Fuck cancer

(A note, before I begin: there is going to be a nonzero number of you who know me in Real Life and also knew Becky. Her parents, who I know, and sister, who I really don’t, are on Facebook and have been monitoring her page. She followed Luther, but was not friends with his account. If her family sees this, they see it, but I would appreciate it if no one goes out of their way to bring it to their attention. I am, as will probably become clear pretty quickly, writing it for me, not for them, if that makes any sense. Thank you.)

Becky Arney died yesterday. She used to pull my hair in fifth grade, and now she’s gone.

She was two months younger than me, and had been fighting cancer for nine Goddamned years. She spent most of the last month of her life in the hospital until her family finally decided she’d had enough and brought her home.

Nine damn years. The cancer started off as a small-cell cervical cancer that, as far as I ever understood, had a five-year life expectancy just north of “you’re kidding, right?” and she managed nine years. I think it was actually liver failure that got her in the end; the cancer was in remission for a while but then popped up in a bunch of other organs and that was the essential body part that gave out first.

The biggest problem I’ve ever had in my life is being able to see my feet past my ample fucking gut and this badass bitch got handed a life where she had to beat the shit out of cancer on a daily basis for nine fucking years in her thirties and forties. And frankly she did not lead the sort of life prior to getting cancer that was going to lead to gold-plated health insurance, either. She worked in the arts. She worked in prop design. I can only imagine the extent of the medical bills.

She was my first real crush, in fifth grade. If you look at my fourth grade yearbook there’s one particular girl whose picture I drew a green box around, but I don’t remember anything about falling for her. My unrequited thing for Becky lasted two or three years, at least. It was a Thing for a While. She knew; I’m sure she did. There was one particular field trip in sixth grade to a museum in Chicago where she spent the whole day letting me take her picture next to dinosaur bones and then sat behind me and intermittently pulled my hair the whole way home. She knew. By high school we were friends; we drifted apart when I left for college and then reconnected via Facebook just after I moved home and got married.

The last time I saw her, I was with my wife and son at Bob Evans, of all the goddamn places, and she just happened to be there with her grandmother. It was the only time she ever met my son; my wife was a couple of years behind us in high school so they already knew each other. When I killed my personal Facebook account, she didn’t send Luther a friend request, but she continued to follow the page, and I got updates from my wife.

She lived with her grandmother after she got sick. Imagine that. Imagine being old enough to be a grandmother to someone in their forties and you eventually have to bury them. I can’t do it.

There is not going to be a funeral, which is good, because I am generally not good at funerals at the best of times and I think there’s a good chance that “absolutely everyone from high school is there!” will not qualify as The Best of Times. She was that person who had every single person from our graduating class she could find and a sizable number of the kids from within a couple of years of us on her friends list. The eventual “celebration of life” that her obituary alludes to will be a de facto high school reunion. I have already skipped three high school reunions. I don’t know that I can make myself go to this one. We’ll see.

I’m not old enough to have to be writing this shit yet. She wasn’t old enough that I should have been writing this about her. She should have been raising the kids she never got to have, or doing whatever else the hell she wanted to do if she didn’t want to have kids. I can only assume that a cancer diagnosis at 33 can tend to alter your plans.

I used to tell people that I wasn’t really scared of anything, other than blindness, which was my greatest fear for most of my life. But for the last few days, which have been spent mostly restraining the urge to ask my wife to check Facebook again to see if her family has posted any updates, I’ve gotten this cold sort of existential horror in my gut every time I’ve looked at my son. Because apparently I’ve reached the age where people my age start dying of fucking cancer and so that’s a thing I need to start worrying about. About leaving him behind, before either of us is ready. About, hell, something happening to him. Because she was young, but it ain’t like cancer is especially discriminating, now, is it? And it’s not like this has been unique to the last few days– she had had cancer for two years before my son was even born, and one thing every parent becomes familiar with very quickly after their first child is born is the notion of their own mortality.

(This is what I meant when I said I was writing this for me, by the way.)

I don’t know. I don’t have a cute or clever way to end this, so I’m just going to stop writing.

Fuck cancer.

Three Christmas anecdotes

FIRST: I have been firmly on the Don’t Buy Me Anything train for Christmas for several years now, but this year my wife and I agreed to exchange one gift each. My wife won with this gift, which is an assortment of beard-grooming tools: a brush, which is gonna get used multiple times a day, beard-specific shampoo, which will get used as often as I need to use it, and beard balm and beard oil, which … well, we’ll see. This is actually just about the perfect Christmas gift, really– something that I would never have thought to buy for myself in a million years and would never have guessed that she’d gotten me in advance, but which I immediately realized upon receiving that it’s something I needed and am going to use all the time.

It is also a subtle dig at my hygiene, which a lesser person might choose to take as an insult but which I’m deciding I’m entertained by. ūüôā

SECOND: My son received three different gifts that he already had. One was a set of Minecraft sheets, which both my wife and her sister bought him in a bit of a communications breakdown. Second was a Transformer. I’m kind of irritated about the Transformer; he got it because he brought it to me in the comic shop last week and announced that he wanted me to buy it. I reminded him that Christmas was in a couple of days and made him put it back, then immediately took it to the counter and asked them to hold onto it until I could come back without the boy and buy it. They did, and I did. The second he unwrapped it he announced he already had it and went and produced the original figure. Then he argued with me about whether he’d picked it out or not.

Like. Dude. Yes the fuck you did. That’s the only reason I bought the goddamn thing.

THIRD: Okay, maybe technically this is two-and-a-half anecdotes, but whatever. He also got one of these two tumbler cars from my mom and dad. He already had one of these, too, but he immediately decided he was excited about having two because now we can race them. So, OK. No problem there. The punchline: I’m pretty sure they alsobought¬†him¬†the¬†original¬†one.

My mom just called a few minutes ago. My dad was in their office looking for something. He found a third bright red Sharper Image tumbler car in the office while he was looking for whatever he was looking for.

Apparently Mom and Dad really want my kid to have this toy.

In which I discover a new WordPress feature that I probably won’t use very often

Wait, I can put words here?

Several times in the last five or six years I’ve done the year-end blogwanking roundup on Christmas Eve, with the justification that no one is on the internets today so it’s a great day to write a completely irrelevant damn post. The problem is that right now I’m about 1750 pageviews away from passing last year’s traffic, which would be the first traffic gain in several years. I’m a few thousand back on individual visitors, but views have a chance of being up. And I kinda don’t want to write that post until I know?

What I need for Christmas is for one or two of you to take an hour and go through the archives.(*) 1750 pageviews in 7 days is an unlikely week under the best of circumstances, and the week of Christmas and New Year’s? I may as well go ahead and write the blogwanking post. But it’s possible. Highly unlikely. But possible.

In other news: I took the boy to get a much-needed haircut today, which marks the last time that I ought to need to leave the house between now and going to the comic shop on Wednesday, which suits me right down to the ground. We’ll have family in tomorrow, and I’m pretty sure we have every single thing we could possibly need here, and the shopping’s all done, so barring some sort of surprise I ought to have a couple of days where I don’t technically need to wear pants if I don’t want to. Which, hey, that’s what the Christmas season is all about, right? Jesus didn’t wear pants. That’s in the Bible somewhere. I have an MA in Biblical studies, I know these things.

Anyway. I hope you’re happy and with family for the next couple of days, unless your family makes you unhappy, in which case I hope you’re happy and literally anywhere else.

(* ETA: I just remembered I actually did this once. Randomly came across a WordPress blog at OtherJob back when I still worked at OtherJob, and the guy needed X number of hits to reach some amount of traffic for the year. I was alone and at work and bored and I literally went through every post on his blog twice just for the sheer hell of it to put him over the top. I’m mostly not serious when I suggest someone do this, for the record, but I HAVE actually done it once. ūüôā )

How to Christmas with a kitten

The tree has lights but no real ornaments (the boy hung some toys on it) and the vacuum is right next to it, plugged in. If the kitten touches the tree, we turn on the vacuum.

Works really well.

In which it is finished and so am I

Pictured: not my plate.

I’m fortunate in that I don’t actually have a crazy racist uncle to avoid sitting next to at Thanksgiving. ¬†I have four uncles– or, at least, I have four blood¬†uncles, not counting various men my aunts are married to, and of the four I have perhaps one and a half relationships with them. ¬†None of them to my knowledge are racist. ¬†“Crazy” is kind of ableist and well okay one of my uncles could very well be schizophrenic but I’m still not about to use that word to describe him. ¬†

The point is, whatever issues I might have with Thanksgiving, I don’t particularly have any family members I need to avoid, because it’s pretty much the same eight to twelve people at every Thanksgiving dinner and none of them are going to cause trouble. ¬†I snapped at my mother-in-law¬†once¬†during a family meal a couple of years ago but I don’t think it was Thanksgiving, and also she’s not alive any longer so it’s unlikely to repeat itself. ¬†Nah, any trouble I have with this holiday is found squarely within 1) my intense dislike of false piety (You Will Be Thankful For Stuff On This Specific Day kinda gets on my nerves) and 2) my general desire to, like, never do stuff. ¬†I love my family, y’all, but¬†three¬†people live in this house and any time that number goes up by much more than 100% I’m gonna get twitchy no matter how much I like them. ¬†

At any rate, wherever you are, I hope you didn’t have to fight with anyone today, and I hope if you did, at least the food was worth it. ¬†I’m gonna spend the rest of the night watching She-Ra on Netflix and playing Red Dead Redemption 2.

(Next year, I’m making macaroni and cheese, by the way.)