RIP, Chadwick Boseman

I took a moment last night, before I told my wife what had happened, to hold my breath and double-check that the news of Chadwick Boseman’s death wasn’t a cruel fucking hoax. I found out on Twitter, which is where I find out when anyone dies nowadays, and it was amazing how my timeline went from whatever it’s usually about to 100% Chadwick Boseman in a matter of two or three minutes.

I don’t know what I would have said yesterday if you’d asked me how old I thought he was. I’m weird about celebrities; I tend to assume that anyone who isn’t obviously a teenager is older than me even if that doesn’t quite make sense. Chadwick Boseman was 43; a little bit over a year younger than me. And he has been battling colon cancer for basically as long as I’ve known he existed. And no one knew about it.

He had colon cancer while he was filming Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame and three or four other movies that I haven’t seen and no one knew about it. There were some recent pictures circulating where he’d clearly lost an unhealthy amount of weight; I hadn’t seen any of them, and whatever speculation might have been floating around never crossed my radar, so this was a bolt out of the blue.

It hit me harder than I might have guessed it would, and my head was all over the place to the point where I took one of my emergency Bad Brain Day pills before going to bed. Just one more way in which 2020 has been awful. This will be all my students want to talk about on Monday, too, and I feel terrible for my black students in particular, who have just had one of their genuine heroes torn away from them.

… he had cancer the whole fucking time, guys. I can’t wrap my head around that. The whole. fucking. time. And he’s younger than me. And no one even knew he was sick.

I just … I still can’t cope with it. Fuck this. Fuck cancer, and fuck 2020, and fuck cancer again.

Rest in power, sir.

RIP, Richard Ira Siler, 1935-2020

One of the odder changes in my life since the coronavirus became a thing is that I’ve become the type of person who scans the obituaries every couple of days. It’s rather surprising how many people I’ve found that I know at least tangentially; the former owner of OtherJob, an occasional relative of a student, that sort of thing.

And today I came across Richard Ira Siler’s obituary, and … well, it raised an eye.

Luther Michael Siler, remember, is a pen name. Each of the three names is a family name; Luther is my paternal grandfather’s first name, Michael is my mother’s maiden name, and Siler is my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. As it works out, my great-grandfather’s name was Jesse Siler.

And damned if this gentleman doesn’t have a “J. Clifford Siler” as his father’s name and a “Jesse Jr.” among his brothers. I have seen Jesse Siler’s grave; he is buried next to his second wife (my great-grandmother divorced him, which must have been quite a thing back then) whose name is Minnie Jo Buck, according to her tombstone. Richard Siler’s mother’s name is Miriam Siler, according to the obituary; it doesn’t seem that much of a stretch that Miriam might have been called Minnie. My grandmother was born in 1917 and was the oldest child, so Jesse still having children in 1935 with his second (or possibly even third, as the family seems to have mostly lost track of him after the divorce) wife is entirely possible. Hell, my mom’s oldest sister and youngest brother are 17 years apart.

If I search the Internet for “Jesse C. Siler,” I find an ancestry.com link for “Jesse Clifford Siler,” too, so it seems entirely reasonable to believe that that’s the same guy, and further confirmation that “J” stands for “Jesse,” as if there’s any real chance that it wouldn’t given that there’s a Jesse Jr. in the family. I didn’t look any further, because I’m not signing up for ancestry.com at the moment, but I’m willing to take that as evidence enough, given what else we have in front of us.

So it looks like this guy was my (half?) first cousin once removed, or at least is reasonably likely to have been. I never met him and never knew he existed until about twenty minutes ago, but he seems to have been a lovely fellow. I hope his family is holding up as well as they can be under the circumstances, and may his memory be a blessing.

(The punch line: Great-grandpa Jesse’s first wife, my biological great-grandmother, was named Juanita. Her maiden name? Pence. My uncle assures me that he has dug into it and we are not related to That Pence, but it’s skeevy enough just that there’s a chance.)

(EDIT: The plot thickens. I just spent half an hour digging through a bunch of paperwork my dad gave me after mom passed away, and it looks like “my” Jesse Siler was Jesse Edward, not Jesse Clifford. J.E. Siler’s father was Harry, and it was his wife who was Minnie Jo. I don’t have any additional information about his family– no siblings or anything like that. I continue to think the guy is a cousin of some sort but the 1st-once-removed link now looks a bit less likely.)

(Also, George Washington Pence’s obituary, dated 1903, if I remember right, is a trip. I may try to get a good scan of it and post the whole thing.)

I don’t have it today

Losing John Lewis and C.T. Vivian in the same damn day was rough. I was not prepared to discover how much Lewis’ death, in particular, was going to fuck me up. Losing both of them in the same week where Grant Imahara died out of nowhere and Naya Rivera’s body was found after she drowned saving her child … which, like, I’m not really a Glee fan but that story is going to mess up anyone with children, right? That shit starts to border on unfair, or at least it would if it wasn’t already 2020 and literally everything in the world wasn’t fucked up as is. Oh, and the federal government is kidnapping people off the fucking streets in unmarked cars.

I’m trying to use the word literally less frequently but I feel like its presence in that previous paragraph is justified.

Point is, I’m not really all here today, and all I really have brain cycles for is rage and despair, and I’ve spent most of the day trying to ignore that and channel my nervous energy into fucking video games, which … could I at least channel it into, like, cleaning, or something to make me useful to my family in some way? No, apparently.

Go hug somebody. I don’t even care who; chances are they need it.

Mizu, 1998-2020

Mizu, frequently referred to here as the Great Old One, decided last week that eating wasn’t something she was especially interested in any longer, and I bowed to necessity and had to have her put to sleep yesterday afternoon. I got her right after starting graduate school in 1998; she was a kitten, having been born (in Japan, believe it or not) in March; I probably got her in September or October. She was 22 years old, was the first pet who was really mine, and has been with me for my entire adult life.

Despite how I usually react to these things, I’m finding that I don’t really want to talk about this one. I’m having a very hard time with this. I hope everyone understands.

In which I have reawakened the beast

… not for roleplaying, mind you– for buying dice. I took my son to the Griffon yesterday and it somehow managed to end up costing me fifty bucks, coming home with a new set of dice for him and my wife (each) and several totally unnecessary new sets of dice for me, including that metal d20 right in the middle there. I have, since then, taken to perusing Amazon for full sets of metal dice, since the Griffon’s metal collection appears to be limited to individually purchased d20s and not entire sets.

I have enough dice. I already had enough dice before I bought more dice yesterday, and I do not need to buy more dice to complement the more dice I just bought and the many dice I already had, and the part of my brain that is going dude your mom just died you’re entitled to blow some money on bullshit that makes you happy needs to shut up and go away. If I’m not careful I’m gonna end up with a dice tower this week and I don’t need that even more than I don’t need more dice.

The boy, meanwhile, is getting more demanding on a daily basis that we actually start playing. We’re gonna have to start designing characters soon. I mean, hell, we’ve got the stuff, right?


On a more serious note, I want to take a moment and thank everyone who sent thoughts or prayers or well wishes or sympathy or naked pictures or really anything my way regarding the loss of my mom this week. I was originally planning on going back to work tomorrow but I don’t think I’m quite ready yet; I’ve been reasonably busy the last couple of days and I think I need a day to be alone and quietly stare at the wall, by which I mean “read and play video games,” before I go back. I am doing a thing right now where I feel like this process should be harder, because I have not at any point in the last few days cracked open like an eggshell or collapsed into a sobbing heap, and everyone around me has told me that there is no wrong way to mourn, so believe me, I have heard the message. There is still a lot to be done, but I need some normalcy, too, and a couple of days at work worrying about other people’s problems– which, I note, will be immediately followed by a three-day weekend, since Monday is MLK day– will actually do me some good, I think.

And, hey, if you really feel bad for me and want to do something, you could always buy me more dice.

(That was a joke. Do not buy me more dice.)