A “Cousin” Visit with Friend #156: Michael (and “Cousins” Whitney and Taylor in Wichita))

Friend #156: Michael
Date and Location of Visit: October 12-13, 2011, Springfield, Missouri
Known from: Our moms were friends since childhood
Last seen: Labor Day Weekend 2011, before that, Christmas 2010

Memories of Michael: I remember when Michael and his twin sister Megan were born.  We grew up about 10 minutes away from each other.  In recent years, my family has spent Christmas with Michael’s family, and we’ve fully adopted family terms of aunt and uncle and cousin for each other.

I have a specific memory of Michael from the Christmas after mom died.  I had just opened a present from one of my aunts, which was a beautiful snapshot of my mom on a cruise ship, breeze in her hair and a big smile on her face.  Michael was the only one who saw my face as I opened it and asked, “What is it?”  I couldn’t even get any words out and turned the picture around to show him.  “Are you going to be OK?” he asked.  Having grown up around lots of women, Michael has a kind sensitivity that is just innate, while remaining fully a dude.  And in the past couple years, he has decided he wants to be a counselor, which will be such a natural fit for him.

About our visit: Michael was very excited to take me to his weekly Trivia Night tradition with his friends.  Every week a group of them gather at Finnegan’s Wake in downtown Springfield to battle it out with other teams in 6 rounds of trivia.  I was excited about trivia because I thought I would be an asset to the team.  Beforehand, Michael gave me a tour around the Missouri State campus and town and I got to meet his roommate, Cole.  I’ve often seen Michael as a little brother figure, but in recent years we’ve been relating more as adults and peers and friends, which is fun.  I was excited to see his school world and meet his friends.

And then it was time for trivia.  It’s always a fun challenge to explain to people how we know each other.  “Well, she’s my cousin.  But she’s not actually my cousin.  But she is.”  Yeah.  And unfortunately, the questions were pretty hard, and I was not as much of an asset as I thought I would be.  The team did win the picture round naming famous cars from movies.  I misnamed female sprinter Marian Jones as Marian Johnson (confusing her with male sprinter Michael Johnson) during the sports round.  But we still had a lot of fun.

One of my favorite things about Michael is his enthusiasm.  When Michael gets excited about something, you can’t help but get caught up in it yourself.  He is always rallying the family to play games, and it was no different with his friends.  Or early the next morning, when he rallied roommate Cole and me into a version of board game Settlers of Catan called Cities and Knights.  And Michael really cares about his friends.  He loves that they gather together every week and has a real sense of community with them.

Alongside the fun, Michael and I also talked about the future. He has some decisions to make about what to do next in school and life.  It’s such a tough time of life that I remember vividly.  But I know that he’ll find his way and do it with a good group of people around him.

More “Cousin” time with Whitney and Taylor (and Becky and Dean and Papoose)

I visited with another set of “Family” in Wichita on my way from Stillwater to Kansas City on Sunday, October 9.  I guess we have a knack in our family of adopting a wider family circle.  Becky was married to my uncle, but when they got divorced, my mom told Becky, “You’ll always be my kids’ aunt.”  And she is.  And Dean is my uncle, and Whitney and Taylor are two more “cousins.”

Whitney went to college at Washington University in St. Louis and played volleyball (NCAA championship volleyball, at that!).  My parents were often there cheering her on at her games and were local parents of sorts to Whitney and her friends.  She has since gone onto medical school at the University of Kansas and is applying for residency programs.  She and Taylor had run a half marathon together in the morning before I arrived, and I caught her just before she headed off to a rotation and residency interview in Kansas City.

Taylor just graduated from KU and, like Michael, is also considering his next steps.  He is so versatile and talented–he has studied abroad in Spain and Brazil, even learning how to bartend in Barcelona.  I often had gotten updates on Whitney from my folks, but feel like it’s been a long time since I really knew what was going on with Taylor, so was grateful for the opportunity to spend time with him.  I also appreciated the chance to sit down with Becky and Dean, who are very much a parental influence–but just the right amount.  And it’s just great to be around all of them as a family.  They are very close and enjoy each other’s company.

I was also thrilled to get to spend some time with Papoose, who is Becky’s mom.  Her name is actually Pat Bruce, but the first time someone in our family heard it they said, “What?  Papoose?”  And the name stuck.  She told me during our visit, “I always have liked that nickname.”  She is getting older, but still has the fire and spunk that I remember in her from my younger years.  I’m so glad I got some family time in during my travels!

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