I first heard the word cancer connected to someone I knew when I was 10 or 11 years old. Anthony was a family friend who had an on-again off-again battle with leukemia for a large part of his childhood and adult life. I think I knew Anthony for a little over a year before I begin to suspect that he might have been sick with something and that maybe that was why he never took off his baseball cap, even indoors, even in the middle of summer. I’ve lost count how many times my parents have told me “you’re too smart for your own good” and that is one day when I wish I had been wrong. My folks explained about how cancer in general, and leukemia in particular works. For a while I sat still in the statue, processing the fact that my friend, who always let me beat him in our “swordfights”with foam weapons which he would fight kneeling to make up for the fact that I could not stand, who always seemed to have just enough change in his packet to pay for two sodas out of the machine in my dad’s comic store, was going to die and there wasn’t anything anybody could do about it. He died before the next year ended. He spent the last two weeks of his life in a coma on life support but the day before he slipped into the coma he drove to the comic book shop and hugged me goodbye. To this day my dad and I believe that he drove there specifically to say goodbye to me.I don’t remember cutting my hair beyond the smallest trims until spring break my freshman year at college. I suddenly knew that I would cut off my hair every few years and donate it to be made into wigs for cancer patients. Every time I get my haircut I always tell the stylist about Anthony. My sister took me one time while were we both in college and afterwards over lunch she told me that she had not previously known I had a particular reason for cutting my hair. This didn’t surprise me because Morgan is two years younger than me and wasn’t nearly as close to Anthony as I had been.
What did surprise me was that my dad had not had the slightest clue about my reasoning until my sister told him. I think we must’ve been on spring break again when she took me to get my haircut that time because I remember dad coming into my room at home shortly after I had gone to bed and telling me that Morgan had told him about the trip and about the things I had said. He told me that even though I had been doing it for years it had never occurred to him that Anthony was my reason. He also said he was proud of me.
There is one other thing I do remember Anthony and you, my blog readers, are witnessing it. Anthony died at the age of 24 and so the year I turned 25 I started what would become, though I did not know it at the time, a series of posts titled “Life, Death, and Disney.” In case you haven’t read the other posts the Disney part is a reference to the fact that the baseball cap he always wore had Snow White’s seven dwarves embroidered on it.I write the posts as a means of connection and so that people will know that an awesome person lived and died and in that brief span of 24 years made the world better than it was when he came to it.I believe that is a life goal everyone should have.