I love the threads that pop up on Facebook and the email chains that circulate that idealize growing up in the '70s. Wistful thinking about how we rode around on bikes without helmets, stayed out until the street lights came on and drank water straight from the yard hose. Of course all of that–and more–is true. I remember far too many days in the front yard slathered with baby oil and hoping that the tin foil I positioned strategically in front of my face would turn my sunburn to a tan.
What I can't romanticize, though, is losing my cousin to leukemia when we were in the 4th grade. Had he been born when my children were born, instead of in 1970, the chances are infinitely better that he'd grow up to live a long and (hopefully) healthy life. But the fight to cure cancer, like everything else back then, just wasn't where it is today. Growing up in Hays, Kansas, he had to travel to Wichita and Kansas City for medical treatment. I think back now and imagine how difficult it must have been, not only fighting the dreaded C word–cancer–but having to leave behind every comfort of home in his pursuit of a cure. I imagine that hospital rooms became as soothing as they could, with their sterile hallways and blank concrete walls.
Had he survived the 70s he'd be 41 now, like me. I imagine he'd have a wife and children; that he'd still have the big, deep, soulful eyes that now would be accented by laugh lines and cute crinkles. I hope we'd still be more like brother and sister than cousins, and that our children shared holidays, school plays and their own birthdays. I have no idea what he would have grown up to be other than who he always was in my eyes: strong, wise, patient and spirited. I imagine he'd still have a sparkle in his eye and a mischievous grin that was as infectious as any persistent flu bug.
Every time these new commercials come on TV, I stop and think about Curtis. About how he should have had many, many, many more birthdays. About how I miss him and how badly I wish my children knew him. So I hum along, and remember, and wish for one more happy birthday.
This post is sponsored by American Cancer Society.