So this post will go up on Thanksgiving. I wrote them all together, ahead of time, but decided to space them out instead of inflicting a Wall of Text on the world.
Thanksgiving is a lot of people’s favorite holiday, give that the preparation is minimal compared to Christmas, and the effect longer; it’s a particularly good meal, followed by some football and napping. Low obligation, high reward; the opposite of Christmas where you spend four weeks frantically preparing for ten minutes of unwrapping.
Perhaps this is bad timing then, but when your bad times come unrelenting, you reach for any excuse to keep silent. You don’t want to become the life hypochondriac, the person who others dread to ask “So how are things going?” and fearing an honest answer. But here, I suppose, on the web, people can stop reading at any time. So onwards.
2010 is going to be a very long year, in the sense that the 1800s were a very long century; they began rightly in 1789 and ended in 1914. The 20th was thankfully short, extending only from 1914-1989. Just so, my 2010 began in July 2009, a night where I was in a bar during camp having late night appetizers and drinks and conversation about debate while back home my grandfather died.
This was an ordinary tragedy, though a sudden one. He was 78 years old, a lifelong smoker, didn’t suffer a long illness, and was starting to lose mental acuity. He’d forget sometimes whether he’d eaten lunch that day. He was tired, and would not have wanted a long twilight of semi-helplessness. We miss him terribly; he’s the first loss in my core family, the first one missing who was always there every holiday. But I have a hard time begrudging it. I knew my grandfather for 31 years; I would not insult the memory of his long and good life by suggesting it was too short.
Next the new family, the Smiths, who I’d only just started to know and see, suffered twin horrors. My uncles Curtis and Ron were both diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer months apart from each other. At the time, I didn’t realize how quick and short things would be. I regret that now; Ron died in April, and Curtis followed in June. The loss to me personally is one of potential; I didn’t know them well, and now never will. But I tried to share the loss of their families as best I could, to lessen it what little I might. If you’re in a family for three months or three decades, family they still are.
On January 30th, 2010, my father was then diagnosed, when he fell into seizures from a brain tumor that started from the cancer in his own lungs. I was at a speech tournament at the time. The next two weeks were a blur of sudden drives and surgery and research and a dawning realization. Extensive small cell lung cancer is not something that is survived; the average life expectancy on diagnosis is 6-12 months. By two years time all but a handful are gone.
Dad has outlasted the 6 months, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t outlast the 12. How much beyond that, we do not know, but it’s likely measured in months. Small cell lung cancer spreads quickly, but also is more responsive to treatment, and his has been held at bay so far. But the treatment is almost as bad as the disease; it weakens you, takes your appetite, and slowly takes your will. It’s hard to extend a life when that life is not one you want to lead.
My aunt Carol, my father’s sister — I have several aunt Carols on various branches — is in the late stages of COPD, which is the family of disease that includes emphysema. She likely has little time left. My grandmother is in the early stages. The doctors put her on oxygen a few weeks ago. Any real danger can be years and years away, but the oxygen has rattled her a lot, and robbed her of her freedom.
Those are the facts on the ground, as it were. I have a very large family, and a large family means a lot of weddings, and a lot of funerals. But the funerals should come when people are 95 years old and tired of everything. 55 is not a good age for a funeral.
The next post will be about the changes. But I will extract one bit of meaning from the above litany. Every single one of these events was added to, or entirely caused, by smoking cigarettes. Why are these things even legal?