Caveat: Venter

Think about all of the things that make your brain itch. These are mine.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Best Show You're Not Watching (and Sue)

I DVR Breaking Bad on Sundays (the DVR catches the rebroadcast, too) and watch it later in the week, usually on Mondays. This week was different, and I just caught it today. For those unfamiliar with the show, high school chemistry teacher Walter White, working a second job in a car wash, gets diagnosed with cancer and, through happenstance (his brother-in-law is a DEA agent) meets a former student who is cooking meth. Walter decides this is the way to make the money to pay for his treatment and care for his family after he dies, and so he becomes a drug manufacturer, with Jesse, his former student, as the dealer.

In season 2, things have gotten crazier, and among other things, his teenage son decides to help out by making a web site named savewalterwhite.com to raise funds to pay for his father's treatment. This is bad for a man who does not want to keep a high profile. On a lark, I went to the site, and, sure enough, there was exactly what I had seen on the show, including a link to the National Cancer Coalition, where real donations can help fight cancer.

My wife, just over a year ago, lost her aunt Mari to pancreatic cancer, so cancer has had a presence in our household for a couple of years now. I was 53 minutes into the DVRed episode when my phone rang, number blocked, which means my mother is calling. I knew what that meant, though I tried to convince myself it was just another internet connection problem for me to solve.

My neighbor, Sue Smith, a woman who had helped raise me, after a fashion, and whose children I had helped raise (much less significantly) as a babysitter and as a neighbor, had succumbed to lung cancer, a scant six weeks after her initial diagnosis. It hit me hard, and it will continue to have its impact for quite some time. Sue is an irreplaceable light, a woman I never knew to express anger except over conservative politics, and an amazing human being with an inimitable laugh.

I know everyone says things like this about people who have recently died, but I assure you I have thought these things for years. Even now, because wired.com is my homepage, I noticed that a key story today is about cancer. It's funny how things come together, though perhaps it's like the way half the people on the road seem to be driving the same kind of car you just bought.

Anyway, I have been struggling, making headway, and then stumbling—badly—in my fight to quit smoking. I even bought a pack today. I will finish the pack, but when it is done, I am done. Sue, this smoke-free life is dedicated to you. There is no better way I can think to honor you in my life than this. I hope I can succeed now where I have failed before.

Requiescat in pace, Sue. You are missed, but never forgotten.

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