He was a real boy. There were five of us cousins on my mother’s side – four girls, and him. My sister and he were the eldest, and there was always some kind of ‘sibling/cousin-rivalry’ between them. Then there was me and the middle girl, close in age, we got on well. And then the baby cousin. She is six years younger – poor thing, we taunted her terribly as children! Basically, my sister and the boy clashed whenever we got together. He, admittedly, did turn into a bit of a spoilt rich boy teenager and went through a particularly annoying stage.
We didn’t see them often, probably once a year because they lived far away, up north in The Desert Country, on a beautiful, vast game farm, in a castle (I kid you not.) I loved it there. My uncle was not welcome here on the tip of Africa during the nasty Apartheid years because he had been outspoken during his university years here, so we had to visit them there mostly.
So we grew up together, apart. Joined by genes, separated by distance. As one does, we grew apart, but whenever we got together it was like no time had passed. He grew out of his adolescent arrogance, stayed on the farm and became a well-respected game ranger (he could see animals where you’d swear there were none) and married a wonderful, young American girl and they had two baby boys. They visited us with the two little ones here in the City Beneath the Mountain about five years ago, staying with my parents.
It was my birthday, and I was having a party in my garage. My mother was insistent that I invite them, I was reticent – they didn’t know my sister was gay (or so I thought), I was worried they’d be judgemental of the gay people there. Eventually I gave up aruguing with my mother (as one does, it’s pointless) and said they could come, with a fluttery nervous feeling in my tummy.
Halfway through the evening I looked across my garden to see him, beer in hand, arm around one of my favourite gay boy friends, swapping e-mail addresses, as he invited him to stay on the farm up in The Desert Country, anytime. A while later I saw him and my sister talking animatedly, laughing together like old friends. I realised at that moment that I had read him so wrong for so long. Wonderful boy.
I am eternally grateful that I gave in to my mother's insistence. Yet another occassion where she was right, despite my teenage tendencies to try and deny it.
Him and his lovely wife proceeded to produce another two beautiful boys, bringing their happy little brood to four. When the baby was four months old, he was killed in a car accident, leaving his wife and four boys under six. There are no words to describe the devastation of it.
His funeral, attended by hundreds, was testament to how wonderful he really was, and he was buried on the farm, down by the dam, where he had fished throughout his life, a peaceful place looked over by the enormous blue African sky.
That was two years ago, almost to the day and this morning I was greeted with a mail from my Aunt to say that my youngest cousin, his sister, (she who we taunted) gave birth on Saturday morning to her second child (the first is a girl) – a little boy, who is named after him. I cried big, fat tears – raw sadness (still) mixed with unadulterated joy.
I guess that’s what they call the cycle of life?
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