August 12, 1996

My cousin, Paul, was a failure.
He talked on and on about his dreams and his plans
but never really did anything about them.

He loved a great guy and helped raise a little girl and then screwed up both relationships so thoroughly it made my eyes water. I loved him all my life and he died earlier this year.

The last time I saw Paul alive was December 23rd, 1996. It was the annual Jimenez Family Christmas party at my grandma's house. I was glad to see the best part of Paul was still alive and well, his sense of humor and his zeal for the absurd. He was 6 feet tall and about 80 pounds. I asked how he was doing and he laughed a little and said aside from dying, things were pretty typical at home. Paul had moved back in with his parents and his little sister when he became too ill to take care of himself.

We sat there, on the couch in my grandma's house and he told me about his morning. His older brother, sister in law and their kids had come by the house that morning to help get everything ready for the party. Aunt Flora got Paul dressed and sat him in the big Lazy Boy in front of the TV with plenty of pillows and blankets and a cup of ice chips to cool his mouth with. He felt like he was in a nest, soft and warm, enjoying the bustle going on around him, watching TV. Then the nightmare began.

The TV was set to some cable channel dedicated to the worst info-mercials ever made. Imagine it, this dying man, trapped in a lazy boy, helplessly watching THE BOW MAKER! At first he thought it was campy and he enjoyed it. This loud, middle aged woman with a bad 'do making bows on a little machine as fast her little hands could go. She would thread ribbon onto the machine, turn the crank and violá - a bow. It became boring by the 10th bow so Paul reached for the TV remote. It wasn't there.

Panic began to set in as the demented wench got out the hot glue gun. She made about a hundred tiny bows and began gluing them onto sweaters, shoes, pants, everything. This was no longer camp - this was torture. He tried to get someone's attention but everyone in the house was running around trying to get ready and he was so weak his yelling couldn't be heard over that damn bow making maniac. Being a Jimenez, he did what anyone of us would do. He through his ice at the TV and started a steady stream of cussing.

The funeral was well attended. All of the local family as well as family from Arizona and Mexico. It was held in a large Catholic church, a full mass, even though he left the church a long time ago. I sat between my mother and my girlfriend and listened to a beautiful description of an accomplished and goal-oriented man. I couldn't help wondering who the hell they were talking about. It sure wasn't my cousin. There was no mention of his long time lover that he cheated on, his loving step daughter that he consistently let down or his almost non-stop dreaming with absolutely no follow-through. They talked about his scholastic achievements but forgot to mention one of the proudest moments of his life: the time he got caught, by a nun, smoking pot in the parking lot. He refused to apologize for his behavior and was kicked out.

Aside from all the necessary lies, they forgot the real truth of the matter. Paul had a huge sense of pride. I think it kept him afloat during those times between dreams while reality was smacking him around pretty good. He had a lot of love in him for his friends and he would give you anything if you were in need. Sometimes his generosity was tinged with guilt but both emotions were always genuine.

At the funeral, I imagined Paul sitting next to me. I think he would have enjoyed all the pomp and circumstance on his behalf. He would have chuckled at all the lies they had to tell about him. After all, how else do we honor our dead then by cleaning up their life? Besides, there is nothing he loved more than the absurd. Who knows, maybe it was the best send off we could have given him.


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Copyright, 1997 by Laura Jiménez.