I have been keeping something out of the blog world. I don't know if it's fear that writing it will make it more true or out of respect to one of my dearest friends. My friend Randy, a.k.a. hairless, is in the hospital suffering from graft versus host after a stem cell transplant. He was diagnosed with Leukemia last spring and has battled courageously with it. So courageously in fact that he had us all going like it was nothing. You see Randy is a tall, strapping specimen of strength, a hearty eater and exercise fiend. Most of my readers either know Randy personally or have read his silly, at times unintelligible comments on my blog. I don't know how much he values his anonymity, or if he goes by hairless in order to get into this game of alternate egos in the blogosphere. Knowing Randy, I can't imagine he much cares.
I finally decided to put down my thoughts mostly because his health has been weighing on my mind heavily. I can't imagine how is family must be faring. All I know is that this disease doesn't just affect him, it affects everyone who cares about him and in a different way at that. I don't want you all to feel sorry for him, he has never ever felt sorry for himself. I don't want you to feel sorry for me either. I'm not looking for sympathy because my friend has cancer, I'm looking for some eyes to read this and maybe appreciate their own health a little bit more.
I don't know if he remembers or not, but I met Randy when the department was recruiting me and paid for me to come down for a visit and have a look around. He was hanging out in the lab I am sitting in now even though he worked down the hall. My host invited everyone for lunch and he was one of the few who accepted the invitation. At Bennigan's he sat next to me, a foreshadow of his tendency to always take the seat next to mine at restaurants. I had a chicken salad. After he was done, he leaned over to me, pointing to my dinner roll, "Are you gonna eat that?" I was a little stunned, but it was the first gesture of acceptance towards me. Rather than being offended at his forthright nature, I felt at home.
Randy is a genius. Literally. His IQ is through the roof. He used to be an experimenter, and then switched to theory after he got his Master's because he was bored. He left school after only a semester in theory without getting his Ph.D. I know there are people that thought it was a shame, him being so smart and not staying for his Ph.D. It turns out he knew better. Before he got sick he took a job writing physics related computer code for video games. Most of his time was spent debugging it, so he ended up getting paid generous amounts of money to basically play video games. A dream come true for any science geek.
Unlike many physicists, Randy is also extremely well rounded. He enjoys learning and speaking foreign languages. He listens to classical music. He likes to cook and tend to his aquarium. He used to go to the gym four or five times a week to run and lift weights. He played on the physics department intramural softball team (we were the Rocket Scientists). He plays tuba and piano. He watches baseball and football only on TV. The stadiums are too loud.
Because Randy's mom had bought him a digital piano, he was generous enough to let me come over and play it whenever the mood struck me. I finally "moved in" by bringing all my sheet music and leaving it there. I didn't need it in my apartment. Sometimes he would call and ask me things like "Can I bend the binding on your new Chopin book? There's a song I really want to learn." Every time I went over there, I could play for an hour or so without distraction while Randy read a book or played a video game. Inevitably though, he'd wander over while I was playing and start harmonizing on the highest register. Whether he specifically knew the piece or not. I'd find an appropriate stopping point and scoot over so he could sit next to me on the bench. Then we'd take out a book of duets or a book of Bach fugues and inventions and turn those into duets. Sometimes improvising, sometimes butchering, usually laughing at silly things only musicians understand.
Randy is an atheist. He doesn't believe in the supernatural. He thinks what you see is what you get. His friends and family are praying for him though and we can't help but notice him perk up a little when we come by to visit. We can't help but feel like our strength and good feelings are somehow channeled to him, feeding him and nudging him along.