him about what questions I should ask as I approach doing something new. 

In his approach, he reminded me of my Dad, in the best way possible.  When I was a young adult, I worked at times for the family company filling in when the receptionist was on vacation and such, so I got a chance to see my Dad at work, to see how he treated employees, people who were selling stuff to his company, and the people he was selling stuff to.  It confirmed for me the sort of person my Dad was: he was in a business where doing a good job for people and treating them well so that they wanted to do more business was key; giving people a good value, so that business deals were good for both parties, was how you stayed in that sort of business long term.  The same held for relationships with employees; treating people with respect and care meant the work got done well.  My Dad received several awards from the unions he dealt with for his work.)

And it made me remember my Dad talking about having a conversation about his future with this cousin, when the cousin was starting to settle down after college, and how impressed my Dad was with this cousin of mine, and how my Dad had said he wished there were a way to bring him into the family business because he'd be very good at it.  (The family business model was less and less tenable from the early 80s on, but continued for family reasons another 15 years; my Dad had discouraged my brother from it, too.)  (My Dad was sexist enough that encouraging any of the women in the family didn't occur to him.  He was a man of his generation, though he tried not to be a jerk.  My cousin isn't of that generation at all.)

The thing is, even though I haven't talked to this cousin much, and don't think of him as someone I'm close to or know well, I just feel like I can call on my cousins for advice, and they'll be glad to hear from me, just as I feel like I'd be glad to talk to my cousins if they called me for professional advice, or if their kids did (which is probably more likely).  I have confidence in my cousins that way.

One of the things that's very different these days is that while our parents' generation was pretty big, so my generation has an abundance of cousins, our parents' generation had smaller families, and that's mostly continued, with some adults in each of those two generations not having children, so the next generation has way fewer cousins.  And the second cousins, whom its easy to imagine being close, considering how most of us cousins feel about each other, are mostly growing up much more separated geographically.  (I have a few second or third cousins I feel about pretty much as I do my first cousins, too.)

When I think about growing up in my extended family, when family gatherings often included my grandparents siblings and their families, I think about this one time when I was pretty little, and one of my relatives got arrested for possession.  And the immediate move was to call on an uncle who was a detective, and get his input into the situation.  Even though I was little, my sense was that Uncle Wally would know and share his input, and that no one in the family was really judgmental about the possession issue, but everyone was concerned about how to deal as best we could with the situation.  (I'm sure if the possessor relative had done something violent or that we perceived as hurtful, family members would have had a different reaction, but possession just didn't seem morally bad, even if illegal.)

I'm incredibly lucky to have grown up with my cousins, but sometimes I wish I were close enough to have a deeper relationship with them more easily.

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