October 12, 2006
I got word today that a childhood friend has a terrible stomach cancer. He's my age and has a three year old. We haven't had more than 4 or 5 conversations since high school and yet he's someone I've known since I was 5 when we were in kindergarten together. When you grow up in a small town you know everyone's stories; there is a shorthand you have when you run into people—you say hello, exchange pleasantries, give updates. It is a way of being friendly without keeping up a friendship. The last time I saw him he had been recently married and his wife was pregnant.
They say all the surgeries that can be done have been done and he's now just waiting to die. Someone close to him says he has accepted his fate and is peaceful. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. He was the the tennis star, the prom king, and the hometown guy who made good. He left for school but returned home and became a huge success.
When I was a kid I imagined adult life would be a kind of paradise. At age 10 I wrote, "When I'm 30 it will be 1997 (almost 2000!), I'm going to do all the astronomy I want and stay up as late as I want every single night. I'll eat watermelon every day and eat hamburgers cooked on a grill. After work I'll shoot model rockets and on weekends I'll take trips in my hovercar like in Star Wars. I'll probably have a wife who will let me see her boobs whenever I want. We'll read together and go camping and skinny dipping for fun. She'll probably have long hair and a good personality. I'm pretty sure we'll crack each other up. My friends will come over all the time to use the trampolines and the pools in the back." What I couldn't have imagined back then was by age 30 I wouldn't be in regular contact with a single of my childhood friends I had imagined on my trampolines and that by the age of 39 tragedy would have touched so many of them. Still I do stay up rather late, I eat an awful lot of watermelon, and my wife usually has long hair and always has a good personality. We do indeed crack each other up. It is news from home like this that puts all those things in high relief and forces us to pray for small miracles.
Update: Nine days after I wrote this my childhood friend slipped away. I was told he was surrounded by his family and had found some peace with his fate. Although I know his wife and child are well cared for this news has left me with a heavy heart.