Unlike the Wilsons, my mother's side of the family, the Cothern family never has a reunion, not until long after my father and his parents are deceased. Uncle Kellon, my father's youngest brother, finally calls one day and says he invited the entire family for a Sunday get-together at his house on Blackwater Road. Good idea, everyone says, why haven't we done this before?
Uncle Dulith's family is the last to arrive, approaching the rest of us sitting in chairs under some oaks. When he is close enough, smiling in his sly way like always, as if perpetually amused by everything around him, privy to humorous secrets the rest of us can't fathom, the resemblance between Dulith and my father is so uncanny it is my father standing there in the shade among us. A glance at my brother Wayne, mutual shakes of our heads and deep breaths, feeling faint myself, scalp prickling coldly like that day in the hospital when a heart attack claims my father at age 58.
The day after Laurie's first birthday on Bernardo Street, I stand beside the bed in the emergency room, watching my father's fingers moving across his own shoulders, showing the doctor where the pain is. I tear through his wallet after my father tells me to get the typed paper listing the medicines he has been allergic to over the years.
A note I retype many times over the years--each time another medicine needs to be added because of some adverse reaction.
So I find the last note I typed years before on a hot afternoon after school--little dreaming I will be there to hand the note to a doctor, both of us standing next to my father in the emergency room, him sitting up in the bed, retching into a chrome basin from the pain in his back.
"What about Demerol?' the doctor asks that Sunday after quickly reading the list. "And what the hell does etcetera, etcetera mean?"
Seeing Uncle Dulith at that first Cothern reunion is like standing there in the hospital with no answer for the doctor; the feeling of fainting and the absurdity of safeguards because the memory of a man can be so strongly stamped in another's face.