The other night I had a dream about my cousin F. He died in January, three months shy of his 25th birthday. I ran into him someplace, and immediately asked to kiss his cheek. He didn’t hesitate. He let me kiss his cheek. He was an adult in the dream; I never would kiss his cheek in real life and he never would have let me. Dreams though, eh?
I’ve been dreaming of him lately. I’ve been thinking about him a lot, maybe that’s why. Recently, after a hard day at work, I basically got home and wept for him for hours. When I’m having a hard day, all the things I’ve ever been sad about come to the surface. I’m perpetually sad about mum, so mum always comes up first. Since he died, cousin F has been coming up second.
I never wrote about it then. In fact, I only mentioned his death two months later on this blog. But the second time I visited him in the hospital – after we all knew that his parents had come to a decision to turn off his ventilator the next day – when everyone had said their last goodbyes to him and left, I, too, tried to leave. Only I couldn’t bring myself to. I knew that the next time I saw him would be at his funeral. I held his cold hand in my hand and sobbed until I shook. Until all I could see was my own tears. I had only ever cried that way for mum.
His brother gripped my hand. His mother – Aunt Y, the aunt I hadn’t spoken to in five years – hugged me and kissed me on my cheek. “I haven’t kissed you in years.” I didn’t speak for a very long time. I just cried and cried. When I eventually did speak, the words came out garbled. I had to say it twice. “I remember when he used to sit on mum’s lap.” Aunt Y smiled. “Your mother loved him dearly. I’ll bet you he’s already on her lap right now.” It doesn’t work that way, but the things we say to comfort ourselves…
Cousin F was very affectionate with my mother. Whenever we gathered at my grandmother’s, he always ended up sitting on my mother’s lap. Aunt Y would nag him to get off of her, that he was too old, but my mum would defend him and say, “I don’t mind! He’s so light anyway.”
At age 13, cousin F was diagnosed with a benign tumour on his pituitary gland. The pituitary gland makes very different hormones, one of them being the growth hormone. As a result he stopped growing in height at about five feet, and he couldn’t put on weight. My mum didn’t mind her 15-year-old nephew sitting on her lap because she could barely feel him.
When cousin F was a little kid, he was obsessed with toy buses. His favourite one was a red double-decker one, I remember. He would push it around the house, making up stories as he went along. One time he even included the toilet on his ‘route’. At the time my grandma was still living in her old flat with a squat toilet. Everyone went ballistic on him because he could have fallen into the hole. It was so funny. He never did it again.
As I sobbed I only saw those two images in my mind. Him as a little kid, pushing his toy bus around the house, and him as a teenager, sitting on my mother’s lap. How could that little kid I grew up with be lying in a hospital bed, connected to a dozen tubes, pale, cold, and barely alive? How did we get here? He was robbed of a normal teenhood and a normal adulthood and now, at age 24 years and nine months, he was going to die? How was that fair?
Ten months on and I still ask why. Hell, ten years on since mum died and I still ask why. It doesn’t get me anywhere. It’s not meant to. It’s just human. For some reason these things happened and I will feel the repercussions forever. So I do.