Tuesday, November 17, 2009

True grit

My sophomore year in high school, one of the tackles on the football team would frequently lead the running back 40 or more yards down the field and into the end zone. Running backs are supposed to follow the lead blocker, but only to a point. Eventually, they’re supposed to run past the lead blocker, given that they’re supposed to be faster. In this case, however, #77 was outrunning his backs all the way to the goal line.

Apparently this propensity to defy convention was genetic. Three years later, #77’s dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He was expected to live between 6 and 24 months. Five years after the diagnosis, I was sitting around his campfire listening as he spun his yarn while on a fishing trip to Island Park, ID. The following spring when JunkieGirl was born, he claimed partial credit, insisting she was conceived on that trip (Rachel claims the math doesn’t quite work out, but I wasn’t going to argue).

N.J. lived with myeloma for sixteen years. He was too tough to die from just one disease. It took the help of esophageal cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, and pneumonia to finally take him down. He was adamant that it be mentioned at his funeral that he was a John Wayne fan. I don’t think the Duke ever played a character that tough. You’ll be missed, N.J.