DANIELLE    by Marsha Oseas

I met my friend Danielle at an autobiography writing class at Pasadena City College.  One of the first exercises in that class was to write about what we ate during childhood. Then we broke up into groups of three to read our pieces aloud. I wrote about being a regular imbiber of the first ever TV dinners and frozen pot pies (decades before they actually became palatable), being driven by my mother to fast food drive-ins several times a week, only peas and corn for veggies (both canned)
,freeze-dried mashed potatoes, etc. Danielle wrote about road kill and sometimes eating a meal of one apple split between the entire family.  I think we were each flabbergasted by the other’s experience.  She was born in Belgium into the Manouche tribe of gypsies and lived a hunter/gatherer existence, interrupted by visits with her paternal grandmother who lived in town in a large house.  It must have been quite a culture shock, that back and forth.  That was the only time I recall her ever writing something for that class (and only because it was an in-class assignment).  After that, she just told us her stories.  

One day she arrived late to class announcing in her heavily French-accented English that she almost didn’t come that day.  It was the wedding day of one of her sons, and she had not been invited.  The pain of that announcement pierced me to my core.  After class, I sought her out and asked her if she wanted to have lunch; something I normally would have been too shy to do.  I didn’t want her to be alone on her sad day.  She accepted; something she would not normally have done. That was it.  We became fast friends.  She invited me to the card party that takes place on her front porch Monday-Thursday with two women from the dog park and their dogs.  I said, “I don’t have a dog,” and “what if they don’t want me to come?”  She said, “It’s my porch.  You come.” Serendipitously, we live walking distance from each other. 

When I told her I had an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon about a possible hip replacement.  She said, “I will take care of you.”  Without being asked (which I would not have been able to do), she offered herself.  I was undone.  No one has ever taken care of me in that way, ever.  She drove me to the hospital the day of the surgery at around 9:00 a.m. and stayed there until 8:00 p.m. when it was time to go home. She slept on my couch for three nights. 
After that she came twice a day to do whatever needed to be done.  

At the hospital, they explained that I would need to give myself shots of a blood thinner for 10 days.  But they neglected to teach me how to do it.  The surgery was on a Thursday and the in-home nurse was not coming until Monday, enough time to form a life-threatening blood clot I thought.  Danielle said, “I will do it.”  And she did, very expertly.  She carefully cleaned the area with hydrogen peroxide, pinched the skin up into a little tent and gently inserted the needle.  Until the day she came running out of the kitchen with the syringe in her hand and just jabbed the needle into my thigh -- really hard – no preliminaries.  I had a bruise and a knot for quite awhile. I shouted, “that really hurt; why the hell did you do that!?”  She said, “I’m sorry, it’s the full moon and I’m in a bad mood.”  

We laugh like hyenas a lot of the time; sometimes without quite knowing why. We spend time in silence some of the time. It is comfortable
, companionable silence.  We go to the movies once a week.  She always gets my jokes.  She likes my cats.  I love her dog. We eat dinner together most nights. She likes my poetry.  We take occasional little trips. I love her “good” son and intensely dislike the other one (although we have never met).  She is my “everyday friend,” literally an answer to a prayer.

After hearing from two different women who attended the program “Sages & Seekers” and raved about the very positive experience they had, I thought it would be something Danielle and I should do.  I told her about it, showed her the website and the short video.  She agreed to participate.  She almost always agrees to do things I propose, although on her own she considers herself agoraphobic.  She sleeps too much and has a hard time getting out the door for simple errands like grocery shopping or banking (although I realize even as I type this that most “with it” people, both old and young, bank online). 

After the first session, she was hooked.  She had already “chosen” the seeker she wanted, even though the kids are the choosers.  During the second session, she changed her mind and hoped for a different kid.  Both of her choices were boys, who were represented in smaller numbers than the girls.  Danielle is a man magnet.  Once while we were dining at a Tibetan restaurant, the owner offered to be her guide on a trip to Tibet the following year, and a man across the room flirted with her.  What am I? Chopped liver?   To be fair, she is a magnet for women too, and dogs at the dog park.  After the final session, when I was ready to leave, I saw her seated in a chair, four women surrounding her all asking for hugs and her phone number because they didn’t want to lose touch with her.  Me?  Chopped liver again.  As luck would have it (although I don’t think it luck at all
, but Elly’s keen sense of what works), we were each teamed up with our seekers of choice.

The eight weeks flew by, and we enjoyed the program and our deepening relationships with the kids.  I think, though, one of the very most profound things was our mutual admiration for Elly, her commitment to the cause, the elegance of the program she had crafted and her warmth and insights as a skilled facilitator.  It is gratifying to watch someone living a dream and succeeding.  

Danielle and I will both participate again when the opportunity arises.  I will definitely be encouraging other friends to do so too.  The program is unique, heartwarming and very fulfilling for both the sages and the seekers.  Type your paragraph here.