At the reception the air was heavy and thick with grief, my boys were thankfully distracted by their Ipods and only looked up to sip from their lemonade or take a bite from their brownie. Finally the battery life drained to 0% and they looked around.
"Where is he?" they inquired.
"He's around, go look for him" I pleaded.
They found their cousin and continued the paper airplane making from the night prior, but it didn't seem to hold their attention long enough.
They returned to the ballroom to find their cousin's cousin from the other side of the family, standing with his dad and his girlfriend. It took only a moment and the three of them were wrestling on the floor of the country club ballroom, in their Sunday bests. This continued for another twenty minutes and as it did the other cousins started to gather on a nearby bench. I'd look over every few minutes while staring endlessly at the memoriam on the screen to find all three boys hiding behind the buffet, playing tag while trying desperately not to run, or dodging one of the ever so patient banquet employees.
I glanced over again after hearing clapping. Clapping like I'd imagine a Russian jig would sound, I saw him taking a break on the floor with all the other cousins while my boys danced for them; not just swaying back in forth dancing, but pelvic grinds, hands in the air, little hips wiggling back and forth dancing. Every time a new dance would start the rhythmic clapping would accompany the routine. But the best thing I heard, was laughter.
With the reception nearly over, mostly family members remained. My boys kept dancing and the cousins kept laughing. Sweaty and dizzy, they didn't stop. Even the sisters were laughing at the site of their strange little redheaded cousins entertaining the other side of their family.
The after party continued at the house, most of the young adults had changed into t-shirts and shorts and were ready to play. All of the seven cousins and their companions were engaging and friendly, my boys were included and most likely organized the activities for the rest of the evening. I was happy not to have to keep track of them, as I was managing my grief by making a batch of cookies while the party went on around me.
It all culminated, long after the five minute bedtime warning was issued. They sat together, close, hip to hip, engulfing the coffee table in the family room as if it was a magnetic force holding them all together. Not just the "cousins" as the aunts and uncles called them, but my boys too. They were included, they almost seemed necessary. A distraction so they wouldn't notice HE wasn't there anymore.
A game of Apples to Apples was getting very competitive when we announced it was bedtime. My boys protested and a deal was made to play one more hand. He lifted Ryan up onto his lap and gave him a hug and I cried. I cried for so many reasons. That's what HIS cousin would have done, HIS cousin should be here, what a blessing it is that the sisters have such a great network of love and how great that this other young man could help fill the void for my boys, if only for last night.
I composed myself out on the front porch and returned in to say goodbye to all of these amazing young adults they call "the cousins". Thank you for being there for each other and thank you for including my boys in your circle, they'll cherish their night being part of "the cousins".