IF YOU ONLY READ ONE THING THAT I EVER WRITE – LET THIS BE IT!

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.

 

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MariaElaina and I at the Prom (we’re the couple that’s at least foot shorter than everyone else)

 

 

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.

 

Air Raid Post!!!

 

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.

 

Go Fund Me for MariaElaina

 

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…

Years after the Cold War thawed, Air Raid Drills were still nabbing casualties

cause and effect

People, let’s talk about cause and effect! This story doesn’t end well for a certain little girl with Leukemia, but I’m not the one to blame here. Leukemia isn’t even the one to blame here. Like many others here on this site, this particular story doesn’t paint me in a very good light, but I’m willing to risk that to get right up on my soapbox and tell you about the effect Air Raid drills had on the children of America. (If you don’t know what an Air Raid drill is and never had to duck and cover read this LINK HERE before you go any further or I’ll just sound crazier than I normally do).

Air Raid

My being a neurotic mess didn’t happen overnight; I was the only newborn in the maternity ward kvetching over the fold in my swaddled blanket – Why does my blanket have stripes – he’s got one that’s plain blue, why can’t I get plain blue? Why did he get a second tuck? When is that nurse gonna start warming her hands before she changes me…But this isn’t about a newborn – fast forward to that neurotic mess as a teenager…

swaddle

My friend MariaElaina was like my partner in crime. If there was a box of Entemann’s cookies in my hand, her hand was covered in crumbs as well. If there was a sixty-five year old woman to play cards with, she was right there shuffling the cards while the old bag cheated us for pennies…If she had a flour baby in Health Class and mistakenly let me babysit, I was the one that got it kidnapped…As with everyone, High School can be tough – so we used to combat that by cutting classes and attending the other person’s class with them to make it bearable.

MariaElaina was enrolled in a vocational program that was teaching her practical skills to become a dental hygienist and so for half the school day, she was bussed over to a satellite school for the program. It was career and technical programs, so you only went there if you were enrolled in one. Always up for a road trip, I ditched my classes for the day and got on the bus with her to learn the tricks of the dental hygentistry trade. The bus ride over was about twenty five minutes to a half hour and without incident. I had never been there before, so it was fun to see the facility and get out of my school for the day.

dental hygenist

We went into her classroom after arriving and were stoked to see that it was a substitute teacher for the day. Now we figured that there wouldn’t be anyone the wiser for me being there when I wasn’t supposed to. Little did I know…

Of course, all the kids were fooling around and being High School kids as the Substitute took attendance. We figured that if I just didn’t answer she wouldn’t know anything; we were all just standing around anyway so she wouldn’t realize I was extra. As MariaElaina and I were chatting it up, I was starting to get a headache from my eyeglasses so I took them off and held them in my hand. One of her classmates started over towards us and I couldn’t help but squint and stare because I didn’t have my glasses on but that girl was obviously sick. She wasn’t walking okay and she was literally the palest person I have ever seen in my life. Translucent if you will. Knowing I cannot be trusted to not say dumb things, MariaElaina tried to blow her off and get her away from us as soon as possible, but the girl couldn’t take a hint. She kept talking to us and asking questions: Are you interested in dental hygentistry? Is that why you’re here with us today? It was almost as if I was all of a sudden going to don a pair of rubber gloves and ask to scrub in…

As we were talking, we were standing in the doorway of the classroom. MariaElaina and I were in the room and Leukemia Girl (I call her that because she had Leukemia and quite honestly, I can’t remember her name) had her back to the doorway facing us. As Leukemia Girl was overstaying her welcome and ignoring my confused stares, there was a random girl passing by the open doorway of our classroom. I gave it no notice until another girl about a minute later started down the same hallway screaming out to her. I will swear until the day that I die that she screamed “AIR RAID” and not “ADRIAN” to the girl that passed by before her, but I have been told repeatedly since then that I am mistaken. I don’t know if it was my late 1970’s grade school training to move fast to duck & cover in the hallway, but I hit the Holy Shit button big time and freaked the freak out! It was almost as if a bolt of lightning shot right into me and my body jerked into action mid-conversation. Thinking back about it, I can see it in my mind in slow-motion: me screaming at the top of my lungs “AIR RAID!!!AIR RAID!!!” and then proceeding to throw my eyeglasses out of my hand like a World Series Pitcher and then those airborne eyeglasses smacking right into the young lady with Leukemia Girl’s forehead with a thud resulting in her first bruise of the day and then me bum-rushing for the door screaming “AIR RAID!!!AIR RAID!!!” as I knocked her out of the way and onto the floor in order to get into the hallway and down on all fours with my hands covering my neck.

duck and cover

Needless to say, since this wasn’t an actual drill – no one else took part in the safety precautions and just stared in disbelief at first, then disgust as I accidentally assaulted the girl with Leukemia. As I lay there crouched on the floor, she was writhing in pain on her back like a turtle turned upside down and carrying on like she had been shot…

MariaElaina was, of course, laughing hysterically and rolling on the floor as the substitute teacher shot up like a rocket screaming. She made sure Leukemia Girl still had a pulse and had someone was take her to the nurse and then turned on me: “What is wrong with you? Come with me – You’re going to the Principal right now!”

“The principal? I don’t even go here…” it slipped out before I could even hold it back…MariaElaina looked like she was about to wet herself right there. Tears streaming down her face and just bellowing. Her laughing wasn’t helping because it always made me laugh even harder and this was no exception. I was escorted to the front door and told to leave immediately.

“But I don’t even know where we are? How am I going to get back? I took the bus here – is there another one going back to the High School?”

“There’s another bus in in two hours when classes are over for the day – but you can’t wait in here.”

Guess who had to sit outside the front of the building for two hours and wait for the bus as MariaElaina and the kids in her class looked out the window hysterical laughing at him? Did I forget to mention that it was raining and I didn’t have an umbrella or even a coat on?  I didn’t really mind it and it wasn’t so bad until the girl with Leukemia popped her bruised head into the window and proceeded to give me the finger…I was literally sitting out there on a cold slab of concrete they were calling a bench for two hours soaking wet and laughing to myself like a psycho at the absurdity of it all.

I guess I did kind of deserve that one...

I guess I did kind of deserve that one…

I’m not saying she was milking it or wasn’t really hurt, but come on – it’s not like I was a linebacker. Even though she was sickly and paper thin, she still definitely had more muscle tone than me and they were eyeglasses that I hit her with – not nunchucks!

If you’re wondering the lesson I learned from that – it’s obviously that the Air Raid drills work because I have literally been in a house on fire twice and didn’t move that quick but you mention Air Raid and I’m off like a prom dress…

prom dress