Yesterday I had some strange illness. At three in the morning I couldn’t sleep and had this idea that I needed to take a hot bath. I got up and took my temperature and it was ridiculously low which isn’t uncommon for me. I drew a bath, making it as hot as I could stand it and soaked myself in Epsom salt until I was sweating under the water. I stayed in until my head felt better, then dried myself off and got into bed under thick blankets. My temperature then was 100 degrees. For another hour I lay there sweating. I could feel it dripping off my ribs until I finally fell asleep and when I awoke two hours later all was well and I felt nearly perfect. While I was sleeping I had strange and vivid dreams and, as only happens at such times, I kept thinking ,”Aha, it all makes sense now.”
Now that it is past lunch I can barely remember any of it, except that I dreamed of my cousin Michael and that I was do to a blog post about him, so here it is.
Not too long ago I was very involved in a family history project. Billy had received some old letters which we read and I got the idea that I would make a family tree for the girls. I spent a weekend totally engrossed in the early life of Maryland settlers, and when I was done, I sat back and realized that I had no idea in the world who I was. I come from a large family but beyond my parents’ siblings and a few cousins on my dad’s side there was almost no connection. There is no way to avoid the inevitable clichés, but finding out that I had family and stories beyond my own small life made me feel grounded in the world and in history for the first time. My memory of existence in the world before, felt more like floating. If I was painting this world, I imagine it would be dark and womb-like. The connection was always there but I had no vision beyond my experience.
So in that frame of mind I found someone on Facebook with the right name to be a cousin I hadn’t previously known and I wrote to him to see if he were indeed a grandson of Ursula. He didn’t write back so I wrote to him again in a more pleading sort of way. He did respond right away the second time, explaining that his last email must have been lost in cyberspace. His name was Michael Selhorst; he was my second cousin, and although it is now all so easily explained , it felt as if I had found him out of nowhere. I loved him lots and lots. He and I had never met that I could remember but the sound of his voice was so familiar. Our stories were different and we were really the same. He had a calm voice and was thoughtful but there was a bit of ironic humor just under the surface. It was his nature to be a caregiver; the weight of the world was on his shoulders and then just like that he was gone. He went into the doctor’s last spring with a headache he thought was a sinus infection and was admitted to the hospital instead. Right before Thanksgiving he wrote to me that the chemo wasn’t working and he died a few days later of leukemia.
The funny and not so fun turns life takes has led me to this blog. I write this blog partly to be an ongoing conversation with a friend I’m missing who is away for the year, and partly because my new friend Mary Ann (thank you Michael) in San Francisco is so full of love that she is an inspiration to me. I am simply doing it for myself. I was never a writer of anything other than lists before I knew Michael. I was decidedly not a writer and private about my inner life. Somehow the love of words is infectious. Also, life is short. There isn’t time to not make connections.