By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
It's important to note that, in most versions of Kevin and Tashi's story, the couple didn't elope for fear of upsetting Kevin's parents, who are laid-back Californians. Tashi's parents, who live in Phoenix, have been a bit more difficult. They were really the ones whom the couple didn't want to set off.
Suffice it to say, Tashi's mother was not thrilled to learn that she had a secret son-in-law, much less one who was probably dying.
Months later, when Kevin had successfully come through radiation, and was taking his monthly maintenance doses of chemo drugs, he did a five-minute stand-up routine at the Comedy Spot in Old Town Scottsdale.
Naturally, his trip to the sperm bank with his newly acknowledged mother-in-law was part of his set.
"A few months ago, about half a year ago, I had a tumor pressing on my brain," he began, launching into an Arnold Schwarzenegger "TOOM-ah" joke.
Then he continued, more seriously.
"The downside to facing the specter of a malignant tumor in my head: I had to go through cancer treatment. It was going to leave me completely and genetically junked.
"So I had to go down to a fertility clinic to give some sperm. And, well, the only person who could give me a ride was my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law."
People started laughing, loudly. One girl gasped, "Oh, my God!"
"My just-found-out-that-I'd-run-off-with-her-daughter-and-secretly-deprived-her-of-her-wedding mother-in-law," Kevin continued. "I've walked on Canadian glaciers, and . . . it was warmer than that car trip over to the sperm bank.
"At a fertility clinic, for a guy, the procedure is a lot less invasive than it is for women. You basically just make a little jizz in a cup. When you're 14, 19 — you know, a teenager — and you know your mom's on the other side of the door? You know how to be quiet, but it's still kind of awkward.
"When it's your mother-in-law," he said, "and she knows what you're doing — because she brought you there — it takes all your mental focus and concentration to manage to get it in the cup."
The crowd howled.
But then, as Kevin continued, there came the crushing denouement.
After months of being so sick, and the two surgeries, Kevin's sample came back showing just seven sperm.
At first, the couple thought that must be shorthand for something. Seven thousand? Seven hundred thousand?
There would be no kids for Kevin and Tashi. Not now. And, with the cancer treatments likely to keep his sperm count low for the indefinite future, probably not ever.
Kevin joked about it at the Comedy Spot.
"Really, with all these treatments, it's aged me 40 years. I feel like I'm 65 instead of 25. I have memory problems. I can't walk, or think, that quickly. I take forever using the bathroom. I need to use constant laxatives to do just that.
"I'm going bald. I beat my father to Social Security. I take more pills than my grandmother and I have a really odd urge to play shuffleboard.
"I have memory problems," he says again, then milks the long pause, grinning. "I can't walk, or think, that quickly . . .
"Death is my wake," he concludes a few minutes later. And this time, the crowd's laughter is a little more nervous.
Kevin and Tashi's townhouse is a dim, cluttered space, stacked full of books and board games and videos and Kevin's hand-painted fantasy figurines. They've hung reflective sheets against the windows to keep out the sun; air-conditioning is expensive enough in the summer without the townhouse's sliding glass doors soaking in the sun all day.
But the place is cheerful in spite of their forced frugality. There's a little herb garden on the back patio, and one of Kevin's steampunk sculptures sits proudly in one corner. Cards that they wrote back and forth during their courtship — "when Kevin wooed me," Tashi boasts — hang on the wall.
The kitchen is spotless, with signs of cancer everywhere. A dry-erase board charts Kevin's chemo cycle and pill regimen. They always have a giant bag of little prescription bottles to return to Walgreen's for refill or recycling. And, over the sink, a handwritten note reminds Kevin to rinse his plate. Even today, he has trouble with his memory.
Kevin and Tashi are straddling two worlds: They're both college-age kids and world-weary adults.
Thanks to Kevin's chemo, he can't drink at all — and some friends have steered clear. "They're reaching these natural milestones," Tashi says. "They're getting married, having kids, moving to the city of their choice. We're stuck in a holding pattern."
Most days, their lives feel more like that of 70-somethings than 20-somethings: They organize their schedule around trips to the pharmacy, doctor's visits, the taking of a maintenance dose of chemo. A game night with a few friends is about as exciting as it gets.
Money is a constant concern.
Kevin and Tashi were raised in middle-class homes. At the time of Kevin's collapse, they were both on their way to college degrees and employer-funded health insurance. Kevin is roughly a semester away from having a degree from ASU.