Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"Just Bad"

There have of course been about a gazillion things I would have liked to share with my mom since she died. Some are obvious: where I moved, my wedding, lot and lots about my daughter, etc. But this one we would have just talked about for weeks. Here's the story:

My mom's side of the family comes from many generations of respectable and intelligent and well-traveled Mainers with a glaring exception. My mom had a "just bad" cousin she absolutely hated. I should point out, that even as a young woman in great conflict with my mother I was aware that she had an uncannily accurate judge of character. She summed up friends and boyfriends of mine after meeting them for 20 minutes with comments that were often spot-on. And, regarding her cousin, my mom's brother noted to me the other day that everyone knew "he should have been locked up in jail or the nuthouse for at least the last 60 years." (The cousin is 62.)

I have three main memories of this guy, my second cousin. One is that at one point while my parents were traveling and my grandparents were staying with my brother and I, we had to attend his very long and very boring wedding (and I don't believe the marriage lasted too long). The other is that one time (it may have been my great-grandmother's funeral) I watched him entice my brother to pet a chained up dog at my great-grandmother's farm house and the dog barked viciously and bit my brother's outstretched hand, much to the guy's amusement.

The third is that he showed up unexpectedly at my mom's memorial, looking antisocial, wearing a chauffeur uniform and speaking with a post-stroke slur. Until then, I'd happily forgotten her cousin existed. His elderly mom had made him come; they lived together at the farm.

My mom had had wonderful memories of this farm, and I believe she lived there at one point while her mom was working somewhere else. She often told me a story about being chased by a bull there as a kid. We would visit and I would talk with the farm caretaker and ask a thousand questions "what is an ice house?" "why does that cow have freckles?" and desperately try to think of things to ask Mama Cook, my great grandmother, which always felt awkward like "what were stage coaches like?"

She would send me home with mittens and sweaters she had knit and needlepoint she had done. I sent her a letter when she was sick in the hospital about how much I loved her and my grandfather told me she asked that it be read to her again and then she died. It was a nice thing for me to hear whether it was true or not. She left me her gold watch which I still have, and it still works and it will probably be owned one day by her great-great-great granddaughter.

This week I learned that the lovely news that in May my great aunt was on her deathbed and the "just bad" cousin went psycho over who would own the farm, etc. He told his sister he'd shoot her if she even set foot there. She drove over there and true to his word, he shot her in the neck in front of his daughter and his mom's hospice worker. Her husband was shot in the hand while wrestling the rifle away. She's doing okay, the second cousin is finally locked up, and their mom died two days later. I don't believe anyone bailed him out.

Maybe I'll wind up my watch today and think about happier times at that farm.



At 9:21 AM, Blogger Ken Hart said...

Jesus H. Christ! That's ... wacky! Wow. I have bizarro cousins, too, but at least they're not freakin' armed!

Hey, thanks for the gift! Our daughter will greatly enjoy building her first castle. (Of course, Daddy will have to add a moat...) I'll call you later this week.



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