[Based on a true story or two.]
“Oh, hey,” I said, looking around the restaurant without really seeing anything. “Did your brother make it?”
“He’s holding a table for us.”
“Sorry you had to leave work early to meet me for lunch.”
“Don’t even think about that,” Devin said as we reached Drew’s table.
Devin and Drew, my cousins and each other’s twins, were less than a year older than I. We spent a lot of cousin time together growing up, almost all of it fun and games. But now we were grown up and life got hard sometimes.
“How are you holding up?” Drew asked.
“It’s hard. It’s weird and it’s hard.”
“Sure. Your sister died.”
“And she’s our cousin,” Devin added.
“Yeah. And my brother in law’s wife, and my niece and nephew’s mom.”
“But what about you,” Drew said, returning to his question. “How are you?”
“I don’t know when it’ll hit me. It’s supposed to hit me, right? But I haven’t found myself falling apart or breaking down. Yet.” I picked up the menu and didn’t read it. “That’s the weird part.”
“Grief’s weird,” Drew said. “Everyone’s is different and everyone handles it their own way.”
The server came up. Drew and Devin took a quick scan of the menu and ordered. I didn’t bother reading the menu and just ordered what I had the last time I was there. It was easier that way.
“I keep thinking about what it was like when we were kids,” I said.
“Me too,” Devin and Drew said together.
I smiled maybe a little but sat there with no response. They threw a look at each other.
“Do you remember that summer in Tahoe?” asked Devin.
“Did your sister ever tell you about me catching her sneaking off to the camp store when all us kids were supposed to be on the beach?”
Drew grinned widely. That was all the encouragement Devin needed.
“She thought no one was left in the cabin and walked out the back door …”
The stories continued for the rest of lunch, some about my sister and some about the rest of us, and most of the stories they told ended up with them as the butt of the jokes.
The server left the check and I reached for it. Drew was quicker.
“Devin and I are getting this.”
“Lunch was my idea,” I said.
“But it’s our treat.”
“Besides,” Devin added, “he doesn’t know this but I’m going to let him pay for me too.”
“He’s a better cousin than a brother,” Drew said.
“You’re both great cousins,” I told them. “You’re weird and make me feel not so weird. Thanks.”
“Any time. What are cousins for?”