Thursday, October 8, 2015

Can we borrow the Yakima?

The year was 2013.

It was late Fall. Later than now. And the Boston Red Sox were battling the St. Louis Cardinals in the pivotal game 5 of the World Series.

David Ortiz, the epitome of the Fat-but-Fit Movement (I'm charter member #5,831) was stepping up to the plate with two men on base and, clearly ahead in the count, looking for a pitch he could drive over the wall.

But then my front doorbell rang.

It was my neighbor from across the street. A woman in her mid thirties, with three kids under her belt and a nose for the impulsive.

"We're going camping this weekend. Can we borrow the Yakima?"

Are you crazy, I thought. It's the middle of October. And it's a Thursday night. You can't just pack up a family of five, and without a reservation, stroll onto a campground and get a site. This is California, home to 400 million other people who all want to do, what you want to do, when you want to do it.

It was about 7 o'clock at night and my neighbor's husband was still at work. That meant, not only did I have to lug out the 21 cubic foot box out of the garage, I had to curtail my World Series watching, and futz with the wonky locking mechanisms to attach it to her Toyota minivan.

I did my best to smile, but muttered mightily as she watched me spend 45 minutes bolting the bulky cargo box to the roof rack.

My neighbor is not an easy woman to say "No" to, mostly because she never says no to anyone else.

Besides I thought, having lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years and having had my fair share of unpleasant encounters with white trash neighbors of the most obnoxious variety, it was rather nice to have this impulsive, sweet-natured, a little-off-her-rocker woman, living directly across the street from us.

Moreover, my neighbor often hired my daughters to do some baby-sitting. And anyone who puts money in my kid's pockets other than me is alright in my book. She also was wired into the neighborhood and seemingly knew everything that was going on. And would stop by our house with leftover produce from her garden, with all the good veggies (kale, cauliflower, radishes and turnips), you know, the kind of vegetables that make you want to say, "When is dessert?"

But last week, this one-of-a-kind woman, this one-in-a-million people, was taken from us.


For the past seven days I have been shaking my fist at the God I don't believe in. Asking the same questions her family and friends have been asking.

How is this possible?

How could you, God of Mercy, all loving one, do this to her husband and her now four very young children?

Of all the crappy people on this planet, why would you take one of the good ones?

And not just a good one, but one of the best ones. A gentle woman of unusual spirit and light. A woman who will be remembered by all who knew her.

What kind of mean, stupid, and irresponsible God are you?

It's October again.
The World Series is approaching.
And I can't help thinking I'd give anything for my doorbell to ring and hear my neighbor's soft, wispy voice…

"Rich, can we borrow the Yakima again?"

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