Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Today I am again reminded of the fragility of life. I have had way too many reminders in the past year. It seems like almost every other month life sends me a memo. These memos are painful and I feel like screaming, "I GET IT! ENOUGH ALREADY!"
But today's reminder was especially painful.
I have not lost anyone especially close to me. Some who have moved on were acquaintances in my younger years, others were friends of friends, one was a woman who was dear to me when I was a child. Today a dear lady I have known for many years lost her child. Her boy was just 20 years old and a hard-working young man who loved his mama. He took a lunch break to grab a hamburger -- just a 5 minute drive from his job. On the way home last Friday he was in a car accident. He was not wearing a seatbelt. He never woke up to talk with his family and say goodbye. He was in a coma for 5 days and was removed from life-support today.
I have no idea how my friend will go on. I feel pain for her and I when I try to reach the level of pain she must be feeling I cannot even come close to imagining it. I look at my two healthy, adventurous children and I really cannot even imagine. Words of comfort for her are hard to form.
This is a woman for whom life has been misery. But that is my definition and I would never say that to her. To her, life, until today, was okay. But to hear her story you would suck in your breath and find it hard to exhale. This is a devout woman and to her god I say, WHY? What more do you want from her? She began her life poor, the oldest of 8 children in Mexico. She took care of her younger siblings from a young age, and I'm sure she did this well. She is a loving person. If her youth wasn't stolen from her by having to parent young siblings, it certainly was when she was kidnapped at the age of about 13 by someone known to the family. She was basically enslaved and sexually abused and held for a couple of years. She was finally returned to her family and even though they knew who had done this to their daughter, nothing was done to the man. She made her way to the USA and worked hard and became an American Citizen (she voted for Bush, but I still love her). She worked and waited until later in life to have her three children. Unfortunately her choice in a partner was not a good one. The man who is the father of her children is a louse. She finally steeled herself and kicked him out. But many years later when he had health problems, she took him back into her home to care for him. She thought he was in his last days, but he rallied and regained some health. Although he has a job he has started drinking again.

She wanted her children to attend college, but she didn't have the means to provide it for them and they chose to work instead. Her daughter finally enrolled in college but became pregnant in her first term. Now daughter and granddaughter are living at home. The oldest son lives at home as does the louse of a partner and a sister and niece. She lives in a tiny house in Pacoima that backs to the freeway. The neighborhood is not good and she worked her butt off to make sure her kids stayed out of trouble and stayed in school until they graduated. She fretted about the hooligans roaming the streets and her worst fear was that one of her boys would be a victim of violence. Her dream was to rent an apartment in a safe area, but her husband wouldn't sell the house and she didn't make enough money to start over again.
I remember so many times her talking about her baby boy -- she had a very special relationship with him and she and I talked so much about the similarities about her boy and my boy. My boy and I also have a very tight bond.

Just last Monday she told me her youngest son was so excited because he got a new puppy. I can't believe it was just over a week ago. And now he is gone.

This post is rambling, but I am still stunned. Amanda wrote a sweet note to my friend to say that she "hopes your son is doing better in heaven," but I don't know if I will deliver it. It might be too painful.

I remember once I was on vacation with some friends in Palm Springs when Amanda was just about a year and a half or two years old. Some of our friends didn't have kids yet. I was hitting the sauce quite hard (as we do on this adult vacations) but I remember sitting with two friends who didn't have kids. They asked me what advice I had about having kids. I didn't hesitate. "Don't do it," I said. "It opens you up to experiencing the worst pain you could imagine. I love my children and now that they are here I wouldn't wish that they weren't, but I can say that I would tell someone contemplating it, not to do it. The pain that I can only just try to imagine is too much to bear." I distinctly remember that conversation and I remember thinking about it over the years. I don't know why but it just popped out and I felt so strongly about it that I actually wanted to grab one of my friends and shake her and scream, "Don't do it! The potential for pain is too great!" There has been so much joy with our family, but that lingering "what if" is always there.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Matriarch Gone

Today I received very sad news. The mother of a childhood friend passed away. Normally this would be sad news that I could put on the shelf after passing on condolences. Parents die, it is part of life. If they aren't your own parents, you hurt for your friends as you think about the mortality of your own family. If you have already lost your parents you perhaps have more empathy and more insight and know what to say or do. But this woman was also a mother to me during the tender years from 5 to about 15. Those are some pretty important years and her guidance cannot be discounted because she wasn't my biological mother. She made her mark. She wasn't afraid to mother a child who wasn't her own.

Mary taught me lessons right along with her daughter, my bff in childhood.
I should let you know that Jenn and I were bosom buddies in the style of Anne and Diana of Anne of Green Gables. We were together all the time. I was usually at her house to escape the chaos of my own. We told each other all of our secrets. We created elaborate plays and had some pretty hot dance moves. We watched hours of Little House on the Prairie and watched the movie Annie at least 20 times. Her mother passed on to Jennifer the gory details of the birds and the bees and Jennifer of course passed this information on to me... otherwise I would have been in the dark. I learned about tampons from Mary, about how to soften your heels with a pumice stone and the importance of washing your dirty feet (because kids did not wear shoes in the summer back then... EVER) before you slipped them between your clean sheets.
Mary's house was a "door open" type of place. You peed with the door open or changed in front of others. This was in stark contrast to my puritan-like household where doors were closed and no information about personal body habits was ever shared. I model my own home after Mary's.
Oh, and pies. That woman could make some mean pies! There was always pie and tea. I remember Mary with her big mug of tea. Tea always makes me think of Mary. The woman also made her own jam and took her kids -- and me! -- berry picking so she could make her awesome jam.

There was an incident when I took one of Jenn's round hairbushes and it got all tangled up in my hair. The brush was not moving. Mary walked me out to the backyard sat me down in a chair and worked that thing out. I still look back on that day and I am amazed. She didn't call my mom -- a few blocks over -- she just took control like I was one of her own and got me all fixed up. She was like that. When I was in her house, she was responsible for me and she took that role seriously. I think about that all the time with my own kids. When they have friends over and play gets a bit rough and someone comes with a cut finger or they've lost a tooth (not an adult one thankfully) I take them and care for them like my own. I learned that from Mary.

Mary was a wonderful, loving mother and friend. I will forever be sorry that I didn't get a chance to say goodbye. Jenn and I went our separate ways around the college years. There was no falling out, just distance and I'm not good at all with distance relationships. I didn't put in the effort and lost touch. Through the magic of facebook Jenn and I got in touch again and I had the chance to meet her and her husband and beautiful daughter (there is now another pretty girl added to the mix). We trade notes on facebook, but it can't compare to real friendship. And now Mary is gone and I realize that my own inability to reach out to those not in my immediate vicinity has robbed me of so much.

My heart breaks for my friend who first lost her father a decade ago and now has lost her mom. I have lost something, too. It can't compare, but it feels like the fabric of my own history has been ripped.

I know that I was given a gift in Mary. I hope my own children can know that gift. That beyond their immediate family, there are others out there who care for their well-being. It is a really good feeling, I can tell you. It means so much.

Mary, thank you for being such a great second mom. I will always remember you and will continue to share stories of you with my children.