Not An Easy Life

My cousin, Greg, playing guitar with Peggi on Hall Street in Rochester
My cousin, Greg, playing guitar with Peggi on Hall Street in Rochester

Tidied up my desk this morning. I still have one with a desktop computer. I have a drawing table too from my mechanical art days. All old school. I sorted the piles of oddball items that cover the entire surface and found a small piece of paper with my cousin’s last phone number on it. It wasn’t his direct line. He was living in a home out west and a monitor would answer the phone and pass it to him. I’m throwing this number away because Greg passed away over the summer.

Greg was the same age as me. We are always pictured together in the extended family photos. He was abused by a soon to be priest at our summer camp. His family (my mother’s sister) lived behind us on the next block. We double-dated in high school and even went out with the same girl twice (two different girls, two different times). He went to McQuaid, the Jesuit high school,  and his parents threw a graduation party for him with all the aunts and uncles. Alone in the kitchen Greg said “Don’t tell anyone but I didn’t graduate. This is my parents’ idea – a sham.”

Greg had Tourette Syndrome with a variety of facial ticks and sometimes full body contortions. For a while he felt compelled to do a full turn, like a figure skater, every few steps he took. And he suffered from bi-polar disease or whatever they call it today. Wild mood swings and notions that festered. He would remain hyper focused on a slight and torture his parents. But mostly, when we saw him he was up, observant of the finest details, inquisitive and sharp. He was one of the funniest people I ever knew when he was on a roll.

He worked at Gray Metal in Webster across the street from Maracle industrial Finishing where I worked for year. We’d meet at lunch and go out at night. He and his first wife bought a house near Peggi and me in the city. He had two Great Dane’s in his basement and I watched him scoop up the piles of dog business with a snow shovel. As a farrier he shoed the Rochester Police Department’s horses. I was working for the city at the time and I’d visit him there on my lunch hour.

He move to Delaware, horse country, got married again and had a daughter. And then he started to wander. He stayed at our house a few times, once with his camper and a new dog. He was spending most nights in Walmart parking lots. He came out to hear our band and left during the second set. We expected to find him in our driveway in his camper but he was gone.

Greg visited us in our new place before moving out west and that was the last time we saw him. He had shock therapy and tried to describe that to me and then more health problems. We’d talk on the phone but the spark was gone. He came down with Parkinson’s and then Covid did him in. His family hosted a memorial gathering at a hotel downtown and there was an overall sense of relief. Greg was finally at rest. I will miss him.

1 Comment

One Reply to “Not An Easy Life”

  1. So sorry Paul. I hope the child abuse didn’t linger on him…. though it usually does. He sounds like he lived a life in spite of it…. I often think ‘bipolar’ is just a euphemism/excuse for childhood abuse that creates a duality of mood and the self.

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