A Surprise Visit

As cousins living miles apart, Paul and I have a Facebook relationship that has become almost a daily occurrence. Our common denominator was his mother and my cherished Aunt Flippie who passed away a couple summers ago. When she was alive, Paul, his brother, and two sisters seemed somewhat puzzled by the attention Aunt Flippie bestowed on me. Her sister, my mother Grace, had died over thirty years ago, so Aunt Flippie appointed herself my maternal surrogate. She came to help me upon the birth of my second daughter after I experienced a difficult pregnancy. She always sent Christmas gifts to my girls, a bit late just as my mother would have done.
But once Aunt Flippie died, Paul reached out to me in a way that surprised me. Armed with a second cup of coffee and my Lab Rudy busied with a long-lasting chewy bone by my side, I recently perused Facebook. Cousin Paul is in a barbershop quartet. He is a short, round, pretty-faced man in his late sixties. His big, handsome smile almost precedes the rest of him when he appears in person or on screen. As I quickly scrolled my newsfeed that morning, I noticed a video of a performance that Paul was in. Tickled that he had shared it, I pressed the play arrow. It only took seconds for my heart to stop.
“You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips,” crooned the bass singer of the quartet as Paul smiled and swayed next to him.
Then it happened, “And there’s no tenderness like before in your fingertips,” Paul sang back in his sweet, tenor voice.
I was once again in the shed of our East Winslow, Maine farmhouse which smelled of dust, dirt, and the oil barrel that stood in one corner. And one more thing-cat shit. Even though my mother, armed with a broom, went after any cat she caught turning up in the dirt by that oil barrel; she couldn’t catch them all, and the scent lingered.
I had to hide by the kitchen door. My much older brother Wayne would get angry with me if he caught me spying on him. He was crouched at the top of the steps on the stairs that led up to a loft above the kitchen. An extension cord dangled down from there to a plug that powered his red and black record player. A stack of 45s was piled beside it, but Wayne played one record over and over again-the Righteous Brothers. Wayne was a tiny, pretty-faced teen with a beautiful tenor voice and a handsome smile. He never attempted the bass part of the song, but he would chime in enthusiastically with the tiny blonde Righteous Brother.
I could only watch that video once that morning. Wayne has been gone twenty-three years now, and I’ll be damned if I can even remember the title of that sixties classic that I heard all one summer so long ago.