This is something very different for me: I’m actually going to share some real feelings. No hidden subtext or punch lines and sarcastic innuendos, just some feelings. I never share anything personal and I have lived most of my life running away from and not allowing myself to feel when it gets overwhelming. I’ve hidden my way through so much loss – sometimes with alcohol, sometimes with drugs, sometimes by hiding out in a casino or a movie theatre – but today I feel like I don’t have anywhere to hide. My dear friend MariaElaina died two days ago and I just can’t process it.
To call her a friend doesn’t seem like enough. I’ve known her my whole life and we’ve been through everything in the past thirty years. We’ve had so many amazing times and laughed our asses off during so many great days as much as we’ve fought and been down crying through so many bad ones. She cried with me when my mother died and I held her when her little sister Laura died. I felt like my mother died all over again when her mother died and she was there for me when my grandmother died. I was there when she lost both of her grandparents and I was standing next to her when she got married. She was with me when I sideswiped two cars with my father’s car when we were trying to “borrow” alcohol from her sister Annie. I was there for sauce every Sunday with her family where we all watched as her father stood watch like a sniper pretending to shoot their neighbor’s dog that never stopped barking. She was my partner in crime through so many adventures and so much of our lives have been intertwined that it’s just not enough to say she was just a friend…
We didn’t see each other all the time as life and miles have gotten in the way, but we were always like a movie on pause and the feelings have never gone away. Whenever we’re together, it’s like a moment hasn’t passed and we never miss a beat. I’ve been drowning in memories since I heard and thought the best way to honor her might be to share her with you.
In my life, I’ve heard a lot of people laugh, but no one laughs like MariaElaina. That’s what I’m thinking of now and what I’ll always remember – her hysterical, contagious, gut-busting laughter. Everyone will remember her in different ways, but for me – it’s her laugh. We were attached like two dim bulbs in a lamp and we’d go everywhere together. We used to skip school, grab a box of Entemann’s cookies, and sit on the curb in a random parking lot for hours just talking and laughing about nonsense. What wonderful nonsense it was though – it really is true that you never know during any given moment what will become a memory someday. We would make up stupid songs, shoot silly videos in her kitchen, and tease her younger sister Laura whenever a celebrity died. In my life up to and including today, I have never seen someone cry as hard as Laura did when Lillian Gish died in 1993. When John Candy died, I could understand when she threw the phone down bursting into tears, but Lillian Gish was 99 and Laura didn’t even know who she was.
Random images keep flooding back – when it was a rain storm and MariaElaina and her mom dressed me head to toe in garbage bags so that I could still ride my bike home. Who could have known that the loose bags hanging down would get caught in the bike’s chain and throw me from the bike two blocks away? When we were playing Indiana Jones on her father’s flimsy home-made car lift in the backyard that collapsed almost on top of us the second we tried to rappel down the rope. The two of us getting yelled at on the overnight bus to Atlantic City by all the people sitting around us because we were laughing and fooling around and everyone around us just wanted to sleep. When we got yelled at in the movie theatre seeing Dumb and Dumber because we couldn’t stop laughing…When we went to a sleazy bar in a ghetto neighborhood that had about four patrons in it and the whole front was boarded up with wood. We had no idea that there was a drive-by shooting just a few hours before; of course no one would hang out there – it was practically still a crime scene! Common sense was never our strong suit. When her Grandfather used to steal things from the senior center and hide them under his cowboy hat or under his shirt.
We used to go and visit with an old lady named Mary and play cards. Old Lady Mary wasn’t your typical sweet grandmother type – she was crazy, used to feed us expired food and she used to cheat then steal Maria’s change when we played cards. Maria used to sneak and turn on her Air Conditioning because her house was always hot like an oven and I used to dance around in Mary’s ratty old underwear that being a child of the Depression, she saved and dusted with when they could no longer be worn. We were always doing crazy things to make each other laugh and Old Lady Mary was always a willing participant.
The way MariaElaina used to food shop was ridiculous. She would write a list and then she had to go in order item by item as listed and put things in the wagon one at a time checking them off as she went. I’m OCD and no one to throw stones, but she would walk past things three or four times until she got to it on the list. One time in Shop Rite I tried to put a can of Maxwell House coffee in the wagon and she freaked out and ran away because it was down about five spots on the list from where she was. She literally grabbed the wagon and ran away from me so I did what any sane person would do in that situation: I threw the Maxwell House coffee can like I was the Eli Manning but missed her shopping cart by a mile and took out about thirty glass jelly jars covering her and the wagon. We both laughed like idiots forever after that one…You couldn’t take us anywhere.
Here’s something I wrote about the two of us that was typical of the shenanigans we used to get into.
I just reread it and it’s like I can see it all over and can see the two of us laughing our asses off…We were like Dumb and Dumber except Maria had the higher Aquanet hair! It’s not the best thing written, but it has a comment that she wrote when I posted it which I’d forgotten about until today. It caught me off guard and made me smile because it was like I could hear her voice again…
Here comes the part where I ask you for your help. MariaElaina didn’t have life insurance and her sister Annie is an amazing single mother having a really hard time financially. She’s going through so much right now and they just lost their father a couple of months ago. There’s a Go Fund Me page set up https://www.gofundme.com/sah39q44 to cover her funeral expenses and anything you can contribute would help her family immensely. People always wants to help make a difference to someone’s life and here’s a way to really make a difference to someone so desperately in need. The cost of your latte could do so much – please consider helping them out; any amount is significant.
MariaElaina is a one of a kind woman and has been a pillar in my life. She’s had sickness, pain, and rivers of tears, but what she’s had more than anything throughout her life is laughter and love. She never gave up fighting and was always finding the humor and the laughter through it all. She lived for her family and friends and brought so much love and happiness to so many people. Bitterness never took over even though she was in and out of the hospital constantly and although MariaElaina isn’t leaving behind a legacy of riches and fame – she’s leaving a legacy of love and laughter – so much laughter!
I am lucky to have so many wonderful memories of her and until I see you again my friend…