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When we were little, Bart and I loved Star Wars.  I'm just old enough to have seen A New Hope in the theater, though definitely during a re-release (probably 1978 or 1979).  Our dad is a fan of science fiction, so we saw all three of the originals almost as soon as they hit the theater.

When we got cable tv in the early eighties, any time Star Wars was on HBO, we watched it.  We had, get this, an audio tape of A New Hope that we used to listen to all the time.  We played Battleship, we listened to the tape.  We played legos, we listened to the tape.  We had that thing memorized and would say the lines along with the characters.

As adults, we were excited when Lucas Films decided to do Episodes I-III.  We were disappointed when they sucked so badly.  We were excited when they re-released the remastered with additional scenes episodes IV-VI.  We were shocked and annoyed when Lucas sold the franchise to Disney, but excited when Disney announced the new episode would arrive in theaters in December 2015.

It was not long after that announcement that Bart was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.  He died in April 2015.

He didn't get to see The Force Awakens.

There are a lot of things I hate about cancer, but one of the things that I hate the most is that Bart won't get to see episodes VII-IX.  That probably seems like a strange thing to hate about cancer, but if you knew Bart (and some of you reading this do), you know how much he loved Star Wars.

Several years ago, he bought like 5000 pieces of Legos off of eBay (because he also loved Legos, and he really loved Lego Star Wars).  Probably a good 200 of those pieces were Stormtroopers, several Darth Vaders, and a few other characters.  I remember the Stormtroopers in particular because 1. he thought the Stormtroopers were the coolest anyway, and 2. I actually built a Lego Stormtrooper honor guard for his memorial service.

In case you doubt me:

Note the Stormtrooper T-shirt and the Star Wars Lego set.

 

When December 2015 came and The Force Awakens released, we were all pretty excited to see it.  Jeff, Liam, and I saw it a few days after it was released, and then the three of us went to see it with my parents a few days after Christmas.  While we enjoyed it, we were definitely somber as we left the theater.  No one said it, but we were all thinking about the missing person in our midst.

When Carrie Fisher died last year, I cried.  The Princess, the General, was gone.  I knew then that I would probably cry during episode VIII.  I told several people I would be taking plenty of tissues with me.

Last night, Jeff , Liam, and I went to see The Last Jedi.  I was very excited and prepared with paper napkins from the lobby.  I didn't know when the tears would start, but I knew they would at some point.

And then:

Excitement mixed with sorrow is a weird feeling.  It took all of three seconds for tears to run down my face.  Happy tears because here it finally is!  Sad tears with the (overdramatic but legit) thought that "I'm watching this for my brother."  More tears when the third sentence of the opening crawl began with "Only General Organa..."

I think I quit crying about two minutes into the film, but it wasn't the last time. There is a certain scene with Luke Skywalker that immediately made me wonder what Bart would have thought.  If I had to guess, it would have involved a jaw drop and use of the word "fuck."

I miss not being able to talk to Bart about the new movies.  I wish I could talk to him about Poe and Rey, Han Solo's death, the theories that Ben Solo and Rey were actually twins, how Carrie Fisher's death might affect the last film, the lack of Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens, what The Last Jedi might lead into for Episode IX, and so many other things.

There are so many things I miss because Bart is gone, but I miss him most acutely when a new Star Wars movie comes out.

1

First: mom, dad, and Christina, please don't read this.  I don't want to upset you more today than you already probably are.

Second, to the rest of you, an apology.

Different people have different ways of grieving and remembering the people they've lost.  Mine is writing, and sometimes I feel like when I write stuff like this, I become a bit of a drama queen.  I don't know if that's accurate, but it's how I feel about my writing at times.

If this upsets you, I'm sorry.

 

April 6, 2016

Dear Bart,

I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I've wanted to text you with something funny or call you about what happened in Star Wars or tell you -- again -- what a dumbass you are (sister's prerogative).

Elli is four now.  She decided last year that on her fourth birthday she would turn into a big girl and wouldn't be afraid of bugs anymore.  Shortly after that, she started pre-school and piano lessons, and she loves both.  She does her piano homework every day.  When she wants to talk to you, she looks up to the night sky and talks to the moon and stars.

Alex turned one two weeks after you died.  He started walking and now he loves to run.  And climb.  There are lots of pictures of him climbing on chairs and standing on the kitchen table.  It usually involves food.  He laughs all the time, unless someone pisses him off and then he says "HEY!"  He's almost the spitting image of you when you were his age.  Christina has shown him your picture enough times that now when he sees a picture of you he says "Dad!"

It's really shitty that your kids have to grow up without you, especially because you're a great dad and you love them so much.

We celebrated your birthday with a cook out and presents for Elli, Alex, and Liam.  Legos, which we put together in your memory.

In the fall, the crew at Volition planted a tree in your memory.

For a guy who said he hated people, you sure have a lot of friends.  Hundreds of people came to your memorial service and told us how good of a friend you'd been to them and how highly they think of you.  Your friends miss you and talk about you when they feel up to it.

Mom, dad, Christina, Jeff, and I talk about you too, as often as we can.  I like to tell them about stuff you did when were little, and because I'm the big sister, some of it's not so flattering.  And because I'm the big sister, I don't care.

I remember the day you were born, and I remember the day you died.  I've done a lot of remembering in the past year.  All of us have.  Our lives are now divided up into "before Bart died" and "after that."

I've lost track of the times I've said "Fuck cancer" or written "fuck cancer" or thought how unfair it is that cancer fucked with our family and continues to do so to other people.

But mostly I try to remember you when you were healthy.  How you used to make all of us laugh.  When you texted me a video of Elli singing happy birthday to Alex, even though it was for my birthday and you told her to tell me a happy birthday too. (I still have that video on my phone)  How Jeff used to catch you reneging in euchre when we were in high school.  The time you shaved your hair into a mohawk.  (I still have that picture somewhere)  How we used to play slap jack when we were little and that it usually ended up in us just slapping each other's hands for fun.  How you spent one whole summer holed up in your room listening to ZZ Top and the Top Gun Soundtrack.  How we used to listen to the audio tape of Star Wars while we played battleship or legos in your room.  The time the puppy peed on your rug, and I laughed while you scowled at me and the dog.  Playing with play-doh and eating dad's pizza eggs on Saturdays.

So yeah, I miss you and I'm still grieving (we all are, we probably will be for the rest of our lives), but I'm so glad that I got to be your big sister.  I wish we'd had more time.  I promise that I'll take care of mom, dad, Christina, Elli, and Alex.  I promise to keep talking to Liam about Uncle Bart, and laughing with Jeff about the stupid things the three of us used to do together.

I hope that wherever you are, there are lots and lots of legos.

Love,

Steph

 

Always check your poop.

I know.  Gross, right?

But you can tell a lot about your health from your poop.  In fact, here's a handy dandy chart to help you decode your poop:

 

Your handy dandy poop chart!

OK, before you laugh yourself silly about a poop post, or decide this is way too crude and gross for you, just stop a minute.  Wait.  This is not joke.

Checking your poop is life and death, people.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.  Colorectal cancer is one of the easiest cancers to treat if found early, one of the deadliest if found later, and is the third leading cause of death among men and women in the US.  And while most people who get colorectal cancer are still 50 or older (and the American Cancer Society doesn't recommend colorectal cancer screenings until one turns 50), the incidence of colorectal cancer among people under the age of 50 is rising.

Why?  We eat crappy processed food instead of whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins).  We don't exercise enough.  We put toxic substances into our bodies (alcohol, drugs, cigarettes).  We work too long under too much stress with too few breaks.  We poison the environment with pollution.  We put lotions and potions and cosmetics and creams on our bodies that are made from petroleum products.  And we start doing all of these things from the minute we enter this world, so the effects build up.

If you're finding this post via Facebook, then you know why this is such an issue for me, but for those of you who don't, let me tell you why I post this with such a sense of urgency:  on April 6, 2015, my brother died after an eight-month fight with colon cancer.  He was only 38 years old.

Thirty-eight, guys.  He was 38.

In the past year, I have heard of one person who is only twenty and is fighting his second round of colorectal cancer.  A family member knows of another person who is in his early 20s and is fighting his fourth round of colon cancer.

It can happen, and it is happening to people who are under the age of 50.

And this is why checking your poop is so important.  It's not bathroom humor or gross and disgusting.  It's a matter of life and death.

If you are 50 or older and have not been screened for colon cancer, get your ass to the doctor and get your screening scheduled.

At any age, if you see blood in your stool or have a red or black stool that can't be explained by ingesting certain foods or medicines (beets, antacids, heavily colored processed foods, antibiotics), you need to go to a doctor.  I can't stress this enough, ladies and gentlemen.  Blood in your poop is not a joke.  It could be hemorrhoids or a small tear in your intestine, or it could be something more urgent.  You can't know until you get screened.

And right now, there are other things you can do to get healthier and prevent colorectal cancer. Eat whole foods and avoid processed foods as much as possible.  Get at least thirty minutes of exercise each day.  Take a vacation, relax more, and remember that your health is more important than your job or money.  Change your household cleaners and toiletries to products that are environmentally friendly.  Quit the drugs, reduce the alcohol consumption, and for the love of God and all things holy, quit smoking the fucking cigarettes!!!!!!

Now everyone take a deep breath, go to the toilet, evacuate your bowels, and take a good look.  Make that a habit.  It could save your life.

If you live outside the US or you've been hiding under a rock, then you might not have known that last night was the State of the Union Address.  (side note: if you have been living under a rock and didn't know this, don't feel badly.  I didn't know the #SOTU was last night until yesterday morning when our son told us he had to watch some of it for homework.)

I don't want to talk about the whole address, because that would be excruciatingly boring for both of us.  However, I want to touch on one part of President Obama's speech.  One of his points regarding health care in the US was that we have made huge strides in moving towards eliminating several diseases, and he finally said, "Let's make America the country that cures cancer once and for all."

I'm all for that.  My world was turned upside down last April when my brother died after an eight month fight with colon cancer.  He was only 38.  Yesterday, a dear friend lost her aunt to a four year battle with cancer.  This morning, my cousin found out that a friend's five-year-old daughter has terminal brain cancer.  A year ago, I and a whole community of friends lost a dear woman to her second round of breast cancer.

I can't think of a single person I know who hasn't had a friend or family member lose a battle to cancer.  This is an ugly disease, and it leaves grieving, broken people in its wake.

Who wouldn't want America to be the country that cures cancer once and for all?

So back to the #SOTU address.  When President Obama announced that he wanted America to be the country that cures cancer, almost all of the Democrats stood up to applaud, but a very large section of the Congressional Republicans remained seated and didn't applaud (at least that I could tell).

Who doesn't applaud for something like this?  Who doesn't want to cheer and scream and shout and support this idea one thousand percent?  If you know anyone in your family or circle of friends who has battled cancer, especially if cancer killed that person, would you not make curing cancer your rallying cry?

Apparently a whole section of Congressional Republicans at the 2016 State of the Union Address, that's who.

To those people who didn't applaud and support the President's call for a cure for cancer: why?  Do you not want to see a cure for cancer?

Or are you not supporting it because a Democrat suggested we should make it happen?

Is partisan politics that important to you?

If so, you make me sad.