I spoke today to my cousin Scott, who gave me some of the details of the passing of my oldest cousin Marvin C. Bischoff.
I have few recollections of Marvin, but the ones I do have are vivid and I hold them close. So close in fact, that only a week ago I was speaking to my wife Loree, who has never really met too many of my extended family members, and was telling her stories about my cousin Marvin, and how he had so much of an impact on my life despite the nature of the near estranged relationship I have had with my Aunts, Uncles and Cousins.
Marvin was about 14 years older than me, and as a pain in the ass cousin showing up to an already packed house on weekends to a small 3 bedroom house on Glenwood and Queen (not far from 7 Mile and Gratiot in Detroit), we didn’t have much in common other than some DNA.
Marvin was the oldest of my 6 cousins: Karen, Kathy, Nancy, Larry and Gerry. All of them were into their teens and 20’s by the time I started formulating memories, and the fact that I moved away in the late 60’s and have done a piss poor job staying in touch with my family makes the memories seem even more distant.
But Marvin was special.
Marv went to Viet Nam in the late 60’s. I had no idea where Viet Nam was, or why anyone would go there, but I started reading about it. I was too young to develop any political perspectives, and as a kid growing up in the 60’s war was still a romantic heroic notion. I am not sure why, or who inspired me to do so, but I started writing Marvin letters while he was in Viet Nam. Every couple of weeks, I would get a letter in return and despite our age difference, and the lack of any real previous connection, I felt a little closer to Marvin.
Marvin made me feel special.
Then I get the news that Marvin had been shot in Viet Nam. This was before emails, cell phones or any other form of real time information, and from what I can remember, by the time I got the news, Marvin was already in Japan recuperating from his wounds. I continued to write Marvin while he was in Japan, and Marvin would send me letters with Japanese coins and a few pictures from time to time.
I lost touch with Marvin after he returned to the States, and as I noted in the beginning of this blog, I have not done a very good job of staying in touch with my extended family.
I feel bad about that today.
I wish I could have visited with Marvin and let him know how much his letters meant to a pain-in-the-ass little kid cousin, and how he made me feel special. I would have told him that his letters, and the coins, and the stamps that looked so foreign to me, made me more interested in the world, and how it inspired me to read and learn.
I would have thanked him.
Its late, but its no less heart felt.