Sunday, 23 February 2014

A cousin of the Senior Cat

died yesterday. We expected the news - although it came more quickly than anyone expected.
He was younger than the Senior Cat - just 88. The remarkable thing is that he lived as long as he did.
He was a risk taker. He did some dangerous things. He did dangerous things from the start. His childhood was, apparently, full of things like climbing trees which should not have been climbed, riding his bike across the railway bridge, almost drowning in the river (and being rescued by the Senior Cat and his own younger brother) and setting the garden alight on Bonfire Night. (They had Bonfire Night back then,)
By the time he reached his teens he had a "reputation". Before he was old enough to have a licence he was driving a truck (lorry) for the Oldest Cousin (not the Senior Cat!) who was something of an entrepreneur. How he never got caught is a mystery to this day.
At barely sixteen he and another cousin decided to visit Grandma (my paternal great-grandmother) who was still running her retirement project - a dairy farm on the river. They had no money for the fare so they "hitched" a ride on a goods train. Instead of staying hidden in one of the open coal trucks Cousin had to travel the length of the train - and back again - while it was going at speed. His other cousin remained where he was - petrified.
Cousin went on to distinguished service as an engineer in the navy and remained passionate about engines, particularly steam engines, all his life. He married and had children but still managed to go all over the world to see trains and ride on them. He drove the length of Britain more than once and then across Europe and into Asia. Later he drove across the United States and then back the other way through Canada. Everyone else held their breath. He was an appallingly bad driver and only got worse as he got older.
And, while he drove most of us mad with tales of his exploits, he was kind. He would always be willing to do something to help. He never had a bad word to say about anyone - oh he would criticise but it was always done in a positive sort of way.
He would occasionally phone the Senior Cat - they lived in different states - and spend an hour or more chatting. He would phone other cousins as well. He was gregarious and always doing something.
But I sometimes wondered if he wasn't a little insecure, a little uncertain of himself. I wondered if the mad exploits were not an attempt to prove to himself that he was able to do things, that he wasn't a failure.
His Little Brother is still working - part time - and had a much more stellar career I suppose. I will always wonder whether he wasn't trying to outdo Little Brother. Perhaps he was.
Whatever people will say about him in the end though they will be able to say of his relationships with other people, "He meant well."
It's not a bad epitaph.

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