Crossing the lobby of the grocery store I heard someone call, “Chris? Chris Mattern?” At the Mattern I turned around.
There was my cousin Sally, who lives in NH but who I haven’t seen for at least ten years, though we trade holiday cards and I recently sent her a condolence card when her mother, my father’s older sister, died.
“I’m Grace,” I said and she said, “Of course.” Sally is wide and beautiful and smiled as she pulled me in to her large bosom. I told her how sick Chris is and she said she’d called her three months ago, to tell Chris about her own recent diagnosis of lung cancer caused by a genetic mutation, did she think there could be a connection between their cancers? No, no connection and Sally is doing well. She just finished chemo and radiation and is going into a clinical trail with a drug targeted to her mutation, a promising development in cancer treatment.
That’s the seventh new diagnosis of cancer among people I know this summer, two of them in their 20s. And now Oliver Sacks has died of ocular melanoma, same as Eric. Oliver was in the 2% of people expected to have his cancer metastasize. Eric was in the 10%. Spectacularly unlucky, in that regard. Chris was in the 10% of people expected to survive her cancer for five years, 24 years ago.
Here was the one in who-knows-how-many chance that I’d run in to my cousin at Hannaford’s. We had a lot to say to each other and at first didn’t notice people trying to manuever around us to get shopping carts. We moved out of the way and kept talking. It was nice to talk to someone who had the same grandmother as me.
When we said good-bye we told each other, and ourselves but I don’t believe we believed it, that we’ll get together this fall, our other cousin from my father’s brother has a vacation house close to Sally, we’ll have a little reunion.
That evening I told David about running in to Sally, and how it would be nice to see her again, to connect with cousins because I see a cousin about once every five years. He laughed. “We don’t have time to see the people we love.”
He’s right, and it’s not that I don’t love my cousins, but it’s in a cousin way that turns in to long stretches between connections. Sally and I were in a hope warp, thinking new time would open up in our lives and we’d be able to make real plans to visit. But don’t we do that all the time, imagine that our lives will expand into another dimension with infinite opportunities to love all the people we love in person and even add in more?