First, may I say Happy Birthday to my dad. A, shall we say, indeterminate number of years ago my siblings & I & all our beloveds descended upon Seattle for his 60th birthday, and got him the truly modern gift of love: a large flatscreen TV. Today I can’t be with my dad, but I am sending him at least a flatsceen TV’s amount of love from afar.

Today, however, I am one among several descended upon Madison, Wisconsin because Dave’s dad has been battling/struggling/insert-your-own-term with cancer for the better part of this past year, and we wanted (well, and still want) to spend time with him. Needless to say, it’s all been a scary and stressful process – though so, so much better with a lot of family gathered together.

Now, you might be saying: That seems like a sufficient amount of crap for one set of people to deal with. Certainly a sufficient amount of cancer. Maybe someone could be struggling with their complicated emotions, or break a toe, or have their favorite large-flatscreen-TV show cancelled. Maybe I could spill some coffee on a library book.

Two weeks ago The Daily Show went on a hiatus, and we thought, yeah, that’s kind of annoying.

But. Not long after Jon Stewart left for his vacation my brother-in-law Ryan started getting some weird asthma symptoms, and then some truly troubling swelling in his head and arm. After a few days of this we managed to convince him to go to the doctor, assuming he’d get a shot of steroids for weird Madison-drought allergies and that would be the end of it.

Instead, what the doctor actually diagnosed him with (and,truly, thank god for that urgent care doctor’s sharp thinking) was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This lead to a frightening and startling swift series of events: lung biopsy, late-night ER visit, hospital stay, chemo. Dave and I found out about the diagnosis after returning from an overnight canoe trip on the two hottest days Madison has experienced in a decade. It all feels more than a bit surreal.

Luckily, Ryan’s prognosis is completely excellent. But, as I’ve told him, I can’t quite shake the feeling that this is some parallel universe and back in Tucson healthy Ry is going to Crossfit and eating every day at Little Cafe Poca Cosa. Perhaps, Ryan offered, we created a doppelg√§nger* of him to bring to Madison, and it was our hubris and imperfect scientific knowledge that caused this chain of events to unfold.

Maybe that’s how human beings always react to terrible shock. By stepping away from it, even as it rushes at them, submerges them, and rushes by.

In any case, screw this, universe.

 

*For those who watch a lot of Doctor Who, I imagine our tools to be something akin to the Flesh.