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Jeb Bladine: With few sibs, you depend on cousins

Year-end holidays remind us how families are complicated foundations of our lives. As someone with small nuclear families — both vertically and horizontally — I always marvel at how people cope with large, diverse groups of relatives.

I have one sibling and no remaining aunts, uncles or grandparents. So cousins are pretty important.

Three of my five first cousins have died, and one leads a near-anonymous life. That leaves Patricia Bladine Griffin of California, who has fulfilled first-cousin responsibilities for all 70 of my years.

When Patsy was 10, I moved into her house for six months as a newborn. I can only imagine that our lifelong ties developed during that time, as it wasn’t until decades later that we joined up as adults with all kinds of common family interests.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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One memory from those decades was a pre-wedding gathering where five us shared the “cousin lesson,” which I have passed along often to family and friends: Once a first cousin, through generations, always a first cousin!

Sister Pam and I formed a fivesome with Pat and Jim’s three kids — bride Elizabeth and siblings Sarah and Randy — as a close-knit group of first cousins once removed. All three of them have two children, making them first cousins twice removed to me and second cousins once removed to my son and daughter.

Like I said, when siblings are few, cousins are next best. Over the years, Pat’s family and mine have shared reunions, weddings, funerals and random visits.

Our personal idiosyncrasies always seem to melt away into topics of open conversation, mixed in with all the other elements of catching up on each other’s lives. I wouldn’t be a newspaper owner today if Pat and cousin-in-law Jim had not maintained a steadfast loyalty to family at a particularly difficult time.

Here’s hoping the return of that sentiment has provided some comfort in helping maintain a special kind of connectivity between multi-generations of our original Oregon families.

Patsy’s and my lives have been filled warmly with kids and grandkids, but I still felt guilty over missing her 80th birthday party in California. I take some consolation in knowing I was forgiven, just as Patsy forgives all of us our small transgressions.

The best I can do is broadcast a Happy Birthday to Pat, along with Happy New Year wishes to all the once-and-twice-removed cousins who gathered last week and all those three-times-removed cousins to come!

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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