Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cousin Gonna

My great-grandparents came to this country from Spain in 1907—landing first in Hawaii where they worked in the sugar plantations for 15 years—and then to California. Though my grandparents were born in Hawaii, they grew up speaking Spanish, dancing with castanets, and playing Bresca. But because my parents divorced when I was little, I barely got to know that family. So about five years ago, I started a blog to collect stories from them. I wanted to hear what it was like when they first got here, how they worked, how they played.

That's how I first reconnected with my Cousin Bob, who I hadn't seen since I was about 3. He thought the Spanish Family blog was a great idea and was one of its first, and most enthusiastic contributors. He had lots of stories to tell
and once in a while, he'd need some tech support—perhaps to get some photos up—and he'd call me up and we'd talk for a while. I'm not very good at calling people, but I always enjoyed talking to him. He was warm, had a good sense of humor, was slightly irreverant, and had a different perspective than my Dad so could tell me things I'd never heard before.

A few months after we began corresponding, Cousin Bob asked if I could help him convert a VHS tape to DVD. I said sure no problem, and he sent it to me right away. I wanted to convert it and post the videos on YouTube so the whole family could enjoy them. I figured I'd link them all to the Spanish Family blog as well. Maybe we'd encourage other family members to share their old movies. I had big plans. But I had a lot on my plate and I didn't get to it right away. A few weeks went by, and Bob wrote me an email seeing if I had made any progress. "Not yet," I said, "but I'm gonna do it. I promise. It'll be great." A couple more weeks, maybe a month, and I still hadn't made time. "I'm gonna. Really!" I told him.

Finally, he sent me an email addressed to Cousin Gonna... "hey, are you ever going to convert that movie for me?" I got the message and I did it that afternoon. And it was so lovely to watch. What a gift! I don't know how I waited so long. The period before my parents' divorce is like a mystery to me... no-one ever talks about it, so it's always especially fun to see that it actually existed. And I love seeing my great-grandparents and wondering how they could leave their towns in Spain where their families had lived for hundreds of years to travel half-across the world to a new country. For someone who grew up with no first cousins, 3000 miles away from my Dad and all his family, those movies and stories are especially precious to me.

Bob and I continued to email and occasionally chat on the phone. I kept meaning to go out to Las Vegas to visit in person, but never could quite figure out how to do it. Cousin Gonna.

Well, my dear cousin died on Saturday night. He got pneumonia and that together with the muscular dystrophy he had lived with his whole life (he was 72!) was finally too much. Although I am really glad I got the chance to get to know him, I feel like an idiot for not getting out there to see him in person. I just waited too long.

Today is his funeral. I thought about traveling cross-country to go, but decided in the end that I needed to be home. But it's a gorgeous sunny day. And although I've got tons of work to do and a book to finish, instead of putting off my kids when they asked if I'd go play a quick game of tennis and take a last swim in the lake, I said yes. I'm not gonna wait until the end of this chapter I'm working on, or until this book is done, I'll do it right now.

Because I don't wanna miss my chance.


  1. Liz, I am deeply sorry for your loss. Cherish your memories of Bob and his contributions to your memories of your family. My thoughts and prayers are with you. And remember, there's always "gonna" be time for the things in life that are there always, enjoy your children and time with them while you can. That way you never look back and say I "shoulda" done this, or I "shoulda" done that. The book isn't going anywhere, but those kids will be grown before you know it!

  2. lIZ:

    The older you get, the more you realize how precious the time is that you spend with your family. Reading, e-mails, blogs, and yes, even dust, will be waiting for you, when you are good and ready to get back to them. Time spent with family creats memories!

    Cousin Margart D.

  3. Liiz
    Thanks for the story about Bob. I've been having some nice memories of both Bob and Mike and all the "dates" could went on in high school. I love the cousin gonna, just like Bob. I wonder if your Dad would ever think about writing a memior about them including their smokeshop and how they grew up and came into their own. I don't know enough of the details but I know it is a great story . I'm so glad I had a little contact with him before it was too late.


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