Monday, June 6, 2011

Life Goes On And On

I got married last night.

Maya hopped out of the bath, as I held up her black and red with white polka dots Minnie Mouse towel, and kissed me on the lips.

"Now we're married," she said.

"Sounds good to me."

We'd spoken on the phone earlier that morning because I'd been away since Friday. "I am so excited because Daddy is coming home today," she sang into my ear. I was beyond elated.

I was actually not surprised about our sudden nuptials just a little over nine months since Verna died. I did scoop up the garter last weekend amid a cluster of guys who exhibited as much enthusiasm for the exercise as sloths doped up on sleeping pills at the wedding I officiated at in Seattle. So I was just fulfilling my destiny.

Maya and I made may have sailed, though, into the turbulent waters that confront almost all newlyweds. She told me this morning that, "I wish I didn't have a daddy."

My crime? I said she needed to finish her entire breakfast, a tiny swatch of quesadilla and a few pieces of scrambled eggs.

Yes, I can be too demanding and that may have doomed our happily ever after.

Tonight, at what turned out to be Miguel's final baseball game of the season, she admitted the bitter truth. "We're not married," she laughed. "That was just pretend."

A dagger to my already wounded heart, a dose of reality upside my head and heart? Hey, the short-lived matrimonial union had its upside. I brushed her teeth, read her William's Doll, and tucked her under five layers of sheets and blankets. Then I had an hour to myself.


Last Thursday night I took Maya for a walk around the park in our neighborhood. She wanted to stroll outside in the evening light while Miguel watched the NBA Finals. While she played with her preschool friend, Mackie, and his younger sister, Emma, I gazed at a group of mostly Mexicans engaged in a friendly basketball game on the hardtop. I noticed a friend of ours, N, whose real name I will not use for he is not in this country legally.

We met N and his then girlfriend, T, and their then two year old son, N, about two years ago. N, the son, and Maya loved to play together, and N, the father, and T treated her as if she were their daughter. They pushed her on the swings, took her on long walks around the perimeter of the park, and bought her ice cream and popsicles in the summertime.

N, sweaty and flushed after an intense game, came over and hugged me. He is a landscaper who works at least 40 hours a week. He is also a hands on father. I've seen him pushing Maya and his son on the swings, tossing a baseball to his son, and kicking a soccer ball with him.

"Hello Maya," he said.

"How are you Senor?" I asked.

"Good, good."

"Where are T and N?" Maya asked.

"Home." He paused. "T is not well. She is..." Then he moved his hand 180 degrees from mid-chest to belly.

"Pregnant?" I asked.

"Yes," he said, as his lips curled upwards.

I hugged him again and said, "That is so wonderful. I am so excited." I felt tears wet my eyes.

T is due around Christmas, a true holiday miracle. The three of them are very special to me because early last year or late in 2009 I officiated at their wedding ceremony, a hastily arranged event right outside my home on the eastern edge of the park.

N and T are Jehovah's Witnesses, both from Mexico and both undocumented immigrants. Until she got pregnant again, T worked evenings as a waitress. She has gently frosted hair and a beaming smile. After I told them I did weddings they asked me to perform one for them.

"How much?" they'd asked.

"Nothing," I said. "Just get the license." I snagged two passersby and conducted a short ceremony for two loving people who are always present for their son (and daughter to be) and toil hard in this country.

A week later they brought us a home baked Mexican cake. It was delicious. N left a message on my cell phone weeks after Verna died last August. I hadn't seen them in a couple of months or more.

"I am so sorry for your loss. Please call me anytime," he said and left me his number. I phoned and we spoke briefly. We didn't see them for a few more months, but we hugged tightly in the parking lot of a department store as they again expressed their condolences.

Somehow I have this powerful feeling that their daughter, the ultimate Christmas gift of life, is going to be very, very special. I believe she has at least one very potent angel looking out for her.


My mother has a first cousin, Renee, who lived home with her parents all her life. She always had friends outside the home, went on trips, carved out her own life, but she also spent vacations with her parents, my Uncle Max, the brother of my grandmother, and Aunt Irene.

Irene died a few years ago, and Renee continued to care for her father as his health declined until he died at the age of 95. Renee still lives in that split-level home in West Hartford, CT. Renee, my mother informed me, attends synagogue regularly. Not only does she recite the traditional prayers of praise to God and in memory of her departed loved ones. But Renee, who is in her 60s, chauffeurs older members of the community on routine errands.

She still has a full social life with friends she's amassed, but she also embraces her role as caregiver to those in need. I think she's amazing for how she copes with profound loss.

Love, life, death. Life goes on and on.

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