Over the course of a two-month span in late 2009, my boyfriend (whose name is also Joe) lost his mother and one of his brothers — the one to mouth cancer, the other to, as they used to say, melancholia. A few days ago, we learned that Joe’s oldest sister has been diagnosed with what sounds like a serious form of cancer, as well as several other life-threatening diseases. She herself has been aware of her conditions for a while, but says that she kept quiet due to all the turmoil and anguish in the family already.

I guess the definition of middle age is when it starts to happen: people you know, people around you, people you’ve always taken for granted, peers and friends and family members, people your own age, even, start dying off on a regular basis. Or maybe the basis isn’t regular; it’s probably accelerating. An accelerating parade of illness and death from here on out. Joe and I are lucky. We are surrounded by people we love, people who mean the world to us, people we can’t imagine getting by without. Each of those people is going to die. We will lose every one of them. Every single one. If we don’t, you know, die first. No wonder old people are so hateful and impatient! Life must start to feel like a concentration camp or a Great War battlefield after a while, as the dead pile up on every side.

Just thought I’d say.