A Thousand Flappers and Hobbledehoys

My name is Doug Wykstra, and this is some of the stuff I've read and watched.

Archives: Veterans’ Day

When I write something on this blog, it’s usually because I think I have a fresh take on a subject, some kind of insight that I can share with the world (or more accurately, put down on a blog I haven’t told anyone about and then get frustrated when no one seems to notice it). This has made it difficult to write about my own life during the last few years, because it seems to be dominated by the sudden, unexpected deaths of people I care about. And once again, I’m left with feelings and issues I have no real way of approaching in my writing.

When my cousin Jake died earlier this year, I didn’t write about it because there didn’t seem to be a way of writing about it without trivializing it. There still doesn’t seem to be a way to do that. If there’s a way to capture the things I witnessed in the days and weeks following his death, I’m glad doing so is beyond my ability. I still don’t want to think about it, even though, as per usual, it didn’t seem to affect me that much on the surface. I don’t know why. I miss Jake terribly, but I’ve never felt like crying- I just become sad in a small, private way.

It feels weird and bad to put it this way, but Jake was important because he showed me that other people struggled with the same things I did. When I was growing up, I would raise my voice without realizing it, occasionally shouting in class or at a friend’s when I meant to talk in a normal voice. My voice would increase in volume and pitch if I got excited, and I had this weird compulsion to finish jokes- even at the point where it became clear that my joke was ill-timed, unwelcome, or badly received, I would need to force it through to the finish. And, well, I don’t mean to speak ill of the dead- I don’t think I am, because it was a huge relief to me- but as Jake was growing up, I noticed that he tended to do the same things. And when I realized that, suddenly something that seemed to be a deep-seated personal flaw was a characteristic I shared with a person I loved. Maybe it was something genetic, maybe it was because our fathers had a lot in common personality-wise, but it strangely validated me knowing that I had a cousin who acted like me, who probably talked out of turn in school and was capable of getting so excited his voice would rise to a shout without his knowing it. It’s funny how family can make us feel more like ourselves simply by being there.

He grew up in fits and starts, surging near the end. He always needed to have someone talking or something to do, and would invariably get on someone’s nerves every time he was in a crowded car. He always greeted me in the same way, shaking my hand and then hugging me with his free arm while still holding on to my hand. He could have been an artist, and chose to be a soldier. He served well and died too soon. His death was cruel, unfair, justifying nothing and proving less. His nieces likely will only remember bits and pieces of him- this impossibly tall, improbably cherubic-looking presence from their earliest days. I will try to describe him to any children I may have, and I won’t be able to give them the first idea of him. And the thing that has been is what shall be, and that which is done is which shall be done, and the same end arrives for all things under the sun. But he was here. He was here. He was here.

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This entry was posted on 12 November 2014 by in Life and tagged , , , , , , .
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