By Douglas Farmer

When one sister lives in Wisconsin and another in Florida, their kids can go 20 years without crossing paths. It’s what happens amid school, summer activities and 1,500 miles.

A mere decade ago, my parents and I spent an afternoon with Aunt Holly, but my cousin Peter was in school. We had my brother’s basketball game to get to that night nearly three hours away.

So when my mother slid into Peter’s seat at a Cracker Barrel in Florida this summer, I hadn’t seen him since sometime in 1996. As he returned from the restroom, Peter found the only spot available at the 18-person table, between another of our cousins and myself.

After a long day, what do you talk about with a stranger who happens to share half your gene pool? Between bites of a passable chicken potpie, I seized the only material evident—the Seahawks logo on Peter’s polo.

A lifelong fan of both the Packers and Notre Dame, I have a unique distaste for Seattle’s head coach, Pete Carroll, formerly of USC. I took a tongue-in-cheek shot at Carroll—at least I hoped it came across as tongue-in-cheek. How do I know if this unknown person waiting on a country-fried shrimp platter will catch my attempt at humor? But Peter replied without missing a beat, reminding me of Carroll’s greatest triumph at Notre Dame many years ago.

(Note: I did not say USC beat Notre Dame. I phrased that very particularly. Some wounds never heal.)

A self-deprecating remark later and the two of us were giving grief to his uncle at the other end of the table, wearing a Red Sox shirt. Peter stopped as if he could see the server approaching with his plate.

“Grandma quietly rooted for them,” he said. We had just come from her interment.

“But Carp (our grandfather) was a Yankees fan,” I replied. He is why both Peter and I support the Pinstripes, despite growing up in Florida and Wisconsin.

Peter gestured to his younger sister, my age, halfway down the table—a Red Sox fan. “If it made Manda happy, it made Grandma happy.”

“I am going to choose to refuse to believe that,” I said.

As we finished off the cornbread, Peter and I meandered from the Seahawks to Aaron Rodgers to Russell Wilson, pausing for a thorough analysis of UW-Madison athletics. We moved on to Peter’s alma mater, Central Florida, and its most recent headline-grabbing abysmal football season.

We were catching up on two decades, acknowledging grief and finding a bond one could expect from cousins separated by only two years, even if also by half a continent.

Three weeks later I went to a Yankees-Red Sox game. I sent a message to Peter and Amanda each. One positive, the other negative, they shared intent.

When Peter gets married this October, we’ll share a moment lamenting Boston’s postseason success. Hopefully Amanda won’t hear us. Or, maybe, hopefully she will.

Douglas Farmer grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin, before covering sports across the country with stops at The Los Angeles Times, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Dallas Morning News. He graduated from Aquinas High School in 2008 and from the University of Notre Dame in 2012, and now spends his professional time keeping an eye on the latter’s football team.