I keep wondering what I can do to never regret the way I treated another human again. I have lost a lot of people in my life. Dad, two Grandmas, many friends and now a cousin. I love all my cousins, but Josh was different in the way that he was my age and we were very close. Growing up I saw Josh sometimes more than my own brother. I spent afternoons after school at his house roaming around large expanses of land. We rode horses and mini motor cycles and our play areas included broken down cars. Once we were part of a pre-rodeo festivities. We spent most of the time outside playing, but we were like siblings antagonistic. He called me Onion because I had a slight smelly problem. I called him Joshua potato-tot-toona-fish-casserole. I wasn’t as good at the insults.
When we moved onto junior high and high school. We became super close. We were both socially oblivious and hard working. He got me into the job we both held throughout high school. We both scooped ice cream at Braums. Every payday we would meet and buy each other breakfast. During these Saturday morning talks we hypothesized our future, advised each other on our love lives, and confessed our fears. Both of us were part of middle class families, the oldest with pressure to succeed. No one put more pressure on us than ourselves. We both felt like we didn’t want to stay in the small town we were born into, and we didn’t. Some of those Saturday talks were strategy sessions on how to get out.
I talked to him about boys. He talked to me about girls. We both dated a lot. He dated many of my girlfriends but none of them stuck because no one stays with the nice guy in high school. Josh was the type of guy who was the sweetest guy you would ever meet, but in high school it didn’t translate to long term. He would often say, “Oh yeah, I have another friend, great!” Eventually he developed a sort of curmudgeonly exterior, but he loved and deeply. Not many people understood how deep.
While he was “cute,” he didn’t really grown into hunk territory until he became one of the American heroes. After graduation, he joined the US Army and tested in the top ten percent. He went on to become an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Expert and lead teams in Afghanistan and Iraq. His LinkedIn profile reads like the beginning of a war movie. I don’t really know what half of it means. All I know is the men who served with him sounded impressed with him when I talked to them at his funeral. That to me says something. Heroes were impressed with my cousin.
We grew apart. I haven’t talked to him in fifteen years. I regret it. I can’t make excuses. I always felt like Josh and I would retire back in Enid and play cards and bullshit into the evening. Now I will never have the chance to catch up with my cousin. I can’t believe and will never understand the things he has been through or accomplished. All I can feel is surprise, regret, and sadness.
Perhaps this is indulgent talk for a blog about health, but I want the world to know what this warrior meant to me. The funeral was a lovely tribute to a soldier who gave his life to the military, someone who lived for the mission. I want to tell everyone I know that he was my friend. He was a life line in a tumultuous time for me. He was a kindred spirit, and my soul longs to hear him say my name one more time because he could make me feel loved by just saying my name. While to America he was the true embodiment of a hero, and his fellow soldiers called him an EOD god, I just really miss the guy I grew up with and loved.