Long Time, No See
Jeff and I walk into the funeral home. I spot my cousin Mike immediately. He’s four years older than me and has always been much taller than me.
Mike and I haven’t seen each other in years. But on this day we’re here together because his dad—my uncle—died a few days earlier.
Mike and I hug. Then we sit on the couch in the lobby to talk.
That’s when Mike says the oddest thing to me:
“You know what always ticked me off about you?”
I have no idea what is coming next.
“I have no idea, Mike. Tell me.”
What I Remember About Mike
Looking back, I remember three things about my cousin Mike as a kid:
- Mike had an incredible memory for historical trivia,
- he made funny, clever jokes, and
- he wore the thickest eye glasses I’d ever seen.
At some age I finally realized why Mike wore such thick glasses.
Mike was born with a sight disorder that caused deteriorating vision.
As much as Mike was treasured by his family members, I somehow understood that the outside world wasn’t as kind to him. Children don’t always respect those who are different.
And Mike was different. I remember that.
But to me, Mike was different in a good way. He was intelligent, he was witty, he was fun.
As an adult, Mike chose a career serving other members of the seeing impaired community through the Alabama Public Library system.
And this year, after 35 years of good service, Mike has retired.
This Is What Mike Remembered
Back at the funeral home, I ask Mike what it was he remembered about me.
Mike says, “The thing I remember about you as a kid is you never liked your food to touch. That really ticked me off.”
Whew. I laugh. That’s what Mike remembers.
We chat some more. We attend the beautiful ceremony honoring my uncle. We gather at the cemetery near my grandparents’ country church for the burial. Then we all lunch on a delicious spread provided by the family’s church friends in the fellowship hall.
Mike and I eat at different tables.
Before I take my last few bites, though, I need to do one more thing.
I need to find Mike’s table.
I need to show him my plate. As an adult. Not a kid.
Is what Mike remembered about me still accurate? I let him decide.
On my plate, there is no distinct line between the corn and the peas, but neither are they jumbled up together. The chicken may have rubbed against the potato salad, but not enough to blend together.
My food touches a little now. But still not a lot.
Mike and I both laugh about it.
We can’t always control which facts people will remember about us. But maybe we can influence the sentiment.
What I remember most about Mike is how he made me smile.
And he still does.
What does your family remember about you as a child? Share in the comments.
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