No the doctors didn’t tell you that you were dyingAccording to the statistics plainly stated on the bone-white webpage for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, an estimated 139,800 Americans were diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma in 2009. In 1997, Adam was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia while I was worrying that a girl at school didn’t like me.
Adam was the eldest of my cousins, my favorite cousin, a social studies teacher and quite the role model for my younger siblings and myself. He was a lifegaurd, a wannabe musician, a motorcycle enthusiast (against the wishes of his Mom) and very briefly, a husband.
They just collected their money and sent you on your wayFor years I imagined what he did when he found out about the leukemia. He had been teaching at a school in Rochester, New York for about three or four years before he started feeling sick. Adam wasn’t the type to take medication, or get sick easily. That was his younger brother’s job. I remember getting phone calls occasionally from him in the weeks before. Well, actually it was more like my Mom would call him up and see how the weather in Rochester was, and then we’d get a turn to talk to him, if he wasn’t too busy grading papers. Or we’d talk to Jen, his longtime fiancée, who always vaguely smelled of apricots.
But you knew all along, pretending nothing was wrong, You said “I will keep my focus, till the end”I’d imagine this long, lanky fellow that was my cousin, sitting in a doctor’s office with his wide black brimmed glasses and typically wider grin would be sitting on the edge of one of those gurney things, looking down at his feet. He might’ve been humming a Sublime song, considering what he’d pick up for Jen for dinner on his way home when he got the prescription for whatever medicine would knock out the ammonia he figured he had. He might’ve been thinking about the kids in his class, how to ensure he was making the downtrodden kid feel just as respected as the jock kid who was probably bullying him. He’d smile to himself that there had never been a gurney in the history of medical tables tall enough that Adam couldn’t touch his feet to the floor while he was sitting.
And in the journal you kept, by the side of your bed, you wrote nightly in aspiration of developing as an authorHe’d be surprised that the doctor would ask for a blood test. He’d joke about the needle size. He wouldn’t cry or make any sort of noise when the tip pierced his vein. He’d relax when the doctor mentioned to him it was probably nothing. He wouldn’t feel any better for a few days afterwards, but he wouldn’t complain unless pressed by his lovely, tan, wife to be. He wouldn’t be able to deny those dark brown eyes, her straight, flowing hair, or her model-perfect smile. When the doctor would call, he wouldn’t tell her the news until she could sit down. Adam wouldn’t tell his family until a day later. He would sound sure he could beat it.
Confessing childhood secrets, of dressing up in women’s clothes, compulsions you never knew the reasons toI never understood his fascination with donuts. Or with wearing wigs at seemingly inappropriate moments. There was a lot I didn’t know about him, that I always thought I’d get a chance to know later on.
Will everyone, you ever meet or love be just a relationship based on a false presumption?I don’t think any of us knew Adam as well as we would have liked. Even in such a "close" family, everyone needs distance and privacy. I think maybe the only people who ever really saw Adam fully were Jen and Adam's brother Brian. For that, I'm jealous of them.
Despite everyone, you ever meet or love, in the end, will you be all alone?A little while before he died, during a time when a bone-marrow transplant was in the works, Adam was alone in his room fading in and out of pain medications and vomiting from chemo. In the morning when his mother, my aunt, came to visit him and tell him of his grandmother’s condition he responded: “But I saw her last night. She was sitting at the foot of my bed, tapping my toe, and she told me everything was going to be fine.” His mother let Adam know his grandmother died the morning before.
As the disease spread slowly through your body, pumped by your heart to the tips of your arms and your legs. Your greatest fear was that your mind wouldn't last. That coherency and alertness would be the first things to fade. As your hair thinned, as your teeth blackened, as the weight fell off, as the lesions spotted your skin. As you fell to your knees in the center of the stage, as you offered witness your humanity in exchange for the ticket's price. As the lights blended into the continuing noise, as all hope was finally lost.Adam never stopped smiling. He always found a positive way to look at things, even when he knew he was dying. He didn’t want us to remember him as the sickly, paper-thin, attached-to-dialysis, hospital garbed man he was in his final days at the hospital. He wanted us to remember him as he was in real life. How he took center stage at his wedding, and danced with his wife, and could make any and all of us laugh at any given instant.
Adrenaline carried one last thought to fruition. Let this be the end. Let this be the last song. Let this be the end. Let all be forgiven.I can only hope that someday I’ll be half the man my cousin was.
credits-Song lyrics taken from "Searching for a Former Clarity" by Against Me!