My cousin Ratface was the son of the town millionaire and had a chip on his shoulder about it. We played together when we were little kids, but when I lived at his house the summer I was seventeen, it was like living with someone from a different world.

His nickname around town was a rather un-funny pun on the word ‘coke’, because he did so much cocaine. He fought like a runty wolverine, as well. I can remember several black eyes. In the bar he was that little guy who just wouldn’t stay down, no matter how badly he got whipped.

Funny, it was my mother who pointed it out. Ratface is good with babies and old people. There was no one more solicitious with our grandmother, and no one as willing to play with the babies and toddlers of our cousins. All the anger he showed in daily life seemed to evaporate when he was interacting with the very young and the elderly.

He looks like he watches The Sopranos carefully, and then shops by internet for the clothes he sees. That said, there is still something about him that says ‘small town trying to be sophistocated’. He appears as bland and smooth as a salesperson, although one in expensive leather. But when someone under the age of two, or over the age of seventy is his focus of attention, he becomes solicitous, mild-mannered and sincere. Our aunt came up to give him a hug on Saturday and remarked how great it was that he had come. He leaned down to her and said, “I always like seeing you.” And the thing is, he does.

He drove almost 600 miles to be there. Well done, Ratface.

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