Monday, July 29, 2013

Marina, Sonia, Micah, Daniel, and Me, Part 1, the Backdrop of the Story of Caring at Home for my Friend

       It is has long been begging to be told, and so I tell it after such a long time waiting in the wings, this story.
       I remember the first time I met Daniel, he was one of those. I was barely twenty, Ashtanga  Yoga had just begun. My first retreat, our teacher Babaji's name, and Kurt's name will be the only ones unchanged by me for this story.

Ashtanga means eight-limbed. The limbs are:
1) Withdrawal of the mind from the senses,
2) Concentration,
3) Meditation,
4) Hatha Yoga (the postures, mostly named for animals),
5) Truth,
6) Right livelihood (work),
7) Harmlessness,
8)Karma Yoga, or selfless service.

The last was and is always stressed by our teacher, Baba Hari Das, who also always modeled the concept and ideal of dispassion.

       The first time I encountered Daniel, he was playing an autoharp, singing one of his songs in his angelic tenor voice, something along the lines of..." I've fallen down a deep dark well/ Some call it earth, some call it hell...," or was it, "Mama give the baby suck/You are the universe to him..."...?

       He made us all laugh, all the time he wasn't playing his music. I danced on the hill as he played outside the main hall at the Yoga retreat up Bear Creek Rd., that first time. My hair and skirt were long, and his smile was so sweet. We all loved Daniel, the original Krishna to all of us Gopis. It is important to stress in this because of how important he was to Marina all along and at the end. I was there at her constant service, he is the reason she died happier than she would have.

       I met Marina through Daniel, both were 28.  Her young children were, the older girl, Sonia, and the younger boy, Micah.  Marina publicized Daniel's concerts, served him faithfully. I would visit her, she came to the house on Pine street. I enjoyed her stories of picking up guys at The Catalyst, a Santa Cruz fixture then, and as far as I know, to this day. Many famous acts passed through, to play at The Catalyst. I was in awe of both her and Daniel, Daniel who made us laugh all the time. He had a talent for it.  Later, he was at Marina's house often, making us both laugh as I massaged her body head to toe nightly. 10:00 PM, was when the show she loved to watch nightly finished...Dallas.Was it re-runs, or was the show really on nightly...? I don't recall. I never watched it, I was concentrated on the massage, and the laughter.

       A few years went by, I studied art and Early Childhood Development and Education. I had moved into a 'Yoga house' with Daniel and others at 22. So many stories on the way to this story to be considered, then discarded for this post. There is art to brevity, I strive for it in all I write. But at the house on Pine street with Daniel, and the others, Marina was always in the background, always a part of things. That house is where Kurt died. Actually he died at Big Sur. Kurt was found at the bottom of a cliff in Big Sur. I loved Kurt, and his story will be told another time, this is Marina's story...Kurt is in the backdrop of my life, always.

      As far back as I remember, life in California has always been that of real estate changing hands and too many evictions, or, simply forced movings. I have never wanted to move from any place where I have lived. The house at Pine St. was sold...I moved.

       A few years later while living at Janet's house on Chestnut St., I was in school studying art at University of California at Santa Cruz. I was now 25. Marina lived across the high school next door to where I lived, around the bend, she was a neighbor, visits were fairly frequent. Her friend Ana gave me a ride home from play rehearsal one night, we put on the Ramayana every year. As we pulled up to the house she told me she had had a grueling day... somehow after deliberation, she had decided to tell me. Marina and she had been to the doctor's office. Marina had been informed at age thirty-one... that she had Leukemia, had been crying all day in Ana's arms. We did not talk in those days about 'Oncologists,' 'stages,' or 'treatments,' or 'bone marrow transplants,' which did come up later, the idea was feared and rejected by Marina. I knew from the fact that in elementary school, Elliot had died of it, that my mother's friend, Ellie had died of it, another family friends with my parents had lost a daughter to it, I only knew in the moment I was given this news about my friend Marina, that it was a death sentence. How young we all were.
        I put my head down on the dashboard, and I began to wail. I sobbed right there, even after Ana went into the house. I could not stop crying for hours, head on arms folded beneath my face.

       Once, at about six or seven, I had listened as my parents talked of my aunt Muriel, who had recently died of cancer. Very curious to learn about the world always, I asked questions. When I learned that cancer is a painful illness that always ends in death...those my parents talked to me...we were all little adults in that house. That night, as I lay sleeping in bed with my father...frequent nightmares, terror in the night, I sought refuge with the very source, both of my parents. I awoke with a painful stiff neck, certain I had cancer. I was unable to move my head. I cried, I still recall the puddle of tears on the pillow, I was almost literally drowning in my own tears as I cried silently, not to awaken my father, or my mother in the other bed. My father heard me  though, awoke, turned on lights, carried me to my mothers bed, and they asked me why I was crying by now uncontrollably in the night. I told them I thought I had cancer, I told them of the pain and stiffness in my neck. They told me I had a stiff neck. I was told not to get in bed with my father any more. He got into bed with me after that, whenever my mother kicked him out for snoring. Nothing untoward, as my friend from England delicately says, my parents strictly adhered to corporal punishment, there was no sexual abuse. I slept that night with my mother.

       Janet's husband Ricardo came out to the car, and got me to come into the house. I visited Marina many times before it was announced to at least a hundred of us by our teacher that Marina needed a caretaker. Would any of us volunteer to go live with her, help her in her steadily declining condition? No one came forward. Not one voice, not one person in the large gathering was willing. Minutes went by, I thought my heart would break, while no one said a word. I was in school studying art, U.C. Santa Cruz, I was twenty-five. I announced, firmly for the whole group to hear (and truly how shy I was in those days, so out of character)...before the whole group, I said that I would go live with Marina, I would care for her. I dropped out of school, not knowing for how long, not knowing what my duties would entail.

      I voluntarily entered into a time of darkness, the underworld of caregiving, which is how it felt to me then. My thoughts were of Marina, I wanted to give her palliative care, without knowing that terminology at the time. Her house, her children, her meals, rice pudding which she constantly craved, and her nightly massages became my duties for six months.

Part 2, the details, next entry.

1 comment:

Writing Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan said...

Dear Chandra,
I just finished reading your Part 1 of Caregiving. Wow, you were courageous and loving then. You are courageous and loving now. Shall read Part 2.
I'm proud to be in your circle.
Teresa LeYung-Ryan