The Muppets, Jim Henson and leukemiaBy
My kids got me the Jim Henson biography, written by Brian Ray Jones, this past Christmas. I became aware of the book through Kimberly Thornbury’s multiple tweets about it and knew it was something I wanted to read. I grew up with Sesame Street. I watched the Muppet Show and Muppet Babies. Kermit, Ernie, Fozzie, Miss Piggy and Big Bird feel like old friends. And as a father, I’ve become reacquainted with these old friends during the past decade.
I began reading the book shortly after Christmas and had made it about a quarter of the way through by Jan. 10.
Jan. 10, 2014. The date that our pediatrician told us to get Noah to St. Jude, immediately, because he probably had leukemia. I’ll never forget taking that call from my wife while I sat in my office, nor the terrifying hours that followed.
As I came home from work to get packed for the trip to St. Jude, I remember thinking that I needed to take something with me to read. I’d undoubtedly have a lot of down time on my hands, I thought, so I’d need a book. I should have reached instinctively for the Henson book.
I almost did. But something stopped me. I remember thinking that I most certainly did not want to take the Henson biography. Absolutely not.
At the time, I didn’t know what the future would hold. For all I knew, I was facing the very real possibility that my son might die. For all I knew, the days I’d spend with him in the hospital would be the last days of his life. I didn’t want to take the Henson book, because I didn’t want the Muppets to be what I was reading about when my son died. I didn’t want to go through the rest of my life being reminded — every time I saw the Muppets — of the pain and anguish with which they were associated. I didn’t want to break down in tears when my other kids — and maybe even my grandkids — asked me to watch something Muppet-related with them.
Of course, by God’s grace, that’s not how things turned out. Yes, Noah did have leukemia. But the doctors and the drugs kicked its tail quickly. Though we still have a couple of years of treatment left, and though the chemo still makes life difficult sometimes, Noah is healthy and happy. We expect him to recover completely.
I finished the Henson book tonight. Unlike on Jan. 10, tonight I have every reason to believe that I’ll get to spend many hours with Noah in the years ahead watching Henson’s creations.