My uncle, aunt and cousin and I weren’t exactly close, mainly because of the distance between our homes. They lived in Indianapolis, Indiana while I lived in tiny, little Ironton, Ohio. Growing up, if we saw each other more than twice a year it was out of the ordinary. The times we saw each other my cousin and I always did hang out with each other though. Regardless, we were family and they had offered to feed me and let me get away from the post for a few hours. The thought of it all brimmed with the excited aura of what seemed like normal life from before I had joined the military and was engulfed into their way of doing things. So still, I stood waiting in front of the barracks.
After a time doubts began to slip into my brain, after all, my cousin should have been here by now. To counter those thoughts I came up with possible reasons for the delay. Perhaps traffic was excessively bad or maybe he had to work late. Maybe they really didn’t want to see me. Wait, no, I couldn’t think like that. He was now more than an half an hour overdue so I went inside and tried to call their house to see if the plans had changed. There was no answer. I walked back outside as my anxiety level slowly ratcheted higher and higher. Time went by. After more than an hour had passed since the original agreed upon time, once again I went inside to attempt to call them. Once again, no answer. I walked back outside where I stood waiting.
What a sad, pitiful sight I must have been. This lonely scarecrow waiting and waiting as his faith in family slowed slipped away. More than two hours had passed before I finally gave up my last shred of hope and dignity and I slowly shuffled back inside. I tried calling one more time. The result was the same, no answer. My classmates were asking why I hadn’t gone and all I could do was hang my head and mumble “I don’t know.” The rest of the day I spent by myself, withdrawn and disappointed. No longer standing out front waiting but waiting inside my head. That’s the day I learned that the idea of extended family was overrated and not to be trusted. I never did call them again for the rest of my time in training at Fort Ben Harrison. As a matter of fact I never spoke with them even at the funerals that came later. I guess I gave up waiting.
Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.