I don’t remember the last time we met. We tried to figure it out, and couldn’t narrow it any further than the following three possibilities: My sister Janine’s wedding, a Daytona 200 of unknown vintage, or an evening of buffoonery at Pleasure Island. He is on his third wife (Isabella), first child (Tristan) and for the last several years has lived only three hours away. It has been too long. He is my cousin Jason Cefola, and this weekend we touched base.
Jason is the son of my father’s only sister Donna Cefola. He has two brothers, Chris and Craig. The Cefola’s grew up about an hour away from me in New York, and we saw each other several times a year for most of our childhood primarily at our grandma’s house. At eighteen, I went to Florida State and for all practical purposes didn’t come back. In doing so, I lost regular contact with Jason and the rest of my cousins.
Our paths diverged. I spent seven years in Tallahassee netting two degrees, coached basketball, fired a gun once in my life and rode a motorcycle once in the last twenty years. Jason went to work in the Jiffy Lube his father owned, hold’s a valid weapons permit and became a passionate motorcyclist even at the cost of a broken leg. A few weeks ago, I sent him a link to my post on James Stewart and he responded that he just had a conversation about Stewart that day, and unbeknownst to me was a regular reader of this blog.
Fortune intervened, and we met this weekend with aunt Donna in Orlando. We discussed in great detail our physical and mental abuse of our cousin Roger Pink largely perpetrated in the master bedroom of our grandma’s house. Roger is a terrific gentleman, holder of multiple degrees earned over two decades in the classroom and an aspiring professor of physics. We concluded, with aunt Donna’s help, that our abuse centered on Roger being the youngest male cousin and the resentment we shared for the protective interventions of his mother, aunt Pat. It was liberating.
We revisited the Easter Sunday when we broke out the shovels and dug a four foot grave in grandma’s backyard whilst wearing our Easter clothes. It was a wonderful accomplishment of collective will, the exact purpose of which remained obscure until we consulted with Craig yesterday, who assured us it was for Roger.
One of the truly unsettling moments of my life occurred shortly after our grandma passed. We were cleaning up her house and yard. Jason and I were raking leaves on the side of the house and my father was cutting branches on a ladder with a chain saw in the front. I heard a horrible, agonized yell and the chains saw shut off, but the yelling didn’t. I did not move believing with everything in my soul that my dad just self-amputated an appendage. Thankfully, he simply stepped in a hole while dismounting from the ladder badly spraining his ankle. Jason’s distinct memory of the incident was my mother yelling at my dad for getting hurt (again) and refusing to take him to the hospital. While not out of character for my oft-injured dad and long-suffering mother, I didn’t have any recollection of it.
Jason later asked if I felt pressure from my dad to race motorcycles. I felt opportunity and availability, but not pressure. Jason of all the cousins took riding most seriously, and in doing so, saw a side of my father more intimately than I did. They would get together for rides on the back roads of New York outside the city each bringing friends, all of them with fast bikes and heavy throttles. My dad long-retired from racing or even anything resembling good health would lead the group out. Jason’s unsuspecting friends following the “old dog”. Jason knew of course what they would shortly as my dad would let rip the throttle, let the front wheel come off the ground and take off leaving the group to chase the “old dog” at white knuckle speeds over 100 mph.
Jason saw his first professional basketball game last week, and admitted prior to that he may have watched twenty minutes of basketball in his life. Nonetheless, he has read my basketball-heavy blog because he found in the writing, thoughts and ideas transcending the game or sport to a larger context that gave meaning to him. This was a them of our reconnection.
Though our paths have varied, we come from a common place, and when we touch base at that common place again we bring to it the richness and diversity of our varied paths.