My cousin, Stephen Paul Maslen, was born on January 7, 1953, just 7 months before I was. He died of an accidental drowning on December 28, 2014. Our lives intersected growing up with summers at Lake Dunmore, Vermont and other visits. My family was there when his mother passed away when we were teens. As a child I idolized Paul, even though he teased me about being afraid of insects.
Our summers were filled with overlapping vacations at our grandparents’ cabin at Lake Dunmore, Vermont. Summers at Lake Dunmore were the happiest times of my childhood. His father was like my father. He and his siblings, like my siblings.
Paul was my age and it never occurred to me that we wouldn’t grow old at the same time. His death was such a shock and a tragedy. But in addition to being filled with grief, I’m filled with regret. Regret for the separation as our lives went down different paths. Regret for being satisfied with the updates from my uncle. Regret for missing all the opportunities where he could tease me about still being afraid of bugs.
I’m left with fabulous memories of a cousin who was like a brother, until he became more like a cousin, until he became more like a stranger with shared memories of childhood but almost no personal memories of adulthood. I’m left with regret, most of all, for not realizing that this change from being close to almost being strangers was happening.
Paul was, to quote my cousins, “a woodsman, a philosopher, a lover of books and music. A father completely devoted to his children.” His children are his legacy. His impact on forestry in Maryland is his legacy. But his legacy to me is that I will not let this happen again. The close bond of blood and friendship with my cousins, his siblings, is strong again and will be so forever.
Stephen Paul Maslen gave me the gift of childhood and teenage camaraderie, and the realization that we must stay close to those we love. Lots of love, no more regrets for the future. Thank you Paul. I love you and miss you, and I still don’t like bugs.