Friday, January 02, 2004

I think that ought-four is going to be a good year...

A quick recap: Christmas was good, didn't go anywhere though (XC snow/weather conditions were rumored to be shitty in VT). A couple of good rides here and there, some running (gahh!), some good parties including the Chain Gang Xmas dinner (Chinese food), Doug & Lori's impromptu bash, and Greg & Judy's 2nd Annual New Year's Eve Blowout -- very subdued compared to last year, where we all ended up on Greg's boat trailer as he drove us around his lawn, but by all other, normal standards, an excellent party -- then yesterday's traditional New Year's Day hike. Myself, Doug & Lori, Brian, Bob & Karen, Joe & Cindy, and Joe and Cos, up Tammany Mountain (Delaware Water Gap) to the lookouts, then down the back way & along Dunnfield Creek, two hours or so.

I haven't been blogging here for a while, because there has been one event that would have to go here, and I found it a little hard to talk or think about for a while... my friend Mike Kucher passed away in his sleep on December 6th.

Mike had been a friend since grade school: he was a year younger than me, my brother Kevin's age and one of several of Kevin's friends that I sort of glommed onto. Mike was a litle closer than most though, he was practically a member of our family.

He'd gone into the Navy just out of high school, and contracted Hodgkins Disease (aka leukemia) while serving, so ended up with a medical discharge, and disability, and treatment at Walter Reed. Remission for a few years, then another bout with Hodgkins, then remission again, then (years later, but still years ago) throat cancer... he took a real beating from that (chemo, radiation, removal of part of his jaw and throat), but two years ago last summer we'd had a party for him because he'd been cancer-free for five years. He'd been through hell & obviously would never be the same -- he had no saliva glands, and with half his throat gone he had to re-learn how to swallow etc -- but he'd made it, he survived and won and the rest would be gravy.

Like with most of my high school / Manalapan friends we had already been drifting apart for a while by the time of that party, so I wasn't really aware of any illness or trouble, but at Kevin's wedding this October he was extremely thin, and had difficulty eating or even moving his arms. He put a brave face on it (as usual) but his fiancee told me that the radiation treatments, years earlier, had caused nerve damage which was only now manifesting itself. (Apparently his inability to eat was also causing underweight/malnutrition problems; he'd been in the hospital for pneumonia and had a feeding tube inserted in his chest.) Even with all that, when my mom called to tell me it took me completely by surprise. That was Saturday evening, the 6th. The wake (closed coffin) was the next Tuesday night, and the funeral was Thursday. The wake wasn't too hard (standing room only, many people I hadn't seen in years, you can almost forget why you're there), but the funeral was way rougher than I expected.

Well, rest in peace Mike. You deserved better in this world and didn't get it; maybe we'll meet again in a better one.

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