Now that I think about it, it only makes sense that fave aunt would beget fave cousin. Though I had other cousins closer in age, he was the one I spent the most time around growing up.
It probably didn't hurt that fave aunt always lived in the coolest houses. There was a ranch house with a huge backyard that sloped away like it was specifically designed for a Slip 'n Slide. There was a two-story house with a glassed-in kitchen that overlooked a bluff.
But my favorite of all was another two-story house with a staircase on each end, so that you could run in a complete circle--up the stairs on one end, down the hall and through two rooms on the second floor, then down the stairs on the other end--without stopping. Although I'm sure that's not why it was designed like that.
Upstairs was fave cousin's room, where we spent countless hours playing RBI Baseball, Commando, Rush'n Attack, and other Nintendo games until our thumbs blistered, and then we played some more. There was also the exercise room, which contained the pinball machine.
There was an open field adjacent to the house where we'd take turns riding his 50cc motorcycle. There was a trampoline in the front yard and a pool out back. I remember so many summer mornings fave aunt cooking eggs, bacon, gravy, and fried bologna for breakfast. And putting Karo Syrup on my biscuits, as we ate in the dining room looking out the windows at the pool, sparkling and ever so enticing. That's where I learned to swim.
Fave cousin and I always seemed to be into most of the same things. Nintendo, baseball cards, WWF (back when it was real), and wiffle ball, to name a few. He was five years my junior, and I guess he looked up to me, though I didn't know it at the time. I remember years later, he told me that when we'd play basketball, he thought I was as good as Michael Jordan. In his defense, I did imitate His Airness by sticking my tongue out when I played. Also, I had some game.
As it invariably does, time began to change things it has no business messing with. I vividly remember sometime after I turned sixteen, fave cousin wanting to come over and spend the night one weekend when I had a date. He came over anyway and stayed with Mom and Dad until I got home. I don't think he understood. Or maybe it was me who didn't understand. But that was the beginning of the end of something.
A tornado came through and ripped part of the roof off that two-story house and destroyed the trampoline. A fire a few years later took care of the rest. I don't get out that way much, but when I do, I always glance over where that house once stood and miss that part of my life.
Fave cousin and I grew older and both kinda did our own thing. We still managed to hang out occasionally. We've golfed together a few times and even gone to a Bama game or two over the years. And though I'm sure I've fallen a few notches from the Jordan-esque image he once had of me, I've always been proud of him. Even if I've never told him.
This past Sunday, we had a going away gathering for fave cousin. He's decided to join the Army. He leaves next Monday.
As I have been remembering these things--things that still seem so vivid and so close--I am simply blown away by the passing of time.
Sometimes it felt as if life was a ride in the back of a pickup truck going sixty miles an hour down the highway. And time was the wind, whizzing by, taking your breath away. And once in awhile, you'd stick out your hand to try and catch it.
But you can never catch it.
"It almost seems like yesterday. Where do the good times go? Life was so much easier twenty years ago..."