IT’S ALL RELATIVE

by Cathy Arden on October 22, 2015

My stepfather, George, was my father.  Perhaps not my actual father, biologically speaking, but my father nonetheless. He was also grandfather to my children. Pa, they called him.  But my stepfather was more than just my father, he was also my cousin. And, now that I think of it, some kind of cousin to my children as well.

Father/cousin/grandfather/cousin.  Let me explain. My mother’s parents, Rose and Abraham, were first cousins. George’s father and Rose were brother and sister. This was Russia, or as we always referred to it, the Old Country. The story went like this: My mother and George were the black sheep of the family. They knew each other as young children. George left home at an early age, and my mother married at an early age. George later had a career as a screenwriter; my mother as a publisher. One of the TV series George wrote for was The Nurses. When my mother and I would watch that show together, she’d excitedly exclaim when George’s name came up in the credits, “That’s my cute cousin, George!” Which meant, of course, that he was my  cute cousin, too. When I was a young teenager, a couple of years after my mother and biological father split up, my mother and George planned a meeting. I’m fuzzy as to how that came into being. My mother either found him somehow or they ran into each other at an event. But whatever it was, when they met I am told they were inseparable from that moment on.   My mother was divorced by then, George was not. There were sticky, difficult years. But it ended with George moving in with my mother, and ten years later they were married. They were together for 30 years until George died in 2002 at age 83 of leukemia.

Family members and close friends would joke about the cousin connection. After all, we were no longer in the Old Country. When anyone asked George about this, he’d deflect the conversation by saying, “Don’t ask me. I live in the back.” But the fact remains – I’ve never seen, before or since, a stronger and more loving, committed relationship. George and Sherry. Everyone wanted what they had. I recently saw my stepsister, George’s daughter, whom I had never lived with or known well, and realized the comfort I felt in her presence was perhaps a bit more than the fact that we had both been witness to our parents’ extraordinary relationship. She and I are cousins, after all. It’s all in the family.

Today is 13 years without George. Well, I’m not really without him. I’m pretty sure I talk to him every day. He’s close by and my hope is that my mother, who died 9 months ago, is in his vicinity. Close by.  George, I’m hoping you don’t mind that I’m bringing this whole cousin thing out of the closet now. Because, truly, you didn’t just live in the back.

George & SWA

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy Bogart October 22, 2015 at 6:16 PM

Always love it when you open the family closet, setting free the unspoken spirit of secrets! No more shame once they’re out…just a really good story :0)

On another note, how can we find out if George and my dad were good friends? Remember, my dad directed almost all of ‘The Nurses’….

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Cathy Arden October 23, 2015 at 12:20 AM

Tracy, we already know your father and George were good friends! George spoke to me about your father, remember?

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Rima Riszkiewicz Simon October 22, 2015 at 7:41 PM

Very sweet

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Cathy Arden October 23, 2015 at 12:20 AM

Thanks, Rima.

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Steve Howard October 22, 2015 at 10:27 PM

Sweet exposure.

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Cathy Arden October 23, 2015 at 12:20 AM

Thank you, Steve.

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stephanie October 23, 2015 at 6:24 AM

I wish I had met him. Thank you for writing about father, grandfather, cousin, George.

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Cathy Arden October 23, 2015 at 10:58 AM

I wish you had met him too, Stephanie. You and George would have gotten along famously!

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Sharon October 23, 2015 at 7:43 AM

THat’s a sweet story and heartfelt.
Keep George with you in your memories as I keep my father (though not also my cousin) with me.
Love, Sharon

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Cathy Arden October 23, 2015 at 10:57 AM

Thanks, Sharon. He’s with me always, for sure.

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Iris October 24, 2015 at 3:42 PM

How wonderful. And it is wonderful how family connections come to be. My father met my mother through a matchmaker; this was after his wife had been dead a few years. His daughter Ethel, my half-sister and a young teenager at the time, vetoed all the women that the matchmaker brought to him until my mother came around. Thanks to Ethel’s good taste I’m here to tell the story.

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Cathy Arden October 26, 2015 at 8:50 PM

Thanks for sharing your story, Iris!

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John McEveety Woodruff November 4, 2015 at 11:08 AM

This one got away from me until now. I really enjoyed George, not only his keen intellect but also his generosity. I still have a pre-published copy of a Bogdanovich book George insisted I take after we had discussed it. It was his only copy but since i voiced an interest I had to leave with it in my hands. That was the last time I ever saw him.

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Cathy Arden November 14, 2015 at 1:58 AM

Wow, John, I had never heard that story. Thank you for sharing it with me.

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