Cousin Michael

There’s only a few reasons I would drive 3.5 hours each way for an overnight and one of them, unfortunately, is a funeral.

One of Beth’s cousins was found dead in his home on April 1, so we’re driving to Lancaster, PA to say goodbye to cousin Michael.

Cousin Michael

Michael came to our wedding in 1992. I remember him because of his beautiful smile, but mostly because he made my wife smile, too. He was a fantastic dancer and knew how to lead a woman around a dance floor. Those kind of men are not very common.

Apparently, Michael never married. Instead he cared for a menagerie of animals that included two horses, several dogs, a piranha, an iguana and a parrot named Bubba. We learned this in the part of the obituary that always says who a person left behind. I hope the animals are okay.

I haven’t been to Lancaster in 40 years. I went to college there and joined a fraternity. Honestly, I liked the fraternity more than the school, but I really don’t care about either one anymore. The college wasn’t fun, the fraternity was, but I don’t drink, so I rarely see my old drinking buddies. Recently, three of my former brothers got together and one of them passed out from a combination of alcohol and pot gummies. I suppose some 60 year old men aren’t very adept at partying anymore. It could have been his funeral we’re attending. Yikes.

I won’t be in town long enough to enjoy much of what adults do in Lancaster (eat shoe fly pie and buy Amish quilts, I suppose). But we are staying in the center of the downtown which I remember liking. It had a nice feel back then in a “let’s put a candle in every window” sort of way.

When I was 21 I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play in a Lancaster bar called The Village. I didn’t pay thousands or even hundreds of dollars to see them perform for 100 of us. I’m pretty sure it was $1 (or maybe $2). They were rehearsing in nearby Lititz and came to town to try playing a set. Lucky me.

The Boss played here

Apartments were $300 per month back then. A great meal for two people was $30 with drinks. And a movie was $5. Now, they get $240 for a single night at the Holiday Inn. Still, I’d rather pay today’s prices than be the one we’re gonna see at the church. It sucks that cousin Michael died so young.

Here in Sullivan County, the weather has been absolutely gorgeous all week. It coincided with us taking some long drives, once for a job and once when we were delivering some meals on behalf of a non-profit that has been providing food for folks since the pandemic. I’m glad to be doing some service work and it’s a nice bonus to be able to see faraway places in the county. This area is so different than the cities or suburbs I’m accustomed to. Sullivan delights us with its rolling hills, farmland, woods and lakes instead of houses and people living on top of one another. I kid you not – we can go ten minutes without seeing another car.

I haven’t seen Beth’s PA family in a while, so it will be good to exchange some hugs and catch up, even under these crappy circumstances. I think we’re going to all see one another at a wedding for my godson in a few months. That will be better. And I’ll be sure to take Beth to the dance floor and remember her smiling, pet-loving cousin, Michael. That’s the least I can do.

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