Meeting up with my (closest-in-age and location) cousin has become an unexpected treat of late. We are a little more than a year apart in age, and growing up we seemed to be worlds apart in some respects even though we only lived about twenty miles from each other. For a number of years I refused to speak with much of my extended family. After the death of my grandmother, a woman with whom I was extremely close, I found myself angry at a creator who could allow her such pain, and I felt no connection with the people that were once her immediate family. After having my own child, I felt a need to reconnect with certain people for a variety of reasons, ranging from my own issues with my parents, to my need for my child to feel connected to extended family even when I didn't share the feeling of connection.
In many ways, my cousin has had a miserably tough life. She is truly what one would refer to as a "survivor" and sometimes her weariness shows through in those quiet moments of reflection. This is a woman who, as a teenager, experienced a traffic accident that left her with a broken neck-- and since she was in the middle of nowhere in what may or may not have been a stolen car, she hiked (yes, with the broken neck) to the nearest place with a telephone. She's a woman who has custody of her eight-year-old daughter from a previous relationship with an emotionally abusive man, and a woman who gave birth to another beautiful baby girl nine months ago.
My cousin is a wonderful mother who is aware she made plenty of mistakes and strives to be a better mother through taking ownership of those mistakes and doing it better the next time. She's a woman who sadly suffered a miscarriage not long ago, when the fetus was ten weeks along-- and had a heartbeat two days prior.
My cousin is a person who lived rough-and-tumble. She's the oldest of five siblings with a mother who was married many times throughout her childhood. She's a person who shared a mudroom with her younger brother as a makeshift bedroom, and someone who struggles daily with what role her immediate family should take within her adult life, and the lives of her children.
My cousin is someone who unknowingly makes me feel guilty for so many things beyond my control-- for having two, married, and loving (if at times misguided) parents. Spending time with this amazing woman I get to call my cousin makes me feel like I am not as grateful as I should be for my life as an adult who is educated, in a loving marriage, as an educated woman with a career -- and options should anything every happen to the little world I have created for myself.
Nevertheless, my cousin is now someone who I am learning to value as a woman I now have the opportunity to refer to as my friend. She is a wonderful mother who worries over every moment of her daughters' lives, and who looks forward to possibly bringing more children into a loving and stable environment-- one unlike the ones she experienced for much of her life. She's someone who is determined to make a life for herself and for her daughters, one in which she (and they) have "options" and a home full of love-- no matter what happens to the little world she has created for herself.
I never realized the power a person might have as they re-enter my life, and not only am I thankful to my cousin for allowing me the opportunity to value her as an adult friend, but I am thankful to my daughter for providing me the impetus to reintroduce people into my life that I otherwise would likely not.