My cousin died this morning. He’d been very sick. Esophageal cancer. At the end he was in hospice care. Death never calls without leaving grief in its wake, but this was not unexpected. The man was a few years older than me. Maybe seven or eight. I never did know how old he was. He had a big laugh that I always enjoyed. A voice tempered by many years of cigarette smoking. I hadn’t seen him in thirty years. It was thanksgiving of 1984. I was a student at the Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. Over the holiday I made the short drive to New Bedford, Massachusetts to visit him and his wife. He’d always smoked. And enjoyed a beer on occasion. And loved a good hamburger with fries. A McDonald’s man. Even after his first heart attack. The ironic thing is that his mother has always smoked too. Yes, she’s still alive. She is ninety-seven years old. She’s the oldest of my grandfather’s four children. They are all still alive. And all over eighty years of age. Good genes. My uncle, my cousin’s father, didn’t have such good genes. He died in his late fifties I believe. He was always sick with something. No one ever told me what. I never knew him to go to work a single day but I know he worked at some point. After the war. He stayed home. Smoked and drank. And went to an early grave. Could be genes. Could be lifestyle. Could be circumstances beyond his control. He was always nice to me as I recall. So here is my cousin, his mother with strong genes, and his father with less hardy genes. I guess he got his father’s genes. They looked similar. But maybe if he’d taken better care of himself his mother’s genes might have dominated more, Both of my parents have good genes. Both still alive and kickin well into their eighties. I have my fingers crossed. You never know what rogue gene might pop up. Or how lifestyle choices might outweigh genetics. But I’m trying harder to take care of myself. May my cousin rest in peace. That’s part of my story. What’s yours? Www.personalhistorywriter.com


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