Get Your Butt in Gear

I don’t know why I lived and why my mother did not.  But if things had gone the other way around, Mom would have thought of some way to take on the disease which has touched our family.  To honor her, I want to do just that, and I can’t think of a better place to do it than my adopted home town of almost twenty years.

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he late John Gunther, Sr. called cancer a “thief.”  That’s a potent, but polite way to describe it.  For me it’s more like a slow-moving gunshot wound.  The tumor and the bullet do the same thing, but the creeping pace of the former makes it that much more pernicious.  It’s a slow invasion which always starts with that equally slow and subtly terrible dawning that something’s not right.  At least that’s how it happened for me. When the doctor’s office called, I already knew the termites had me before they made it official.  Five months later, reading my mom’s face as she found out…I could tell that she already knew as well.  Fifteen months after that, when Dad intimated that something seemed wrong with him…well, we all knew the playbook by then.

I have no idea if three different cancer diagnoses, within the same nuclear family, all inside of two years, is common or not.  And I have even less of an idea if it matters that all three of them were the same type of cancer, originating in the colon.  I only know that it happened.  When my oncologist told me a few months ago that I tested positive for one of the two genes causing the disease, I almost chuckled.  Thanks for the update, doc.

The impact of the experience has affected everyone in the family differently.  In my case, my mother’s passing impacted me more than my own illness.  At 64, she was looking forward to a long, well deserved retirement.  After almost three decades behind a teller’s window, and a host of volunteer and public service accomplishments, she had more than earned it.  And given that her own parents lived into their eighties and nineties, she had no reason to assume she wouldn’t get it.  But when I watched her pass away, I immediately saw an hourglass in front of me.  Mom was 19 when I was born.  At that moment I put two decades on my clock.

Since then I still haven’t lived a perfect life.  I’m unbearably, socially awkward.  Still prone to sputtering exactly the wrong comment in exactly wrong place at exactly the wrong time in front of exactly the wrong people.  It’s my one natural gift.  But I can say that I’ve lived every day since then.  Instead of talking about writing one of these days, I’m doing it, and I dig it.  I play less golf because all that ever did was make me angry.  I sit on the beach every chance I can, and I spend the extra dollar for the better beer because it turns out that happy tastes buds make for a happy life.

But living a full life isn’t enough.  If this had worked out the other way around…if Mom had survived and I or Dad had not, she would not have been the one to sigh it off and join a book club.  The least I can do to honor my mother (and everyone’s mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters) is attempt something along the lines of what I know she would do.  I doubt she would have made it beer-centric, but she’ll understand.

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Mary Elizabeth Wheeler: 1950-2015
Mary Elizabeth Wheeler: 1950-2015

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So we’re hosting a pub crawl.  For a “small town”…whatever that means…Greencastle has developed a bit of a scene.  From the Putnam Inn’s cozy little spot north of the square, to the majestic rafters enveloping Wasser Brewing a block east, to the historic sign hanging at the threshold of the Fluttering Duck two blocks south the city’s central district, Greencastle is a pedestrian-friendly beer lover’s fantasy.

To be clear, this is not going to be a brewfest.  We’re not charging $40 a head, handing over a shot glass, and encouraging everyone to get hammered as quickly and as irresponsibly as possible.  We’re asking for $20 donation which gets you a wristband and an entry for gift baskets at participating venues.  You’ll still buy the beer, just as you would any other night, but you’ll be sharing that night with a community brought together to raise a glass for a good cause—and for me the best of causes.  We’re working out the details with the proceeds (we’re all new at this), but we do know that we want the money to stay local, to support families in need facing the trials of this insidious illness.  If we can pay for one screening, for one person, and save just one life…then it was time well spent.  There will be music all night, and food, and friendship.  My hope is that it will underscore Greencaste’s metamorphosis from the sleepy Mayberry which used to shut down at 5:00 every afternoon.  When I moved here in the late ‘90’s a night out meant a trip to Terre Haute, Plainfield, or Indy.  Now, a night out happens right here, there’s often something going on, and the beer selections rival larger towns.

So circle March 11, 2017 on your calendar and make plans to be a part of a special day in a special town for one of the best causes.  Let’s celebrate being alive.  Let’s enjoy the experience of living.  Let’s help someone out there live that life with us.

Special thank you’s to the following people:

  • Wendi Evans – for dropping a subtle idea in my ear and supporting me when I took off with it.
  • Danita Timmons of Taphouse 24
  • Nancy Mark of the Putnam County CVB
  • Michele Faison of The Fluttering Duck
  • Rhonda Brotherton of The Putnam Inn
  • Gail Smith of Almost Home and The Swizzle Stick Bar
  • Chris and Angie Weeks of Wasser Brewing Company
  • Jay and Jackie Hopkins of Moore’s Bar
  • The Good People at The Boulder Run Bar and Grill
  • Joel and Tosh Everson and Dennis Furr
  • Dakota Girton and Jonathan Hunter
  • Istvan Csicsery-Ronay and the Dogmatics team
  • And many more people.

Thank you all.

Donovan Wheeler
Author: Donovan Wheeler

Wheeler proudly teaches English to a horde of bright and lovably obnoxious high school seniors in a small college town. He has written in the past for Indiana on Tap and STATE Magazine, and is an occasional contributor to NUVO, Indy's alternate news website. Since picking up the guitar three years, he can now play a dozens songs while singing them quite badly.

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