Chele is my second cousin, although genetically I suppose she's more my first cousin. Or one-and-a-halfth, maybe? Her grandfather and mine were brothers, and our grandmothers were sisters. Someday I'll sit down and puzzle it out.
Anyway, I met Chele and her brother when they visited my grandparents in Goldendale around 1980 or so. She was two years older than I was and he was right in between, so we hit it off pretty well. Chele's family had been in Germany at the same time my grandparents were, so they'd grown pretty close. In fact, to hear my grandpa talk, Chele and her brother were the best grandchildren they'd ever had. (I mentioned them here.) She was a nice girl, if somewhat reserved. Being the hyperactive boy I was, I didn't really notice.
I saw Chele off and on at family functions over our teenage years. She shows up in this video a couple of times: a pretty, dark-haired 19- or 20-year-old. The last time I actually saw her was in 1994, when my dad was in the hospital for the last time. She looked nothing like the girl I remembered. She was wearing heavy makeup and tight clothing, and she generally had the look of an angry woman who had grown up too quickly and with too little self-worth. I was kind of sad for her. I didn't know why.
Now I know why.
I read her blog from beginning to end this morning with my jaw dropped. I had no idea.
Chele has been through hell and come out singed but standing tall. I'm proud that she's my kin.