Today I got the opportunity to root through a dead guy’s apartment. It’s a surreal experience. A somewhat estranged relative of my father’s passed away a couple weeks ago and today, with his brother and sister-in-law, my cousin and my dad, I went through his Surrey townhouse.
The last time I saw ‘Cousin John’ was probably ten years ago. Even then, years before his heart attack in a cinema parking lot, conversations about him took on a past-tense tone. He was branded as an odd man to my siblings and I, and we never did a good enough job of staying in touch.
After seeing his place, I regret not taking more time to talk to the man. He had bookshelves filled with science fiction books that I’d love to read. John’s interests were varied–he had military books, shelves dedicated to aircraft and it seems like he had a growing interest in submarines right before the end. The shelves also held textbooks on chemistry and biology, as well as books on alien encounters and TWO copies of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.
Though he was a fairly messy person (according to dad he always was, they had lived together for a couple years way back) I’ve been told that he was always very clever, maybe spending too much time on the more important questions of the day to have a chance to tidy up. I’m sure it’s partly because he was family, but I started to notice similarities between us as I walked through the rooms. He had two typewriters. I don’t know if he used them or just had them around.
I could’ve done a better job connecting with him, because after all I don’t know why he was so estranged from the rest of us. I mean, we’re a weird family anyway and he was just across the bridge in Surrey.
Family is too easy to take for granted.