Curiously nerdy posts.
You know, when I started this blog, I was determined to keep my real life happenings mostly clear of what I wrote in here. My previous blogging experience had taught me that sometimes, it can get you in trouble. Sometimes, it makes you look bad. Even worse, sometimes it can make you look boring.
My mission here on this blog has always been to discuss and dissect what I love: storytelling. But you know what? Our lives, and the lives of people around us, have compelling stories in them, and they deserve to be told as much as any story involving laser swords, explosions, or dragons.
This post is about one of those people in my life. This is about a guy named Trevor.
When I first met Trevor, I was in the second grade. He wasn’t in my class – he was my brother’s classmate in his fourth grade class. It was funny to me – my brother would come home complaining about this huge black guy who always hung around him and bugged him, purely because my brother was one of the cool kids at school that always had the newest issue of Nintendo Power to read. He didn’t sound friendly at all – to hear my brother tell it, he actually sounded like a bully. A very nerdy bully, but a bully nonetheless. I remember my parents telling him something simple, but true: “Well, just deal with him, and be nice to him this year. Chances are, he won’t be in your class next year to bother you.”
Well, they were wrong. He was in my brother’s class the next year, and the year after that. And gradually, their shared love of Nintendo Power led into the fact that they shared other interests. And they became actual friends.
Since this was before the internet was available for every household, they stayed in touch the same way all friends did back then, if your buddy didn’t live a few doors down… by spending time talking on the phone, while doing stuff. Since my brother had this nasty habit of NEVER answering the phone*, it often fell to me to stop whatever I was doing to go answer it. I would do this because, of course, there was always the chance that it was one of MY friends calling instead. But 9 times out of 10, it was always Trevor. This isn’t to say that my friends never called; it was just that he called that much. As a result, I got annoyed by dealing with him often, and gave him so less than flattering nicknames. Stupid, witless kid stuff like “Trevor Noseworthy the third”, or “Trevo”, since our phone liked cutting off the last letter of his name for some reason.
*My brother is still one of the hardest people to ever get on a phone. He only reliably answers one at work, since he’s paid to do so. When he’s not working? Ha, good luck. He doesn’t even own a cell phone.
They spent so much time on the phone watching stuff together. They watched so many reruns of Saved By The Bell that they took pride in how quickly they could figure out which episode was playing (their record, I think, was about 5 seconds). They watched pro wrestling, because pro wrestling was a big thing in the 90s. It still is a big thing to Trevor, but it was big enough then that my brother also enjoyed it. Trevor enjoyed teasing and making fun of me vicariously on the phone, and my own choices of what to watch, since sometimes I’d be the one watching TV when they got on the phone to talk. That all changed one day when he stopped to watch a show for himself that I’d spent the entire summer watching religiously, since I could stay up late.
That show? A little known talk show called Late Night with Conan O Brien. The second he admitted that maybe, just MAYBE, his friend’s younger brother didn’t have horrible taste, we suddenly started getting along ourselves.
It wasn’t until after high school, though, that I stopped calling him “my brother’s friend” and simply called him “my friend”. I saw him often. He carpooled with my brother to the local community college, since he couldn’t drive himself*. Later, when they both transferred to The University of Georgia, they became roommates. I got to know him better, and knew his family better from the times I came to help him move in and out of apartments. It didn’t hurt that we both really, really liked video games and pro wrestling. We weren’t those crazy kind of guys that would try to elbow drop each other, but we were the crazy guys that found silly ways to insert catchphrases into everyday conversations.
*I never have been quite sure if it was because he hated to drive THAT much, or simply because he couldn’t fit very well in most cars. He was 6’9, and well over 300 pounds.
When they both got out of college, my brother caught on pretty quickly doing IT professional work at a satellite campus of UGA. Trevor, however, fought an uphill battle getting a job. Whether it was his degree, or his inability to commute himself, he was still jobless when I graduated. He was still jobless when I got my first job, only a month after I’d gotten out of college. I remember spending many nights chatting to him, encouraging him to keep up, and be persistent, and one day, he’d be working like the rest of us. That was all he wanted – not to be rich or anything. He just wanted to be useful, and have the ability to take care of those he loved. I had the same mentality, and so I constantly supported him, and helped him when I could.
I remember we had another conversation, shortly after I completed writing my first ever novel, after years of talking about wanting to be a writer. He had leanings that way too, and desperately wanted to pick my brain for how I did it. “You just have to want to do it badly enough,” I would say. “I want to want it!” he would tell me. I told him what I knew: it’s not really about talent, it’s about being consistent. My brother often likes to talk about how many ideas Trevor has, for stories, for commentaries, for everything. I told him if he ever wanted help putting something together, to tell me. But as it turns out, he didn’t have much time to do that.
He finally got a job soon after, as a testing coordinator at a local technical college. In true Trevor fashion, if you gave him a clear path to excel, he would take it. He started out being the guy who just sat in a room and made sure entering students didn’t cheat taking their standardized tests; within a few years, he had a parking spot next to the provost with his name on it. Everyone at that school knew his name, both for his quick wit, and his professionalism. It wasn’t long before we often shared war stories, considering we all worked as staff at local colleges, dealing with silly students, and often sillier staff members.
A few years later, shortly after he got his driver’s license, he got into an accident. No other car was involved. From what the police could tell, it was simply a case of him hydroplaning off the road into a ditch. He almost flipped the car, but came away mostly unscathed. The EMTs who came to check on him noticed that he was having trouble breathing. Trevor had had it for a while, but he’d simply chalked it up to a bad cough that was slow to go away. Even so, the EMTs urged him to go to a doctor and have it checked. The first doctor who checked him said he had pneumonia, and gave him some medicine. It didn’t make the cough go away.
The second doctor told him the truth: he had lung cancer. Stage 3 lung cancer. He had never smoked, and his family never smoked. He was 28 at the time.
He told me about the night that he came out of that hospital, after learning that he had cancer. Rolling out, he saw a woman standing outside, waiting to be picked up by a car that wasn’t coming. He asked her why. Her husband was at home, with a car that wouldn’t start. So she was stuck, until they could figure out a way for her to get home. Trevor looked at his parents, and said “We need to give her a ride home.” and so they gave a ride home. To a woman he’d never met before in his life, hours after he’d learned he had a deadly disease. Simply because she needed his help, and he was in a position to give it. This was the kind of person Trevor had become.
He started undergoing intense chemo, often going 5-6 hours on any day where it was scheduled. Never once did he take any extended time off from his job. Never once did he outwardly complain, or show bitterness for the rotten hand life had dealt him. If anything, people grew to love him more and more. People respond differently to life threatening situations. Some grow angry; others grow selfish. Trevor, he suddenly decided to focus on all the good he had in his life, and tried to share it with everyone he met. A year later, his cancer was in remission.
A year later, however, he called my brother with chilling news. “It’s back,” he said, clearly fighting tears. He didn’t even need to say what “it” was. But beyond that conversation, he never let it take away his smile. To him, it was simply a war. If his first bout with lung cancer was World War I, this was World War II, and it was time strap in for another round.
Even so, he still did everything he could to help people… even me. When I needed a job, he tried pulling all the strings to get me a position working directly with him. If not for HR’s bizarre refusal to let him interview me, it would have worked, too. Even though it was out of his hands in the end, he was still immensely apologetic. I simply responded by sending him a video of Stone Cold ET on youtube, and making him laugh in his office. We were friends, something the kid version of me would’ve scoffed at.
Indeed, our enjoyment of wrestling always gave us a common ground to talk on. We often discussed going together to a local indie wrestling show in nearby Locust Grove, where he personally knew the announcers and even some of the wrestlers. One of the wrestlers even came out at one show, and grabbed a mic to tell the crowd that none of the wrestlers in the show were all that heroic… no, the guy in the crowd who had serious cancer, but still worked hard every week and had a smile for everyone was the real hero. He pointed Trevor out of the crowd, and everyone gave him a standing ovation. On the ride home, he was riding with a girl who he had eyes for…. on the way, a sudden bout of nausea made him vomit all over himself, and the dashboard of her car. She was understanding, but he was humiliated. Cancer, of course, doesn’t believe in taking days, or even nights off.
We did stuff together. We went to see movies, the best one being Wreck It Ralph. We played games together, too, but oftentimes he was too tired and wiped after work to even relax and play a game, although my brother and I made sure to always make ourselves available if he was around.
Just last month, we received word he was back in the hospital. We were saddened by the news, but optimistic. After all, he’d been in and out of hospitals ever since he was first diagnosed. My brother and I planned to go visit him, but after he was done with a field day at work that had been in planning for over a year. We never got the chance.
Trevor passed away last week on Wednesday, August 21st. No one saw it coming – his vitals just dropped suddenly, and he was gone. His mother was there, and told us it was so sudden, that practically no one got to even show up and say goodbye, or anything. He was just… gone. By the end, she said, he couldn’t even speak – the only way he could communicate was by spelling out letters with his finger on the palm of your hand.
One of the last words he spelled out to her was my brother’s name. One of the last cards he sent to my parents’ house was signed “From your adopted son”. We were close. This hurts more than I could’ve ever imagined.
There’s a lesson to be taken from this, I think. Multiple ones, really.
One is that life isn’t guaranteed, and that none of us are immortal. This is easier for older people to understand. I myself am still in my 20s, and even though I’m well clear of college age, I still find myself falling into that trap of thinking that I have soooo much time left to do everything I want. But you know what? That’s not guaranteed. Nothing is guaranteed. All you can do is to make the best of the time that is given to you. And if you’ve got a friend or loved one that is in the hospital, GO SEE THEM. Even if they don’t have life threatening cancer, there’s always a chance something could go horribly wrong. Best to not take that chance.
Two, no matter how bad your life is, no matter what kind of bad stuff is happening, the only way it can take away your smile is if you let it. Trevor never, ever let it take away his joy for life. He never let it stop him from going and being active, and having a life he wanted to live. Cancer may win out over you in the end by killing you, but you shouldn’t let it win before that even happens by letting it take away your joy.
Three, losing a close friend really, really sucks. Just going on facebook and seeing pictures of him again, and knowing no new ones will ever appear… is saddening. Knowing that he never really had a girlfriend on the level that I’ve known, or a wife like some of his other friends had…. well, that fills me with profound sadness. He deserved so much better.
Rest in peace, T-pot. Where you are now, you’ll never have to poison yourself to live a little longer now. Someday, we’ll meet again, in that big arcade in the sky.
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