I got a lot from him. Perhaps even my talkative tendency, which when paired with my bleeding heart and my empathy could be dangerous at times. Especially for me. He was 92. He had lived a long life, if troubled. He suffered from dementia at the end.

The family was amazing. Better than I deserve, even as each of them deserved better. I found in my aunt by marriage a kindred spirit, a familiar soul. She was an instant friend and soul mate. The rest were friendly and nice enough, but I still felt like a stranger to my own family. I only know two people who know what that feels like. My father is one. My sweetest friend is the other.

I felt awkward partially because I was closer in age to my aunts and uncles than to my cousins. Closer in life experiences and journeys as well. Closer in tragedies. But one thing made me feel close to my cousins. The sense that they were breaking a cycle. That they were bending the world just a little in their direction. I liked that. I was pioneering that before some of them were born.

He was buried in Arlington Cemetery. It was a beautiful ceremony, if short. It was pouring down rain the entire time. Everyone was soaked, but everyone was there. I was shocked that over four hundred thousand people had been buried there, most casualties of war.

A roll of pictures flashed by on the television in my uncle’s dining room. Grandfather as a young man, looking like Scott Baio to my eyes, like me to many other people. Grandfather with young uncles. Grandfather when my father finally met him, age 27, when I was 5.

An entire branch of the family, like living in a house and finding a secret door. I wish the circumstances would have been different.

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