Friday, June 20, 2008

Beloved Cousins, Too Soon Gone: Part Two, By Sue Kinsella

As Sue wrote last posting:

Our cousins who left too soon are with us still-carried in our stories, treasured in our hearts. We were lucky to have them even for too short a time.

And so,

Wendell Elliott Henderson

Son of Phyllis, who was daughter of Lillian Howland, daughter of Kate Baker
February 25, 1942 – May 19, 2006

Wendell was 9 years older than me, so I always thought of him as “grown up” when I was a kid. Because he was so much older, I didn’t know him well, but Kathryn Barron was close to both Wendell and his wife, Joyce. “Oh, Sue, you really lost out in not knowing him!” Kathryn tells me. “He was funny, giving, helping, just plain awesome. I sure miss him.”

Kathryn writes, “Wendell was more than a cousin to me. He was more like a big brother, as much a part of our family as I was. The summer I was about 16, I dated his hired hand, and Wendell (then in his mid-20s) started dating Joyce. We all went to County fairs and drive-in's together. Wendell was the only one with a license so he always drove. When we parked at the drive-in, he’d say "Seat change!" and he and Joyce moved to the back while Bill and I went to the front. If we tried to kiss, Wendell would bop us. Man, never double date with your 'big brother'!

“Whenever I came home to visit, a lot of the time I stayed at the farm. Wendell and I did a lot of cooking together there. He ordered me around and I did what he said. It was wonderful! He and Joyce caught me up on what was going on with people I knew. I always feel that the farm is my ‘home’ in New York. Before I left to go back to Ohio, Wendell would always pick a bunch of corn for me to take home. His love for his family was huge. He was so proud of his children and grandchildren. I will miss him forever.”

Picture One: Wendell at Baker Family Reunion, 1964
Picture Two: Wendell, 2005
Picture Three: Wendell and Harold, 2002

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Beloved Cousins, Too Soon Gone, By Sue Kinsella

I love this picture of us Taylor family cousins on Grandma and Grandpa’s stairs. It’s from Christmas 1957, and already there are more than 20 cousins in the family. There will be many more to come.

But what strikes me as I look at this picture is that already there are some of us gone. Bob Taylor, bottom left, responsible, holding Annie Taylor. Jack Taylor, smack in the middle, with his trademark big grin, “a smile so big,” the Irish would say, “it goes halfway down his back.” And Jim Taylor, top right, thoughtful, sensitive. We’ve lost beloved cousins on the Baker-Howland side of our family, too: Carol Ann Maffei, Wendell Henderson, and Joey Maffei.

This leaves me so confused. All these cousins were my family when we were kids. I was sure we all had grand and exciting futures ahead of us. So how could some be missing now? Where have they all gone?

There are many of my living cousins whom I haven’t seen for decades, but just knowing that they’re “there” is a comfort to me. It’s different with our cousins who have died. The fact that I can’t ever see them again changes the distance of those decades into painful confusion. I was too young when I knew most of them, or our lives took us in such different directions that we were out of touch too long. Now I so dearly wish that I could sit and talk with them and know them with more understanding.

Instead, I have to keep in mind that as we write and read all the wonderful tales on this blog about cousins and family, our cousins who left too soon are with us still – remembered in our stories, treasured in our hearts. We were lucky to have them even for too short a time.

Over the next few weeks, we will post memories about each of these cousins, and invite yours, too.

We’ll start with Carol Ann:
Carol Ann Maffei
Daughter of Leona Maffei, who is daughter of Lillian Howland, daughter of Kate Baker
March 6, 1943 – December 31, 1959

Carol Ann, always so full of energy and life, was the first to leave. I remember visiting Leona’s family when Carol Ann was 16. She ran down the hill in front of her house to greet us, so welcoming and excited to see us. How beautiful Carol Ann was, my mother remarked to Leona, and how sweet that she, herself, was unaware of it. Just weeks later, Carol Ann was diagnosed with leukemia. She died three months after that, on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1959.

Dorothy has said that her sister’s death changed the trajectory of many people’s lives. Even I, not yet 9 years old, was so deeply affected that I turned to writing, for the first time, to try to make sense of it all. My first-ever journal entry is about the evening I spent with Dorothy and Julie at Carol Ann’s wake.

We love you, Carol Ann.