I’ve heard of people who have oodles of cousins – so many cousins they don’t even know all their names. I have only one cousin. I have four brothers and a sister but only one cousin. I think she goes by “Dona” now but around our house she was always “Dona Jean.”

Dona lives in Houston which is sixty miles south and a helluva lot of traffic off our our route through Texas so we were very grateful when she volunteered to drive up to Cold Spring and meet us in the cheezy San Jacinto Inn – the only motel in town. Lest Dona and Morris think we are the kind of people who would stay in such a rat trap, we hastened to inform them that we normally stay in a higher class of establishment. We realized our sensitivity was utterly unnecessary when they came right out and told us we were staying in a dive and then told us about a worse experience of their own. Then we all went to dinner at Bubba’s Restaurant.

Dona’s life has always taken her to different places than mine so we haven’t had that much to do with each other – that and her being seven years my senior which isn’t such a big gap to span now that we’re both retired but it put her on another planet when I was a kid.

You could cut two fingers off my right hand and I could still count all the encounters I’ve had with Dona in my life. When I was little my parents had a dairy farm in Upstate New York. Dona came to visit (on a train or bus I presume) when she was about eleven years all by herself. I was probably four years old. What I really remember about her visit was the tin cap pistol she gave each of us with colored caps. I got green caps – my favorite color.

And then there was the time we visited Aunt Rachel and Uncle Cliff (her parents) in Columbus. I was probably ten years old. Dona was a senior in high school and she had a boyfriend which impressed me and my brothers no end. There must have been a shortage of beds in the house because Dona offered to share her bed with one of us. I think we all wanted to but were too shy to admit it.

Fast forward to the 1980s. Dona and Morris visited us at our log house in the hills above Lake Chelan, Washington. Mary and I had a half-finished house and a couple of kids by then. I remember being intrigued by her Texas accent and her news from the “other side” of the family. My mother’s relatives had always been a mystery to me. Listening to Dona gave me some insight into that world.

Dona hasn’t lost any of her demonstrativeness and gave me and Mary long embraces upon meeting and departing. Morris has had some ill health lately but his mind is still sharp. Now that I’ve had a fourth encounter with Cousin Dona I guess I’ll have to re-attach one of those amputated fingers.