My Cousin Joe

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My cousin Joe and I grew up together in the same small town.  We were almost exactly the same age.  Neither of us had siblings.  We had a close relationship for many years.

Eventually, our lives took different turns and we lost touch.

He became an internationally-known journalist and made his mark globally and personally.   Obviously, I didn’t go down that path.  Our wildly disparate lives kept us  apart for over 30 years.

A few years ago, after he’d returned to the states, we re-established contact and got to know each other again.  Sadly, he died in 2013, in a most mysterious way.  We’ll never know exactly what happened.

Last week I received an invitation from my college alma-mater for a reunion luncheon, scheduled for early June.  The cover of the invitation is quite beguiling.  It’s a black and white photo of college kids, in 1960 or so, doing the “frug “or some kind of awkward dance we did way back then.

The photo was clearly taken at a “mixer.”   For those not quite old enough to know about “mixers,” they happened when bus-loads of boys or girls were shipped from one single-sex school into an opposite single-sex school.

Something made me look at the photo several times.  I have no idea what I was looking for but, suddenly, one face in the crowded room popped off the page and took my breath away.

I’d put money on the young man at one side of the picture being my cousin.

Joe wasn’t as tall as most of the boys.  His khakis were always a tad bit too short.  He didn’t  conform to dress codes. He was handsome.  Just like the boy in the picture.

Now I can’t take my eyes off the picture.  Or him.

I’ve called the school to see if they can source the photo.   Maybe they can tell me where it was taken.  I doubt they know the names of the kids in the photo.  But perhaps I could put two and two together.

Part of me wants an answer.  Is it Joe or isn’t it?

The other part of me just wants to hang on to the long odds that his picture simply arrived in our mailbox.  Mysteriously and curiously.   Just like he died.