i think of tony a lot. i don’t think that’s very normal. he has been dead for 25 years now. tony was my first cousin. my mother and his father were siblings. all three of them are now deceased. tony and i were a year apart and spent much of our childhood and early teen years together. communions. confirmations. graduations. funerals. tony wasn’t my first cousin to die. his little sister lucia came before him. tony and i loved to play board games when were kids. the family feud board game was our favorite. he and i switched back and forth playing the role of richard dawson. we both had that same silly exaggerated personality.

“and our survey says….” would always make us laugh. we didn’t really care if our cousins who we made up names for their teams laughed or not.

we started to drift apart when i was a junior in high school. i started thinking about college. he started thinking of how to make money so he could move the fuck out of his house. his father was not a nice person.

he got a job putting up cell towers. i’m not sure what that even is. i was told he climbed really high metal towers and fixed stuff. he had a serious girlfriend who had kids. he was kind and thoughtful and a great step dad she told me at his funeral. tony’s father refused to buy him a headstone since the accident was so tragic. tony, who was driving, and two other people died instantly. rumor was they were all high on something, as he flipped his car when he was about to get on route 295 in south jersey.

tony had so many friends. i was impressed with how many of his high school friends he was still in contact with. i had just moved to DC to start graduate school and talked to no one from high school.

i held my mother’s hand at the funeral. she could not understand how her brother lost 2 of his children: Lucia and Anthony. My mom knew her brother drank too much. maybe even got a little violent with his kids. her heart broke for her brother. my heart broke for tony.

i am a first generation italian-american who grew up in southern new jersey. Life is amazingly beautiful and devastating. Sometimes in the same day.