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Janice Wells: Catching up with cousins

The presence of cousins in my life makes me feel younger, Janice Wells writes.
The presence of cousins in my life makes me feel younger, Janice Wells writes. - 123RF Stock Photo

I had a call from one of my first cousins, on my mother’s side recently. She’s the only one who still lives in Newfoundland and she’s the keeper-in-toucher in the family. She calls maybe twice a year and catches up on me and my sisters and catches me up on her and her brother. Our mothers visited back and forth between Corner Brook and Gander. She’s a year younger than I am and her brother a year older so I played and grew up with these cousins.

I have another first cousin on my father’s side to whom I am close even though neither one of us are great at keeping in touch. He grew up just down the street from me, two years older, and the closest thing to a brother that I have.  

I also get the scattered call from a first cousin once removed who lives in B. C. He’s older and I didn’t know him as a child, but we became friends as adults.  

(Quick explanation; if your parents are first cousins, you are a first cousin once removed from your parent’s first cousin and second cousin to your parent’s first cousin’s children).

Some people say grandchildren make you feel young again. Maybe I’m an unnatural grandmother. My little grandson makes my heart swell with love; he makes me laugh; he makes me proud. He makes me feel a lot of good things, but I can’t say young is one of them.

Now I can’t say old is either, except maybe because I spend more time on the floor when he’s here and therefore am reminded more often how hard it is to get up. But I do realize that that has more to do with my condition than my age.

I felt younger again after I talked to my cousin the other night and I that’s when I realized that the presence of cousins in my life makes me feel younger. I still think of my cousins and myself as the children of our parents. When I think of my cousins we are not the older generation of our children and grandchildren. We are still the younger generation of the generation past. Cousins are like sisters; I don’t feel like my sisters and I are three women getting older together, we’re the same sisters we’ve always been, even if we don’t look quite the same.

Our parents have been gone a long time. None of my first cousins live close by. I have a very special first cousin once removed and her children (my second cousins) to whom I am closer than most of my first cousins. Some I’m not so close to emotionally anyway, but some I wish were close enough in distance to, not just because I love them with the kind of love that only cousins can understand, but because when I think of them we are the younger generation and therefore I feel younger.

Is any of this making any sense to you? Newman grew up with no siblings plus no cousins in Canada. He saw one of his first cousins a few times when he was young. He can’t possibly understand all the sentiments I’ve expressed however when she came from Scotland to visit us a few years ago, he always introduced her, not just as his cousin, but as his “first cousin,” to the point where we got a big kick out of it, and she still refers to herself as his “first cousin.”

Writing this gave me an irresistible urge to call my brotherly cousin. He turned 70 last year but to me he’s the same boy I used to help on his paper route, although I haven’t forgotten how he always made me go to the furthest house up on the hill, just talking to him is enough to make me think I could still do it.

Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. She can be reached at

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