I come from a small family. Growing up there was a mother and a father and two girls. That's all.
The extended family was small, too. On the one side, two girl cousins, sisters. On the other side, two cousins, a brother and a sister, who grew up to move far away. And another girl, a singleton.
When we all grew up, my sister and I looked at that singleton and felt sorry that she didn't have any more cousins than just us (and the ones who moved far away). We decided that in such a small family, cousins should be shared.
And so we had five girl cousins, all grown up and married to tall men. The girl cousins would get together for lunch and laughter from time to time. The tall husbands would show up at weddings and major funerals.
Then one sister-cousin and her tall husband moved far away to a warmer clime. And somehow, we started seeing more of the other husbands. These tall men learned about cousinly laughter. And came to enbrace it. We got to know them better. For too short a time.
First we lost the one who remained a redhead, even after retirement. The one who was good in emergencies, who could fix anything, the one I was closest to, except for my own.
And too soon after that we lost the funny one, the quirky one, the one who fathered four daughters and then bought a male dog, the one who loved to travel.
Four girl cousins and two tall husbands out to dinner together, reminiscing about the cousin who moved south. And then we got word that her husband was gone; her husband, the one we felt we knew the least, the one who liked camping, of whom my strongest memory was being their flower girl at the age of four when my grown-up cousin married this tall, handsome man.
And now we have lost the fourth man, the tall and broad-shouldered one whom we'd come to believe was invincible after a near tragedy in the spring, the one who hunted, who set off fireworks, who could tell a good story with great detail, the one who wore the boots and who, on his last day, had hunted.
Four girl cousins. Who will gather again. Who will laugh again.
And one tall husband.