I am lucky to have had one of those safe, happy, normal childhoods. That childhood included fun parents, amazing grandparents with great life stories, and a neighborhood that was like an extended family. I married a guy with a similar story. When I think about the people who helped craft that reality, I realize that of the ones who are gone, nearly all are gone because cancer took them.
Tonight, right now, out at the high school track there are people participating in Relay for Life. They are walking all night to raise money to fight the thing that took someone they love. It’s an amazing night, I’ve dropped by before and you feel surrounded by hope. I’m thinking of four people I love that this disease took.
I met my friend Barb on our first day of kindergarden, she lived across the street. Her dad was an architect. I think what I remember most about him is in 1980, on a drive to Steamboat, he was playing classical music in the car. I was enthralled, and he said simply “I love strings”. I do too, thanks, Will, for teaching me about them.
My grandpa was a biochemist, avid gardener, loved to polish rocks and make bolo ties out of them, and told the most incredible stories. He started life on a farm with oil lamps and an outhouse, and ended it after the first space shuttle missions. He adored every minute of the changes he witnessed. He was friends with the guy who invented nylon. He died before I was mature enough to really listen, but in spite of myself I learned a lot from him. Thanks, Harry, for passing your science-geek genes to me.
His wife, my grandma, was funny, opinionated, had full use of her vocal and verbal faculties, and did not suffer fools. She was also a professional opera singer. My mother once told me that I scare her when I’m angry because I’m exactly like her mom. She was one of those women who showed you how deep and intense her love was by trying to make you the absolute best human being you could possibly be. Scary when you’re little, but shows you who you are. I missed out on knowing her well, but I guess all I really need to do is look inside and there she is. Thanks, Dorcas, for not insisting I be named for you.
And Rob’s dad, the farmer/volunteer/veteran, the kindest soul I’ve ever met. Insight and realism, a man of gentle humor and deep commitment. He promised god that if he survived war in Korea and could just get home to marry his love, he would go to church every week, and he didn’t break that promise once. He carried rocks in his pocket so his great-grandkids would have good ones to skip on the lake. When I got sick during his last days he was more worried about me than himself. Thanks, Bob, for being you.
That’s why Relay for Life happens. One of these days, stories like this will have better endings. Hope is a powerful thing.