Heaven Can Wait

“You’re coming, too. I’ll wait for you.”

As the youngest boy cousin on my mom’s side of the family, I constantly worried about being “left out.” And because I was the youngest, I couldn’t always depend on my older brother to extend an invitation. To that end, I habitually hoped that one of my older cousins would include me. (As most of you know, being two and three years younger is a pretty sizable age-gap when you’re very young.)

My cousin, Steven, usually was the first to say these aforementioned words: “I’ll wait for you.”

I looked up to my older cousins, so being included in their activities was a treat — even when some of their behavior was objectionable.

Some of what I’ll admit here is something that my parents have NEVER heard. (Sorry Mom and Dad.)

My cousins — including Steven — introduced me to cigarettes. And while I don’t think ANY of us ultimately took up the habit, we all participated in passing around and dragging on a tired box of Winstons during one warm, summer night in the late ‘70s. Incidentally, I had to be about seven years old!

(Perhaps we should have passed the dutchie — on the left hand side — instead.)

Steven also introduced me to rock — specifically the bands KISS, AC/DC, and Led Zeppelin. When I was a kid, my friends and I listened to either soul or rock; and MOST of my friends and family members listened to soul. Except, of course, for my cousin Steven.

(Years later, during my freshman year at Branham High School, I told a close friend that when I heard the name Led Zeppelin for the first time I thought it was a person’s name. He responded with, “All Mexicans think that.” To which I said, “Not my cousin, Steven.”) In hindsight, I should have punched him in the mouth and left him Dazed and Confused.

Last night, at my cousin’s rosary, I talked about how he kindly coerced me into going with him to Farrell’s (a ubiquitous and popular ice cream parlour during the ‘70s) so that we could enjoy a “free sundae.” Of course there was a “catch”! I had to tell the waiter that it was my birthday. As anxious-ridden as this relatively harmless and egregious activity was, I went along with it. Of course, once the sundae arrived, the anxiety melted away. To this day, one of the best ways to relieve anxiety — for me – is either to run, or to dive-into a delectable and tasty sundae.

My cousin also introduced me to “hug life” AND “spin the bottle,” which I posted about a few years ago using these words:

HUG LIFE: To my cousin from south San Jose who — during my FIRST and ONLY game of Spin the Bottle — said: “Since my little cousin, Rigo, has never kissed a girl, when the bottle points to him, just give him a hug instead.” Are you serious? A HUG! We played with three of your hot neighbors and I’m getting frickin’ hugs! It would be three years — approximately 26,297 hours — when that first kiss finally arrived…but who’s counting?

Ah, the rites of passage!

One of the original Century Theaters (Century Almaden) was within walking distance of my cousin’s house. And while I don’t believe we ever bought tickets to see a movie, I distinctly remember looking at the movie posters outside of the theater from time to time. In fact, in 1976, posters of the movie “Carrie” — based on the book Carrie by a youthful 29-year-old author named Stephen King, looked scary as hell. Of course, we neither had the money nor desire to see it (at least I didn’t).

One of the last times I saw my cousin was in a Super Cuts in Gilroy nearly two decades ago. He was with his young son, Steve, who was there for a haircut. During our brief time together he explained that he was battling MD, and apologized for not being able to firmly shake my hand.

I saw him one more time after that (sadly, at another funeral), and again yesterday – resting in peace.

Last night I learned that he lived long enough to see his first grandson, Kaiden Michael. And I couldn’t help but think about the words he often said to me so many years ago: I’ll wait for you.

Steven Gutierrez Robles

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