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Entry #200: My Cousin Frank, RIP

My cousin Frank died Friday night of a heart attack. He was 67  years old.

I'm ashamed to say I hadn't seen him in a while. No excuses really.

Frank was mentally challenged. (Ever notice how euphemisms always end up sounding worse than the terms they replaced? ). But he was high functioning enough to have a good life. He enjoyed his life and brought enjoyment to others.

He lived with my uncle (his mother's brother) for a while until my uncle was no longer able to care for him. He spent his last days in a special home. Before his first heart attack several years ago he would do household chores (of the lifting and toting variety) and took a lot of pride in them. He was fond of saying "I work everyday!". His pants were always his "work britches".

Conversation with him was  interesting. Here's one of my more memorable exchanges with him:
Me: Hey Frank, how  ya doin'?
Frank: I weigh 150 pounds!!
Me: I don't know Frank, it looks like  you might have put on some weight
Frank: I'll sleep it off.

He always had trouble with my name. I have the same name as my father and he couldn't process that. So he called me Billy. That's my brother's name. Why two Billy's didn't confuse him I don't understand.

My uncle's wife used to  try to correct him, but to no avail. One day I tried to teach him my name. I said to him " OK Frank, what's my name?". He put up his fists and said "let's you and me fight!".

Oops. Everyone in the room started laughing including, to his credit, Frank. I said "Frank you don't want to fight me, I'm your buddy".
He smiled and patted me on the knee and said "I like you Billy, you're my cousin." I could live with that.

He knew a lot about pop culture. Perhaps more than I did. I would never have known of Erica Kane's legal troubles on All My Children if it weren't for Frank. Apparently she was in jail because "that gun went off". One day I was watching an Andy Griffith rerun with him, and he displayed some of the hidden wisdom people are always attributing to challenged people. It was one of the really lame later episodes that had Jack Burns playing the deputy. He astutely noted "Ol' Don Knotts must be out of town.". He knew what was important.

He could be opinionated. He even had political opinions. He would proudly proclaim "I'm a Democrat."  But he wasn't partisan. Sometimes he would tell me "I'm a Democrat and a Perublican too!". He frequently expressed his opinions with a vigorous shaking of his index finger. He was quite the orator. Sometimes I think he could have run for office  or been groomed for some leadership position ala Chauncey Gardner.

I will miss Frank. He lived a good life. After all, he worked every day.
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I'm so sorry. He sounds like a pretty cool cousin.
Thank you. Yeah, he was one of my favorite cousins and one of my favorite people.