A visit with my favorite cousin.
His body is frail, his breathing faint. He's weak and ill but his mind is alert and focused. Cousin Frank is 26 years older than I. He's a quiet man of small statue and great dignity, possessing delightful spirit and wit.
My eyes scan this cozy den of his huge twenty-two room home. With his permission, others have removed most of its beautiful furnishings that he and his deceased wife once owned. He does not care about such things now. Months previously, I'd invited him to come and live with me. He thanked me, but refused. He wanted to stay in his home. I understood.
He sits, slumped, in a comfortable chair in his favorite little room, the only room where clutter abounds. Letters that may have slipped for his hands, are scattered on the floor. I hesitate to pick them up, wondering why no one else has, not wanting to make a "fuss" about the condition of the room, yet, wanting to offer to tidy it. I suspect that he has not allowed anyone to do so, perhaps, preferring it to remain, "as is."
"Is there anything that I can do for you?", I ask, as I gather the letters from the floor. He does not acknowledge my question, instead, he thanks me for the soup and cookies that I had brought him earlier. I smile at him and place the letters upon a nearby table.
There is a loved one who cares for him. Although ailing herself, she comes dutifully and cooks and administers to him. Someone from his church comes to spend each night and early morning, so that he is not left alone. His time is mostly spent in bed sleeping, using his oxygen machine. For him, there are very few days that he is not in pain or discomfort. He doesn't complain. He's feeble and weary and he tells me that he doesn't think he will be earth bound much longer.
As I look compassionately at him, I remember the Frank of old. when I was a child, he was always kind to my brother and me. He would fill our hands with dimes, quarters and fifty cent coins, loving contributions for hot dogs, popcorn and our weekly theater fares.
There were many other gifts from Cousin Frank during our shared happy times. We loved him, especially, because he made us laugh. I remember his visits, well. He and my parents would laugh and talk of their childhood adventures, while my brother and I would giggle with delight, enjoying their stories.
Today, my heart is heavy. I feel so helpless at my inability to ease his distress. Yet, I ask, in whispered, rhymed, singing phrases:
How can I ever repay you, my dear?
Although I have many words that are sincere,
no material gifts do I possess
that are worthy of your past kindness.
Finally, I add,
"I love you, Cousin Frank. God Bless!"
His reply is yet another wonderful gift to me.
"I know that you do ... and I love you too!"
Copyright©)2004 by Gwen Dickerson
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