The trip to the Jersey Shore for my brother-in-law's 40th birthday party was worth it for numerous reasons:
1. I got to see smart, fun people I hadn't seen in years
2. I got to spend time with my cousin and her remarkable boyfriend
3. The pain in my neck I suffered as a result of recent events finally subsided
4. My ghostly offspring and I showed up on the beach, making every sunbather in the vicinity feel superior.
About my cousin and her boyfriend:
When she was in her 20s, she watched all her friends get married. Most of her siblings and cousins married. Like a lot of married people who drop their single friends, they dropped her. She soldiered on, hoping to meet the right guy, between shopping for and attending showers. For one reason or another, all relationships met dead ends.
By the time she got into her 30s, she started to feel pretty dissatisfied about life. The dating parade continued, but few of the men did it for her. If they did it for her, she didn't do it for them. She pressed on, spending time with fellows who enjoyed her hobbies of dancing and going to the theater.
I'd met several of them over the years because she brought them to my parents' house for Thanksgiving. They didn't thrill me, and they didn't thrill her.
Then, four years ago, as I hung a shower curtain in our new house, my cousin called to invite me somewhere. She mentioned that she'd been dating a podiatrist. She didn't say she was crazy about him, or that he was crazy about her, but I could hear it in her voice: This guy was different.
He's still different. Spending time at their house last weekend, I actually got a lump in my throat; their love for one another is that obvious (without being creepy).
My father called me last night to rave about the dude. Peter loves him. My aunt is crazy about him. He's successful but down to earth. He's polite. He's funny. He's easy to be around. And he loves my cousin.
If he's so great, you may ask, why hasn't he married her?
Well, it's certainly not for lack of trying. He's the love of her life, she says, but they have a good thing. Why mess it up?