I’m on the flight home from a quick trip home that happened to include the memorial for my cousin who forced me to perform sexual acts on him when I was in my early teens. I never talked about these things with my family because he was one of the golden boys who worked for my father. Although he never told me to keep quiet, it hadn’t crossed my mind to tell anyone because I was a nobody. I describe one of the actual acts as best I can remember it in a different place. I’d like to write about his death and funeral here and now.
He was in his late fifties; he and his wife were out for a late-night boat outing. The news reports say that he had been drinking which I understand was a common thing for him. At some point he fell into the water and never resurfaced. His body was found later not far from the shore.
I had already planned a trip to Texas for a couple of reasons, but my brother messaged me to tell me about the accident. He linked me to the news reports and told me that he was going to be cremated. It turned out that the memorial service was going to be on one of the days I would be in Texas, so it was up to me if I wanted to attend.
This cousin and I were never close after those years, and it wasn’t like I avoided him. I was ostracized from my family, and he was just another person that stayed away. Decades later, as my immediate family and I slowly reconnected, there wasn’t any reason to be in the same place as him. I believed this was good for me.
I decided in the end to attend the service, if only to gain some closure and see a few of the outer family. I had hoped to heal this pain, but I’m not sure if it’ll ever really completely dissipate. They say, “Time heals all wounds.” I don’t know.
Both sides of my family have had to work hard to get ahead. Many of us worked paycheck to paycheck just to pay the meager bills and feed the kids. A couple of us were lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time to turn our talents into a comfortable living, but we are the exception. Because of this, my cousin’s service was hosted by his employer.
He had been working with this small Dallas business for the past several years. It was a different ice company than the one my father built. This company was started by one of my father’s ex-employees as competition, and there wasn’t a whole lot of love lost between the two. My cousin could no longer work for my family’s company anymore, so he went to work for them.
The church was in a strip mall off of a main street in southeast Dallas in an area that is run down and not a safe place. The walls were made of cheap stained panelling and the carpets were worn from years of traffic. There was a center aisle that separated several rows of old cushioned pews with even older hymnals on the back. At the end of the room was a slightly raised stage with a wooden altar in front of the pulpit. A couple of prayer benches on either side of the altar where folk could come and give their life to the deity of the day. Behind the pulpit was the choir section with an electric drum set, guitar amplifiers and seats for the singers. At the very end of the room was a curtained area that everyone knew hid the baptismal pool.
I didn’t go to the service alone. My partner was with me. I had told her some but not all about my cousin, and I was glad to have her with me.
We entered the church and was immediately greeted by a woman I did not know and was challenged with, “Who are you?!” I introduced us to her. “I remember you, wow! I’m the first wife. You’ve really changed. It’s good to see you.” She was turning red the way people do when they realize that it is me. “Go sign the book and grab a program. The service will start soon.”
We did as instructed and looked into the main part of the room. I saw my Mom and Dad and sat down behind them. Loud pops and clicks were coming out the speaker system as the church staff was still setting up the audio system. More people came and sat around us. We sat quietly.
The attendees broke into two groups; those that worked with my cousin and those of us who were family. My cousin’s brother slowly entered the room and came to sit in the same pew as my partner and me. He was bleary eyed either from drink or grief, I don’t know.
The Service started with a christian country song from the crackling speakers. I laughed to myself because even though I hadn’t known him for decades, I knew that he was in no way religious. So, I could tell that this was going to be a farce.
As the music died down, the pastor approached the pulpit and begin to talk about my cousin. He told about his loving family, his close friends and his love for his boat, the boat that took him out on the lake where he drowned. As he finished, he told us that my cousin’s boss would like to come and say a few words.
An awkward moment began as his boss stood up from his pew. The sound system began playing another crackling country spiritual. He made it as far as the front pew and sat down to wait for the music to end.
My cousin’s boss completed his trip to the stand and began to tell story after story of his dealings with his employee. He admitted to only telling the ones that were funny and uplifting. I began my own journey into my memories of this loving cousin.
As more of my cousin’s co-workers and immediate family rose to tell their memories, I tried to think of times when he was kind, loving or even funny around me. I came up empty, nothing but pain.
I’m sure that my cousin never once thought that what he and his friends were ever mean, hurtful or abusive. They were just boys being boys, and this was the way male bonding worked. I didn’t need male bonding, if that was the case.
My mind filled again with those memories. I remembered the beatings, the name calling and pranks. My mind finally landed on the sexual stuff. I began to cry softly. I had thought I had worked through those emotions. I guess we never do.
The service continued with more people approaching the pulpit to tell these stories of my cousin’s love for them and his kindness. My mind remembered him helping to bury me in ice. I relived the beatings and the “rough-housing.” In the end, all I could see in my mind was his penis staring back at me in the dark.
Finally, the pastor returned to the stage to wrap things up. He preached that although my cousin never professed to know Jesus, that he had to have known Him because he knew how to love. Because love can only come from God and to give love is to know God. No wonder I have an issue with the idea of a loving God.
The service ended in a typical Texas redneck way, with BBQ. The company that my cousin worked for was providing the BBQ in the next room, but my family had already decided to go to our own late lunch at my Dad’s favorite place.
As people rose to leave, I noticed that there were many people attending that I had not seen since I transitioned. It was great to see them even if I wouldn’t be able to talk to them. My parents were wonderful. Anytime anyone asked them who I was, they responded with the proper name and pronouns. They do surprise me at times.
I’ve now had a few days after the funeral to reflect on my feelings and I have come to a few conclusions. I’m sad that he died, and especially the horrific way it happened. I do wish that there would have been someway, somehow that I could have confronted him on his actions.
I know that it was always up to me to seek him out and restart the relationship. I just never believed that it would be possible. Now, I know that it never will.