Danny was my cousin. He was my mother’s brother’s son (and only child). He was my grandfather’s only grandson who bore his name. I never knew his mother. She passed away long ago. My uncle, his father, passed away a few years ago. Though he wasn’t truly alone in the world, he sort of was. Danny chose to live apart (emotionally) from his extended family. He wasn’t always like that.
I have a “thing” for people who are “different”…for people who live a little bit on the fringe. Danny? He was a fringe liver. I have this one memory of Danny that never fails to make me smile. When I was a young teenager and Danny was probably 18 or 19 years old, many of the family were together at “Rancho Mono” up in the Santa Ynez valley. Rancho Mono for a time was the family compound. The big house wasn’t built yet and the main meeting space was a large double-wide trailer. Was it Thanksgiving? Perhaps. Anyway, the trailer was full and loud and a bunch of the cousins decided to take a tape deck and go for a walk out in the pitch black night. Though much older than us, Danny came with us. I remember he was wearing some crazy get-up including brightly colored high tops (were they red?) and a pair of wildly bleached and spotted Levi’s jeans. And bandanas were involved. We were listening to the B-52’s sing “Rock Lobster”, and Danny was dancing and singing with abandoned. Danny had this laugh was absolutely infectious. And he had big curly brown hair. He had a devilish grin, and to always looked like he was hatching some sort of nefarious plot. I really liked Danny.
That was the last time I saw Danny really being free. He moved to Las Vegas and I only saw him once after that. I was in Vegas and knew he worked at a casino so we went looking for him. He seemed happy to see us, but later I learned that he developed a dislike of people coming to see him at work. He struggled with emotional health and mental health all of his adulthood.
At times in his life, Danny disassociated himself from reality and society. I hadn’t heard anything about him for probably 8 or 9 years, until this past friday morning. I was driving to Denver International Airport and my Mom called to tell me that Danny had died.
Danny was one of the people in my life and more importantly in my family that I was always a little bit heart-broken at his rejection. He didn’t reject me personally, but he rejected our family as a whole. I was glad to hear though that he had been living with one of his maternal aunts and had been “doing well”. Early death from cardiac arrest (that’s all I know about that) runs in his maternal lineage. Danny was not even 50.
I can’t say I’ll miss Danny since he wasn’t present in my life. But I miss that he never was, and now, never will be.
May God bless you, Danny.