This week my cousin Mustang graduated from high school. A momentous occasion, no doubt. It was interesting for me, a strange feeling, because i am once again reminded that I am getting older. I remember when he was born. I remember babysitting him when he was just a kiddo. Wow. time flies.
I went to his graduation party tonight. It was a lot of fun. His family had a barbeque at their house and it was really nice. In part because I got to see my family. Okay, mostly because I got to see my family. I mean, everyone's a good cook and I was happy to go and celebrate with him but really, seeing him and his brother and sister, my aunt and uncle and their family was really nice. I don't get to see them as often as I would like to. I miss a lot of our family gatherings. Partly because I usually work and don't have enough advance notice to ask off for it. Partly because I am (well, we'll talk about it later) for the most part estranged from my brother Punk, and I opt out of a lot of family gatherings, thinking its probably better he gets to see them when he has the chance. I would hate to be the cause of him not going, and if something were to happen while he was there that I didn't like, I hate the idea of making a scene by peacing out early so I don't have to be a part of it.
So, for the first time in years, I got to spend a little time with my family. I was really happy about that. I might get to more soon, because Punk and I are talking again, and I think we'll be able to work out our issues, or at least, I hope we will. I've only got the one brother, you know, and I know I'm sentimental and all, but I feel like there's more to life than me holding a grudge.
Anyway, I saw my Aunt J's in-laws for the first time since they got married, I think, so in 20 years or so. Needless to say, we've all changed a little bit. I got to meet Mustang's girlfriend and his friends from work. It was nice, they were good kids, and I had a good time talking to them. They seemed to think I was funny, so they get points in my book because that means they appreciate my rather dry wit. I also got to spend some time with my little cousin Ginger, and that was fun. She's a great kid. I wish I was half as well rounded as she is when I was her age.
It was nice, and a good time was had by all. Kitten was welcomed like one of the family, and that meant more to me than I will ever be able to explain. It means so much to see them loving her and appreciating her for how great a person she is. I was able to let her alone, and she could talk to people and be normal around them. It was good. My mom said afterwards that she was telling my grandmother tonight how she couldn't see me with anyone else in the world, and how good Kitten is for me, and with me. I never thought I would hear those things coming out of her mouth. I was glad. (In case you are wondering, I totally would have taken Oscelot with us too, except she has bronchitis, and I didn't want her outside. She needs the rest,)
I got Mustang a card, and while I did put a folding gift inside it, I hope he takes the time to read the note I tucked in as well. I know at this time of year graduates get a lot of sentimental stuff from their family members telling them how great they are, and how awesome their lives will be now that they've moved on to bigger and better things. But I didn't really feel like that was appropriate. Instead, I told him things that I wish someone had told me at that age. I told him that when he gets to college, that he should keep his syllabus and read it all the time. There's always that hidden paper or test in that thing, and it will save your life every time. No one ever told me that. I reminded him to go to class, even when attendance doesn't count. And to remember that there's no such thing as "a short break from school" you're either in or out, and when you have to make that decision, its important to look long and hard at what's important to you.
I tried to tell him things that I know are true. Like everyone fucks up. They do. Its a fact. And that doesn't make us bad, it makes us human. The trick is to mess up when you've got support, and learn from it. I told him its okay to change his mind about things in his life. That's normal too. And I told him that he should live his life well by making choices that are good for him, that make his life better- and that he should try to do that without hurting other people if he can. But if he does, and this is important, apologize and make it right, because those are the first steps to adulthood. I can't tell you how much I wish I had someone to tell me those things, hard as they are to hear when you're 18 and the world seems to belong to you. Of course, I also told him that when he does fail, and when he's unsure, that I would be there for him. Because that's what you do for the people you love.
Having written the note, there seemed a million other things I wanted to tell him. Like how it sucks to have someone break your heart, and how you will inevitably screw someone's heart up too. But you live through it. I wish I'd told him that there will be a lot of dangerous stupid things he'll want to do in the next few years, and that I've done most of them, and he shouldn't. I can tell him first hand how drugs and alcohol screw up your life. And how there's never "just this once" because once is all it takes. I want to tell him life is unfair, but its what you do about that unfairness that makes your character. And that being yourself, and who you are when no one looks, when you're sure there's nothing and no one to judge you, is what makes you who you are. And that's all you get, you come into this world with that, and its all you get to take with you.
Of course, those are all things to be spoken of at a later time. And honestly I wouldn't have listened at that age, and probably he wouldn't either. Not because he's a bad kid, but simply because he's a kid. That's okay too. I just hope when the time comes, he'll know there's someone who's been there that is waiting to be there for him. I hope he knows that whether he needs to cry or yell or just have someone who'll nod at the unfairness of it all...I can be there for him. I would have liked those things. Of course, there's a good chance I could have had those things too. I love my aunts, and I know they would have been there for me if I had only though to ask them to be. But I never did. Hopefully by saying so, I'll at least be on his radar when the time comes.
I'd never want to be a teenager again, and I am famous for saying that though my life has not been easy, and the choices I made a lot of the time when I was younger were terrible for me in the end, I do envy that feeling like the world is yours and everything's good for a laugh and nothing seems impossible. Of course, knowing what I do now, I know that I can have whatever it is I set myself to. It just takes time and patience. Fortunately, I have a lot more of that now than I did at 18, and I suppose in the end, that's a pretty good trade.