I currently have four brothers-in-law and four sisters-in-law. On average, I’ve known each for about thirty years. And, as things tend to happen, my relationships with them range from being very good (i.e. highly interactive and engaged) to virtually non-existent.
One in-law in particular, however, deserves a special mention. First of all, today is his birthday. Secondly, he secured a place in my heart over forty years ago when I was ten and he was eleven. Thirdly, he isn’t just a brother-in-law to me. He is my second cousin too. (Confused? Hang in there…)
I first met my cousin, Avi, when my family lived in Israel in the early ‘70s. (His father and my mother are first cousins.) With his older and younger brothers, Shmulik and Nitzan, we second cousins became fast friends as our families enjoyed weekends and holidays together. Even after my family moved back to the States, I continued to hang out with Avi and his clan when I returned to Israel for yearly visits during my high school years. A saxophone player, a good athlete, a great cook, and a wonderful mediator, he was always great fun to be around.
As the years went by, our paths diverged. I went off to college as Avi entered the Israel Defense Forces. I went to work at IBM as he joined an Israeli IT company. But, while I got married and had children, Avi remained single and carefree. As I dressed conservatively, he grew his hair long and only wore sandals on his feet. As I spent summers splashing in the community pool with my little ones, he was windsurfing in the Mediterranean Sea. As I hiked Stone Mountain with the kids, he was rappelling in the Golan Heights.
When my youngest sister needed to “chill out” and “find herself” after she quit her job and ended a long-term relationship, I immediately suggested that she spend some time in Israel. I knew that Avi would introduce her to his single friends and would show her a good time. I believed that she would be in good hands. I could not, however, anticipate what happened next. Despite their eight-year age difference and second cousin status, their newfound friendship evolved into a romance and, ultimately, turned into a marriage. (Having only “one side of the family” at their wedding was kind of cool!) They now have two kids and have been married for fourteen years.
The weirdness of the situation has faded and my relationship with Avi is stronger than ever. He and my husband get along great and he’s been a wonderful uncle to my kids. I’m thrilled that we all have been able to spend true quality time together over the years. But, at the end of the day, I never tire of teasing him…
My grandmother, his great aunt, is also his grandmother now. And, while my mother is his mother-in-law, she’s also his first-cousin-once-removed. And, my nephews are also my second-cousins-once-removed. And, my sister is now my second cousin too. But, most importantly, Avi – my second cousin – is my favorite brother-in-law.
Happy Birthday, Avoosh! I love you.