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    Celebrating Life... Celebrating Health

    August 16, 2016

    When I left Bruno's place, it was just before noon.

     

    I had no trouble finding Betsy and Karen's home. 

     

    Take 18th to Central to Lowry to France to 36th to Noble to Triton. 

     

    The longest stretch of the ride was Lowry: a route running east and west. It crosses over the Mississippi River. 

     

    I passed through city neighborhoods, convenience stores, a hospital, and later suburbia.  

     

    Less than 30-minutes later, I arrived.

     

    I found the side garage. 

     

    Feeling cavalier, I tried the latch door along the wooden fence; it was unlocked.  I opened it, and noticed the actual door on the garage was ajar.  I opened it, too, and peeked inside.

     

    Empty... save for a black Lincoln. 

     

    I unbungeed my backpack and tent and placed everything in the garage. 

     

    If I was going to explore, I wanted to explore unhindered. 

     

    Betsy would not be home until closer to 5 p.m.

     

    I got back on 36th, turned left and noticed a Cub Foods (grocery store).

     

    I pulled into it, and filled up on water and some prepackaged salad and fruit; I also sent Betsy a text. 

     

    She mentioned that someone was home. 

     

    Not Karen.  Karen's brother.

     

    (Hence... the Lincoln.  I did remember thinking why Betsy or Karen would own a Lincoln.  It did not fit their automotive profile.)

     

    In other words, I could go back, unload my groceries, and enjoy human interaction.

     

    I stuffed my food in my satchel, drove back to the house, and rang the doorbell. 

     

    A tall human figure passed by the window. 

     

    Dave answered the door.

     

    He knew who I was.

     

    I walked into the house and made myself feel right at home.  I fluttered around... making my lunch and grabbing my stuff out of the garage.

     

    Dave was in the midst of laundry.

     

    I engaged Dave in conversation.

     

    What brings you to Minneapolis?  Oh, that's your car.  Are you married?  Do you have any kids? 

     

    He, a 50-something, tolerated my inquisition. 

     

    At times, he took long pauses between sentences, and I wondered if he was thinking what to say next, or if he expected me to fill the spaces in between.  

     

    NPR played in the background. 

     

    Two senior critters relaxed around us:  a 20-year-old Tabby named Luther and a 12-year-plus rescue puppy named Annie.

     

    The conversation progressed, and deeper topics emerged:  politics, shootings, and race relations.

     

    Betsy arrived.

     

    Like her puppy Annie, I greeted her at the back door. 

     

    Laughing and smiling, we embraced.

     

    She walked in and asked me if I was hungry because she was.

     

    Betsy and I ended up at a local Caribbean restaurant within 15-minutes of her arrival. 

     

    She and I caught up on 10-years in under two-hours. 

     

    You can do that with close friends.

     

    Ultimate conversation takeaway?

     

    The importance of celebrating life.

     

    We drove back.

     

    Karen had finally arrived from work.

     

    Sitting around in their comfortable and cushiony living room, we chatted about how our days went. 

     

    Later, I shared stories about my trip, and various Minnesota observations. 

     

    Betsy helped me figure out the best navigation for tomorrow. 

     

    We conversed until around 10 p.m.

     

    Setting up my futon with two or three quilts, Betsy hugged me goodnight. 

     

    We retired to separate quarters in the same quarter of the house. 

     

    I had trouble sleeping, and I blame the garlic-drenched kale.

     

    Sometime after midnight, my eyes closed.  

    I awoke just after 6 a.m. with the rest of the house. 

     

    Four adults having coffee... making tea... two getting dressed for work.

     

    Karen left first.

     

    Betsy and I had a tiny slice of quality morning time. 

     

    We walked Annie around the block.  Unfortunately, she would have a longer day and would not be home until closer to 8 p.m.

     

    When she left, Dave and I lounged about the house.  Technically, he had two video interviews; I bummed around.

     

    Texting Jenny, she and I determined that I would meet her and Michael at Abbott Northwestern (a local hospital) sometime in the early afternoon.

     

    Reviewing my route (suggested by Betsy), I showered and dressed.

     

    I left Dave, the pets, and the house sometime after 10 a.m.

     

    I took 36th to 100 South to Minnetonka/Lake. 

     

    Traffic on 100 South was light. 

     

    Paying attention to my surroundings, I pulled into a huge lake (Lake Calhoun).  I wanted to take a few pictures of the sailboats.  Then, without looking at a map, I thought it would be a nice walk from the lake to the hospital. 

     

    I strolled through yuppy-posh condo-filled Uptown followed by the consumer-friendly Lyn-Lake. 

     

    Then, it got pretty sketchy. 

     

    Men in tight, short shorts; bulimic women in tight dresses; hard faces; stoic dispositions.

     

    Later, I hit Midtown.

     

    Somalian women covered head to toe save for their face; hipsters on skateboards and mopeds; Ecuadorean women with baby strollers. 

     

    Nearly four miles later (on a sticky Minnesota afternoon), I made a left on Chicago and eventually found the hospital.

     

    I entered the first building on my left (2828); I sat down in cold, cold air-conditioning: I sent Jenny a text.

     

    She and Michael were in another part of the hospital; she walked from her building to mine.

     

    We hugged. 

     

    She was taken aback by my blonde locks.

     

    We spoke in the lobby for a few minutes.

     

    Building 2828 was where it all started nearly a year ago.

     

    Severe headaches... vomiting... standard MRI.  

     

    A phone call.

     

    We need to see you, Michael:  bring your wife.

     

    Diagnosis?

     

    Brain cancer.

     

    Healthy all your life... then, this.

     

    Unexpected... opaque. 

     

    What now?

     

    Celebrate life:  Michael and Jenny style.

     

    Jenny and I walked to where Michael was. 

     

    Corridor after corridor.  Hallway after hallway.  One elevator ride.

     

    Same man... same smile... same Michael from graduate school.  

     

    But, not the same.

     

    Much thinner with a close-shaved crop.

     

    He and the nurse were discussing the upcoming strike.  

     

    Then, I remembered the lawn signs:  Nurses put the care in healthcare

     

    I wondered what those signs were about...

     

    Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association were getting ready to vote on whether to strike.  

     

    We gauged the nurse a bit more on why the possibility of a strike.

     

    Then, Michael, Jenny, and I walked down to the main lobby and to their bicycles.

     

    The hospital was not too far from their house.

     

    They walked their bikes and me to the bus-stop.  I would take the bus back to my motorcycle and meet them at their house.  They lived off of Lake.

     

    Straight route... Lake to 30th... corner of 24th and 30th. 

     

    Only one challenging part:  maneuvering around all the manholes. 

     

    I walked up to their large multi-family home. 

     

    Jenny escorted me inside. 

     

    Their adorable puppy, Bella, welcomed me, too.

     

    [Michael's sister (who was visiting from England) had taken her nephew and niece on a canoe trip along the St. Croix River.]

     

    We sat (facing each other) on the two living room couches and caught up on life, the motorcycle journey, the cancer journey, and their book (on it). 

     

    Don't Postpone Joy:  Adventures with Brain Cancer.

     

    Being in Michael and Jenny's presence has always been a holy experience for me. 

     

    They question deeply; they listen intently.

     

    They discern with you.

     

    Epiphany:  my heightened awareness of people and places. 

     

    Being vulnerable and present in a changing landscape may be the cause of it. 

     

    Epiphany:  nurture and recognize my life, my health, my spirit, and this motorcycle trip.

     

    Later, Michael's sister, Christy, and their children, Isaiah, and Grace, arrived.

     

    The house became abuzz with 11 and 14-year-old energy: a found rope swing and river stories. 

     

    Later, Christy (the awesome aunt) made some hot tea (for the ladies) and introduced us to two games:  sock wrestling and frenzi.

     

    The best one?

     

    Sock wrestling, of course! 

     

    Rules:  set territorial boundaries, no hurting one's opponent, no touching of one's own sock, wear one sock of similar height.

     

    Goal:  wrestle the sock off of one's opponent.

     

    I tickled 11-year-old Grace and won.

     

    Isaiah triumphed over a match with his aunt and a separate match with his sister. 

     

    A wrestling judge is also good to have to ensure rules are followed.

     

    Oh, one must also bow to the judge and to one's opponent before the sock wrestling match begins.

     

    Following the matches, a storm brewed outside.

     

    Michael found me a large tarp to cover the motorcycle.

     

    Then, the storm... a hail storm!

     

    While Michael rested, the rowdy group (us) watched the hail and rain come down.

     

    Later, onions and kale and swiss chard were chopped for a Thai-style meal where peanut butter and rice and lime were also incorporated. 

     

    A table for six. 

     

    Hands were held. 

     

    Share what we are thankful for today. 

     

    Eat a nourishing meal. 

     

    Converse some more.

     

    Wash dishes. 

     

    I spent more quality time with Jenny in the living room (plotting motorcycle possibilities) while Michael and Christy reminisced at the kitchen table. 

     

    Isaiah and Grace played with Bella.

     

    The hail storm subsided... the rain stopped... the sun beamed... and double rainbows appeared.

     

    Unfortunately, it was time to go.

     

    It was nearing 8 p.m. and Michael's sister was leaving tomorrow (Wednesday) evening.

     

    In other words, family time with Christy was shrinking.

     

    The entire crew accompanied me outside; the tarp was removed.

     

    It took a few cranks before the motorcycle revved up.

     

    I rode into the rainbow blue skies back on Lake (turned Minnetonka Boulevard) back on 100 back on 36th back on Noble back on Triton.

     

    And...

     

    The rain stayed away.

     

    I pulled into the driveway.

     

    No cars. 

     

    Neither Betsy nor Karen were home.

     

    I greeted Dave; we caught up on how our day was spent.

     

    Moments later, Karen arrived. 

     

    We had a few laughs with her about some of my positive Minnesota experiences with a grocery store cashier and a bus driver.

     

    She began suggesting some motorcycle routes -- very similar to the ones Jenny suggested.  Then, Betsy arrived.  She offered more route ideas -- the same ones Jenny and Karen pointed out.

     

    Talk about an alignment with the universe.

     

    More chatter... more laughter.

     

    Later... a poignant song came on in the background even Betsy highlighted its power. 

     

    The night waned and sometime after 10 p.m. all adults retired. 

     

    Celebrate life... celebrate health. 

     

    As for the song?

     

    Claudia Schmidt's piece:  Jane's A-Round. 

    Until we meet again, my friend.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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