For a while at this point, we had begun to pay Rich’s wife Lissette to watch Ryan and Hannah during the afternoons.

After Hannah was born, Sandy had decided that she couldn’t bear to go back to work full-time and do the day care thing.  So we talked to a few people, weighed the pros and cons, and decided to try and make a go of it with Sandy staying home and working part-time as a freelance writer.  She immediately picked up a couple of clients and discovered that it paid fairly well, and at the same time discovered that it’s nearly impossible to work from home when you’re taking care of two babies.  So we hired Lissette, and she would come to our house for a while in the afternoon, play with the kids and do some crafts (which the kids called “arts and crabs”) with them.

This was cool because I got to see Rich more frequently again.  Sometimes he’d come by at the end of Lissette’s “shift” (I don’t know what else you’d call it), and we’d have dinner and drinks together.  Other times he’d just swing by so he could hang out and talk, watch a movie, listen to music, whatever.

I didn’t care what the circumstances were, it was just nice to have him around again.  It gave us an incentive to talk through details about Razortone, and also to talk through another project we’d begun a few years back – a private email list devoted to business; an invite-only list that consisted of perhaps 20 people, pooling their ideas, collaborating, and discussing current events.  According to Rich, it was a great way to re-capture those discussions we used to have when we lived in Lodi and a bunch of us lived close to each other.  Rich spent a lot of time reviewing new products, trends in business, or marketing concepts and summarizing them to post on the mailing list.  And it turned into a fun thing for both of us, as well as the 15 or 20 other people who we invited to participate.

For a while, Rich was inbetween jobs, and when he took his new job, he had to wait the standard 90 days before his health insurance kicked in.  He had been feeling some general fatigue, and since it had been a while since he’d gone to the doctor, he wanted to go get a physical.  He didn’t think that much of it; he was sort of a night owl and wasn’t in great physical condition.

Once he got to the doctor, they noticed some weird anomalies about his blood, or his vital signs or something.  I don’t remember a lot of the details, but they decided that they needed to bring him in for more tests.  Because of his family medical history (his mother had died of colon cancer when she was just 35), they wanted to be extra-cautious and make sure he was right.

And when the tests came back, things were not right.

I was in the basement when he called, working on something or other.  And I could hear pretty quickly that it was something important, and had pretty much figured out what it was based on Sandy’s tone – when she first answered the phone, she was clearly happy to hear from him and was pleasant and small-talky.  Within a few seconds, though, she was speaking in serious, hushed tones.  So I guess when she came down the steps, I already knew.

I took the phone from her, and we talked for a few minutes, circling around it as if it wasn’t there.  And eventually, he just said “So, I have cancer.”

From there, there wasn’t much to say.  He had to have an exploratory surgery done, and a barrage of tests, to find out the extent to which the disease had spread, and to plot out a course of action.

You spend a week or so on pins and needles, I guess, when it’s your best friend.  It was clearly much worse being in his shoes than in mine.  In my shoes, you hear the extent of it, you hear the course of action, you get the positive spin and you find some way of squaring the whole thing in your head so that you can keep living without having it dominate your every thought.

The prognosis was good.  If I remember (I’m very fuzzy on these details), there was a limited amount of spreading, but the tumor itself could be surgically removed.  Once that was done, there would be a course or two of chemotherapy, and that would be it.

It’s funny how I can remember the most minute details of every shitty local band that sent me their demo tape, where I was when I first listened to it, what I thought.  I can remember specific conversations from 1993 about nothing in particular, I can remember opening bands at nondescript shows at insignificant clubs.  I have notes and files and records that document virtually everything I did between 1993 and 2000.  But when my best friend was diagnosed with cancer, well, I can’t remember very much about the details.  I remember having the conversation but I don’t remember what we said.  I remember hanging up the phone and Sandy coming downstairs and putting her hand on my shoulder, and I remember wanting to not talk about it.  But I don’t remember the details.

The night before his surgery, Matt, a few other friends and I took Rich out to dinner in Montclair, NJ (I think).  Afterwards, we went out for milkshakes, trying our best to just go about our business.  The goal was for us to have as normal a night as possible, to sort of rally around our buddy and let him feel good about things, to the extent that was possible.  And Rich was fine all night; the few times I got him along that night to ask him how his psyche was holding up, he was fine – looking forward to having it all taken care of, and a course of action planned out.

A few times in my life I’ve been jolted into realizing, a few days after something bad happens, that just a few days before it happened, I was shuffling along, with no idea what was about to happen.  Life is that way, I guess, and it kinda freaks me out.  Eventually, each of us gets some bad news – and the day before we get it, we have no idea it’s coming.  There’s, like, some weird, cosmic twist of fate waiting for each of us, and the day before it comes – whatever it might be – we’re clueless, just chugging along, going about our business.  And then BANG.  There it is.

And you have to figure out how to cope.

~ by Al on December 7, 2009.

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