MD wasn't answering his phone. It was the second, maybe the third time, I attempted the phone call. I was trying to find out if the coming Saturday would be a good time to visit. Finally, three days later, MD returned my call. I heard his upbeat voice, apologizing. "I've been in the hospital," he said. "I was at home, in my bedroom, when I suddenly just fell. I must have blacked-out because all I remember is opening my eyes, unable to move. I knew my cell phone was somewhere above my head so I reached up, grabbed it, and called a neighbor. He said he would call an ambulance and be right over. Unfortunately, I had to somehow drag myself to the door to open it for my friend. The medics arrived minutes later, and transported me to the nearest hospital, where I have been for the past week."
This was my first nice to meet you introduction to MD, my mom's cousin.
My mom corresponds with MD on a regular basis through letters. He tells her about Arkansas, what his daily life is like; she tells him what is happening with her, and about the various activities of her grown children. So when I had made plans to visit Rudy for the summer I asked my mom to give me MD's phone number and address to that I could finally meet the person she seemed to admire so much, my 2nd cousin.
Since MD had just returned from the hospital, it was decided to wait a few weeks - to give him time to recoup - before we made the trip East.
A modest white clapboard house, with a screened-in front porch, stood in front of us a we stepped out of the truck. I saw MD standing half in, half out his front door. I waved. He stepped further out the door walking toward me, arms slightly raised. He hugged me, quietly crying. I assumed his emotions were due both to meeting me for the first time - having heard so many great things! - and because of the unexpected hospital visit. I hugged him back. "So nice to finally meet you," I said, a smile in my voice. Rudy walked up behind me and shook MD's hand. "He looks so much like your mom," he said joyfully, looking at me then at MD. Brad followed close behind, saying hello as we entered the front room inside the house.
Conversation over-filled the room. We talked about his hospital visit -he needed a pace-maker and participated in physical therapy. We talked about the monitor he now wears around his neck - just push the button and help is on its way. We talked about how he distributed his house keys to certain trusted friends to ensure they can easily enter his home if ever he needs help again in an emergency; fingers crossed he never does. We talked about how the ambulance driver told him that next time - hopefully never - that it is much easy to call 911, than to look in the directory and dial a seven digit number, especially when time is of essence.
As we were listening to MD, Rudy and I giggled when seeing his behaviorism's, lots of them anyway, mirror my mom's. As he spoke, when he said something funny, he bounced his shoulders up and down. When pretending he was angry - when he wasn't, he raise one (or both) fists and knit his brow; bringing on the I'm mad look, then he would laugh. When thinking, he would put a finger to his lower lip, as if in concentration. He raised his hands up (and over about six inches) to both sides of his head, as if in admonishment. MD slapped his knee when laughing. He placed a finger, horizontally, under his nose, when thinking. When in thought, his chin would jut out slightly, eyes squinted. While resting his head on one of his hand's - The Thinker - a pointer finger pressed his temple, thumb rested on his chin. He used his hands, moved them expressively, when he talked. MD would press his lips together tightly, yet softly, when listening. His eye color. His eyes match my mom's exactly; color, and shape. When I purposely stared at him, while he spoke, I focused my concentration on his face. Not the hair (though it is the same lovely gray as my moms). Not the ears. Not the glasses (well, those weren't a distraction - my mom wears a pair, too). His face is what grabbed my attention. His face is my mom's face. Rudy and I were, simply put, amazed at how much MD matched my mom, both in personality (so much like my younger brother, too; very funny) and looks. "If I didn't know any better, I would think MD is your mom's brother - even his twin - not her cousin," Rudy said.
MD wanted to go to lunch, take us out to eat some not so local food; anyone heard of Chili's? - where we met, by chance, his pastor and his family; one of the young girls obviously adored MD, unable to take her little hand off his shoulder. They repeatedly told us how wonderful MD is. Smile. Afterward, he took us to meet his older sister, living in a convalescent home. His love for her made him teary-eyed. Then he took us on a drive in the surrounding area, showing us where he lived as a child - the land his family no longer owned, where he played - and where he was paid (25 cents!) for mowing someone's fifty acre - well, not really but it looked to be - lawn. He drove us - yep, he was the driver and none of us was nervous, not one bit! - down dirt roads, pointing out the homes of all the people he knows, the church he attends, the post office (tiny!), the park named after his twin sister, his family name, and the newly built fire-station. At one point a dog, someone's dog, jogged along beside us as we drove slowly along. MD obviously loves his neighborhood, his life.
I took pictures upon pictures of all the points of interest I had seen. When we returned back to his cozy home, MD gave me an antique transparent jar - maybe for candy or flour - with a four leaf clover and the words GOOD LUCK engraved on it; Rudy and Brad were given a few silver half-dollar coins he had stashed in a small wooden box; and he gave me a tree of life broach for my mom. As were were leaving, he handed me some homemade fudge for the road. "I wish I had space for ya'll to spend the night," he said with a southern accent, slightly frowning; eyes smiling. We all hugged, smiled, and waved good-bye. We have a new friend in Arkansas. Better yet, a not so new family member newly added to our thoughts. Now I can participate in the conversation with my mom rather than being a polite listener.