Wednesday, October 13, 2010


We have a new kid. Well, not so new really. She's been with us for about 6 months or so. We made no formal announcements. It just sort of happened and life went by... So here, I make my formal introduction of Mariee D. to my world of readers. Wait a minute, D. is not H. (as in Harpaz), so how could we have had another child you ask? It all started at Starbucks like all of my mornings do. The one two blocks away, where the local bunch of loud mouthed Israeli contractors smoking outside and taking over the tables hang out. Planning the tear-down of quaint 1940's homes of the neighborhood for ugly McMansions that take up the whole lot and are made of the newest, cheapest materials that science and technology have given us. Plastics instead of wood. Composites instead of real stuff. It's one thing the materials, but why does character, detail and beauty need to be sacrificed alongside? Anyway, back to our newest family member cause you guys must be curious by now about this Mariee. She's not a baby and she certainly did not come out of my beloved's womb, as I may have misled above. At Starbucks, for a while I would see Mariee as a fixture of the place. An older lady, my guess at the time upper 70's or early 80's, that would sit and hang out with the many colorful characters that frequent the joint. Sometimes alone, others with her dog, but always dressed with what I can only describe as an ecclectically hippie-ish disheveled sort of look. We first met when I was sitting with our two dogs. Mariee started talking to them and me and we developed an acquaintanceship. She has a dog, Nova, I would see with her every so often. Nova's full name is, get this - Nova San Ita Shima De La Nocha De Lus Mojuba I love You Forever Which Is Further Than Beyond. I kid you not. She repeats it the exact same way every time. A little glimpse into Mariee's world for you. Typical of her owner's somewhat disheveled look, Nova (I'll keep the short version) was leashed with a short knotted rope tied to an old red knotted up leash. Just one of my Starbucks people. You get these sort of on the surface relationships when you frequent any place long enough. Often they stay on the surface. Like in my Starbucks case of being known by an alias for years in a premeditated attempt to distance myself from the Israeli contractor bunch. This way I can sit and hear all their talk without them having a clue I understand all their chauvinist remarks. In some cases, like Mariee's, over a little bit of time you begin to scratch under the surface and beyond. That's how I found out about the cancer. Breast cancer. And the spreading. On one occasion where we actually sat together and over our coffee's she got quite chatty and spilled out about her ordeal - all while smoking a cigarette. On my end, I felt sad hearing her story, but shit happens all the time to all sorts of people and what is she doing smoking anyways? I suppose everyone has their own level of compassion and though I was feeling a bit of it, I didn't set out to adopt her quite yet. For now she's another colorful person coming in and out of my daily routine. Time went by and I'd see her here and there at Starbucks or on the way to or from, until it became apparent that she actually lives in the building directly across the street from our house. And we (by then Orit had developed the same casual type of on the surface relationship with her) began to notice her getting weaker, older and balder. And I don't know at what point exactly or how the relationship was taken to the next level, but it did. Of course it was not me. Orit, who had been really good over the years of purging herself of picking up strays (metaphorically speaking, but needy souls tend to find her) did it and did it big. My humanitarian, compassionate, angel of a wife, always the one to take it to the next level. And though I may be nothing like that myself in parts, it's one of the reasons I am awed by her with every new day and every new adventure she brings into our lives. As some of you know and some not and most don't know the half of it, she's full of them. What I am not, I get to be vicariously through her. And vice-versa. Another tip for the future relationship manual. Sometimes the hardships of responsibility to the human spirit are beyond my everyday abilities. I need to retreat and go into my cave at times. I can allow that because I know she'll be there when I come out and I'm certain that I'm coming out to better worldknowing she's out there making those human connections.
So, Mariee, in her struggles to remain strong and independent through her sickness became more and more dependent on little gestures of Orit's kindness (I did contribute a bit too). Walking Nova, who's a 70lbs. dog who gets excited seeing other dogs on a leash. There was the one time Nova pulled her down to the ground, right onto a pile of shit. On her face. She told us that one with the humor she manages to muster even in the midst of the deepest of depressions. Walks here and there have turned into rides to doctor's, test's, pharmacy's, chemo, supermarket and even once to the hospital for a panic attack. The paramedics came and stood across the street as they so often do come to the building across the street. It's subsidized senior housing. Not a home, but independent apartments. Full of old Russian folks mostly. Not an unknown building to the local paramedics from the fire department. But this one time in particular, I had a funny feeling and ran out to ask what apartment number they were here for and of course it was her. So Orit drove to the hospital. I stayed home with Little Man.  Who has been slowly developing a relationship with her as an unavoidable fact of her being around Orit, her "Guardian Angel" a lot. The Monsignor that she talks to asks her about Orit with every visit. Marrie said that even though her Angel is Jewish she WILL go to heaven. No way she could burn in hell. Marrie never married, has no kids and is completely alone here. She's not upper 70's or 80's as I'd guessed but 66. The cancer and chemo has taken a huge chunk of her visual youth. The mind, still wants to be a kid. She has a brother and a sister out of state, separate states, living their own lives but supporting hers. They discourage her from living in their respective states as the health care would not be covered nearly as such as in California. They probably couldn't  afford it. But they cover her basic needs here. California covers the treatments. The rest falls on the new family from across the street. The every day nitty gritty of the ups and downs of a sickness and it's tolls. The calls back and forth and meals and tag alongs to youthful worlds outside her own, of old people and sickness. So like another child you love, you take on the burdens that come. And sometimes do things happily, sometimes not so, but with compassion. Orit just does it naturally. It's in her essence. And so I embrace it (sometimes grudgingly but always ultimately with no regret). It's hard not to, being in it. And the great thing is that Little Man sees and lives with it all. Yet another amazingly colorful experience and person for him to make a connection with. And he has. He started to call her "Grandma" last week. And you two real Grandma's out there need not feel jealousy, but rather be proud of the beauty he has in his heart. He did it because he recognized that she needed it from a certain point in their inevitable bonding. And for that and much more I am proud.

Today was a special day for two reasons. One being the amazing story of the rebirth from the earth of 33 trapped miners in Chile. A story that will live amongst legendary tales and should be covered in a completely separate session on it's own. An emotional day of absolute success on par with landing on the moon, which I did not get to experience. I'll add it to the list of topics to possible revisit here another time, as the personal stories begin to come out. The other, a simple story. Starbucks is yet again involved. I walk in and see J, one of a few Starbucks workers we've befriended. He said to me, " I saw Mariee yesterday. She told me about Theo calling her and telling her she is not alone. And that it was on a day that she was feeling particularly bad." I laughed. Now, I will confess that it was obviously done with the encouragement of mom and dad as we dialed her number. And coached him somewhat. But he said it as practiced cause he knew it would make her feel better. And he knew she was feeling pretty shitty. And that's more the point. No arguments like when asked to pose for a photo, or this or that or typical 6 and a half year old excuses. Did it happily. And it made it's impact. I knew it would. He knew it would. I could hear her reaction on the phone. I knew I would hear it from her later and I heard about it from J at Starbucks, who in turn, turned it around on us and said "it's an amazing thing you're doing with Mariee." I said, "it's all my wife." He said, "you're a part of that family." And that's why I like going to my Starbucks and the reason I decided to talk about our not so new kid, Mariee.