It is summer time in the very early 1990s; my sisters and I are spending the night at our Aunt and Uncle’s house in Bridgeton, Maine. My cousin Heather and I are the same age (well she is a few months older but we were both born in 1981) and her brother Adam was born in 1986 right in-between my sisters Mia (1985) and Juliann (1987). My sisters are staying in Heather’s room and I am staying in Adam’s. Basically, Heather gets to see what it’s like to have little sisters, while I have opportunity to see what it would be like to have a little brother. Which is great, we spent most of the day playing Ghostbusters and GI Joe, and the best part was he never asked if I wanted to play with Barbies. As I lay there half way between being awake and asleep I hear his voice.
“Jeremy.” Adam calls to me.
“What?” I ask.
“I have to go the bathroom.”
“I can’t I am scared”
He didn’t answer so I said, “Okay come on. I’ll show you there is nothing to be afraid of.”
We get up and walk to the door in his room. He looks out the door left and right. “Oh” he says. “I thought as soon as I walked out the door all the objects in the room would get up and start flying at me.”
Now very much relieved, he heads downstairs by himself to the bathroom and am left in his room wondering what movie he watched that led him to believe this silly thing.
It is now 1996, Adam and his family have come visit mine here in Windham. One of the things we typically do during his visits is take my dog Rex, a beagle-basset, on very long walks. Normally, when by myself, I walk around the block with my dog two or three times. However, when Adam comes over my dog gets excited because he knows we are not only going around our block but we'll also explore the next three neighborhoods as well. Adam comes from a cat family so walking and interacting with a dog excited him a little more than most people.
During these walks we discuss all the interesting things a fifteen year old and ten year old would normally discuss. Such as differences between middle school and elementary school or what TV show was popular that we both liked. Adam was also into POGs that I feigned interest just to amuse him. (I was trying to be a good older cousin.) During this walk Rex was proudly marking his spot almost every two feet. This led Adam to have a sudden observation.
“Jeremy, I have come to a conclusion. I think dogs must be made of Ninety percent piss.”
“Yeah, that’s about rate.” I responded. “At least Eighty-Five.”
It is 1998. I am enjoying a Rotisserie chicken from Hannaford. Adam is over with his father; Adam, who is a vegetarian, looks at what I am eating and says, “Hey Jeremy, are you enjoying your carcass?”
“Yes.” I respond rather bluntly.
He then went on a rant about the moral virtues of vegetarianism. Adam also stated how he and his fellow vegetarians are discriminated against by society.
“How?” I ask rather bluntly.
“Well, yesterday at school we had hamburgers for lunch. So I went up and asked ‘what is the vegetarian alternative?’ And do you know what they said? They said, ‘chicken!’”
I start to lose it laughing.
“Hey, that is NOT funny.”
“Yes it is.”
In the summer of 1999 we are at the camp my family rents in Denmark, Maine. Adam’s family has come over to spend a night with us. My father has seen on multiple occasions big frogs consuming little frogs. We decide this is something we want to see so we take the canoe out and paddle along the shore line to see if we can see it happen. When this does not occur we decide to force the situation. We capture a big frog and two little frogs and place them in the canoe with us. We then paddle middle of the pond and stare at them waiting for nature to take its course.
We learned some important things. The first is that captivity and voyeurism don’t inspire cannibalism. That was disappointing. The second lesson was harder. Since they weren’t going to eat each other we decided to test how long it would take them to get the shore. So we released the smallest one and tried to follow it. We quickly lost that frog so we tried the other small one. While we were following it we made too sharp a turn and I still remember the look on Adam’s face as he, myself, and the big frog all went into the water.
Panicking we pushed the canoe to the opposite shore line of camp. We then tipped the boat to empty the water in it. I looked out and saw our paddles floating so I swam out to get them. Once we got the water out and made sure we had all the life jackets we headed back. At Adam's suggestion we should apologize to our parents for what happened so they wouldn't be angry and prohibit us from going in the future. We found our fathers sitting on the porch and we did as Adam suggested. Their response was simply to laugh themselves stupid.
The next day Adam said to me, “Jeremy, last night I had a strange dream.”
“About what?” I asked.
“We were in the canoe and..”
“Tipped the boat, yeah that was real.”
“Not that. What happened was we were in the canoe out on the middle of the pond and giant frog emerged from the water. He said he was going to eat us for our crimes against frogs.”
“Did we get eaten?”
“No, it said before it ate us it wanted to have its favorite snack: little frogs. He wanted to know if we had any and I pointed him in the right direction. He turned to find some and we hurried back to the camp.”
It’s July 4, 2001. Most of the family is at Nana and Papa Perron’s place having 4th of July meal of steak and corn on the cob. Adam’s just having corn on the cob and a veggie burger. As it turns to evening we want to go see fireworks, rest of the family are hesitant because it might rain. But at this point in my life I have a license and a car, Adam and I took my 1985 Chevrolet Caprice all the way to Naples for the fireworks show along the Songo River. And rain it did! In fact it started to storm, the fireworks were cut short and people started to leave. But Adam and I decided it would be good fun to run out to the dock screaming at the storm like Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump.
Then things got kind of weird. It started to hail in the middle of July. One piece of hail hit Adam so hard it broke the rim of his glasses. We decided the storm won and we retreated to my car. When we got in I turned the heat on, something I have never done in July before or since. As we headed home I lost my focus and forgot to turn my high-beams off at points when I should have.
“Jeremy you just beamed that guy.”
“That’s okay Adam. The guy before beamed me and that makes it even.”
“I don’t think that’s the way it works. In fact Jeremy, you have an awfully odd way at looking at the world. Do you think there is a world committee tracking you and keeping score? Jeremy vs. the World, the score 1-1. ”
It is June of 2003. Our uncle Peter Perron, our fathers’ brother, had been killed in car accident and we’re at his funeral sitting there in the middle row of the seats. The service hasn’t started yet, and our parents are at front discussing it. We are wondering what will come of our aunt and how she will cope with this. Peter had been full of life and we are overcome by the suddenness of death.
It’s 2008. Adam is no longer a vegetarian. Since High School, he fell in love with a farm girl named Beth. I affectionately nickname her the “Chicken Killer” since her family raised their own live stock. Adam’s favorite food now is a good steak and he has a hunting license. We’re both still nerds but I am history buff while he is a science geek. This is great because we are both experts that can educated the other one. I tell him things, he tells me things, and we both learn a lot from each other. On Christmas he gives the book “A Short History of Nearly Everything*” That I have reviewed for this blog.
It’s July 31st, 2010. Adam and Beth are getting married. I tried to tell them to do it February 27th. That is my sister’s birthday; two weeks ago Mia married her husband Francis on Adam's birthday (July 17th) exactly. Mia became vegetarian like Adam use to be and had vegetarian wedding. The food was not pleasing to me. Fortunately the Chicken Killer’s family didn’t let me down. They made plenty and lots of left overs. I was eating steak and chicken all day.
It’s 2012; I lend Adam and Beth my Deadwood DVD collection to give us something more to talk about. They watched in record time and like me hated the ending, but loved the series.
It’s 2013 New Years. I am with Francis and Mia as a guest at Beth and Adam’s. We spend the night playing the Settlers of Catan. Beth is very good at this game. Seriously good, if there a professional Settlers of Catan League she would be their Tom Brady. One of their dogs (they have two dogs now) ate one of my red roads. This causes my brother in law to lose his mind. (Francis is a very serious Catan player, but not as good as Beth) Adam then makes a new red road out of match stick. It is now the favored piece in that Catan set.
It’s September of 2014. Adam and Beth now have a daughter. Abigail Katherine Perron was born on September 6. I came up to see them a week after and I brought Pizza so they wouldn’t have to make dinner. I met the baby and I was the first of their extended family to come visit. When I arrived I was first greeted by their two dogs. I asked Adam when it clicked emotionally he told me this:
“I felt an emotional bond immediately. However, the moment I felt profound change is when we brought her home and closed the door and at that moment I knew my life had now changed and this was going to be my new reality.”
While my own career in Education had fizzled out I was proud that he was able to become a successful teacher at Lake Region Middle School.
Then on April 20, 2016 a horrible thing happened. This time things did go flying at him as a box truck slammed into his car. The only good thing—if there can be—, unlike when he was a child, he wasn’t scared. He couldn’t be, there was not enough time. It didn’t matter, the damage was done and he was gone.
I was at their house the day before yesterday. His daughter was napping; when she woke she was upset. Her mother brought her out and there was a crowd of people, Abby looked around the crowd but the person she was looking for wasn’t there. For he is gone.
In coming weeks, the local police will try to put together exactly why the truck turned the way it did. As I go to his funeral today no doubt there will be people there looking find some sort of meaning to why he died. But I won’t and I hope most won’t either. For there is no meaning in death, it just is. I read a lot of biographies and that is the way the story always ends. Our meaning is in life. It is what we do with our time that matters. Adam’s life was cut short before he could complete three decades but not a moment was wasted. I can’t say that about most people, especially myself.
Rest-in-peace, dear cousin.