Last Tag

My dad’s side of the family plays this game.  Last Tag.  I’m not sure where it came from or who invented it, but it is the ultimate version of tag and to this day, not one family visit has ended without it.  The rules are simple.  The same ones as tag, except with a nice twist. You only play this right before you’re about to leave, because the point is to tag as many family members as you can last.

The game begins when the family visit ends (and I mean literally coming to an end…bags are packed, car is ready – sometimes, the car is even on).  Everyone will be hugging and saying goodbye.  Up to this point, things are good, normal.  We are the frickin’ Brady Bunch.  But then, someone will go in for a hug to say goodbye and as they pull away, a hand swings back to hit them in the arm and the crucial words are uttered: “Last tag.”

And all pandemonium breaks loose.

Usually, an aunt or uncle starts it.  But the moment those words are spoken, there are no more hugs or sweet goodbyes.  The gloves are off and a seemingly-normal family is turned into a crazed bunch of animals running through the streets, the house, the yards with only one thought in mind: I MUST WIN.

Now, the aunts and uncles, the grandparents – they’re easy.  All you really have to watch out for are the quick tag-backs, because they’ll only chase you for so long.  Once you wear them down, you just gotta tag them and jump away before their longer, lightning-quick arms (or legs – there’s no limb discrimination with the tags) snap out to get you.  It’s the cousins that are the true challenge.

It’s the cousins that run through the neighborhood…run in the middle of the streets…  That refuse, REFUSE, to give up.  To give in.  To surrender.  Okay, maybe it’s mainly me and my cousin Edward who have been trying to outdo each other in this game, since the beginning of our wee little lives…but still…

This game can extend actually leaving by over an hour.  It’s usually ended, because the adults (I say this, but this is exactly what happened last time we played about 8 months ago and I am well into adulthood – so, here adults means the OLDER adults) will either holler at their kid that the car is about to go or will literally start driving towards them.  This is key.  If you can get in that car and slam the door shut and lock it and make sure the windows are rolled up and have tagged your target last, well, you’ve won.  Really, it’s about tagging everyone (or Edward) and getting in the car safely.  If you’re not the one leaving, a good strategy can be to also get in the car, especially if you can do so first without the other person knowing and surprise attack them and hop outta the car.  Doesn’t always work out great but if it does – that’s the best!

It’s my favorite (albeit chaotic) family tradition.

At my sister’s funeral we had a place to write down messages and memories of my sister, my cousin (Edward’s brother) wrote her a message and ended it with: Last Tag.

I found this to be perfect.  The perfect send off from a cousin, from our family really.  And, I’ve been thinking about this lately, because – well, soon my sister will have been gone for two years……and because, the cousins I’ve mentioned – their father just died.

It was completely unexpected.  And although my cousins are adults, they’ve still lost their dad. I don’t want them to have to go through this.

Eight months ago, he was their getaway driver.  He was giggling evilly at me, as I was scowling at him through the car window for helping them escape.  Eight months ago, he was here, still playing Last Tag, in all its glory.  And now, he’s gone.

So, as my cousin wrote to my sister, I will now write it to my uncle.

Last Tag, Uncle.

I’ll miss you.