This past Saturday, I got a late night FaceTime call from a rather-new, but very special, friend of mine, Cyndi Alvarez Brunson.
Cyndi’s husband, Tavi, is a Colonel in the Army & is currently stationed in Pennsylvania. Cyndi, however, lives here in San Antonio so her son can graduate from high school here.
Next year, Tavi will assume leadership for a new unit in North Carolina & as such, the family will be relocating there.
But in the meantime, Cyndi travels to PA to spend time with her hubby & vice versa.
Anyway, I receive this FaceTime call late at night (11:30 my time, 12:30 back on PA). As with any phone call I get after 9 PM, my very first instinct is always “Is everything OK?”.
Yes, everything was absolutely fine, but she had to tell me a story about what happened to her as she was preparing to fly out to see Tavi earlier that week.
She wanted some last-minute dental work done before her flight & was calling around to see if anyone could accommodate her the following morning.
She calls this one dentist & a lady answers. As they’re talking, she asks Cyndi, “Are you Cyndi Alvarez?”.
Cyndi was taken aback a little by this & asked how she knew her name. (Note: Like MANY of my friends, Cyndi worked for Citi down here in San Antonio a few years back. Not unlike the Marines, once a Citibanker, you’ll always be a Citibanker!)
As it turned out, Denise’s (at the dentist’s office) sister, Diane & Cyndi had gone to high school together!
They got into talking about stuff when Denise asks, “BTW, do you know Mike LoRusso? He was a “big shot” at Citi.”
Note: Apparently, she had gotten some terrible info about me. I think she was off by a vowel.
No, not bug shot, silly!
Cyndi explained that, although we both worked at the USCC/U.S. Citibanking Center at the same time for a number of years, we really didn’t know each other very well at that time. We became Facebook friends this year & finally had lunch (with her gf Mary Finch) at Stone Werks @ Culebra Commons back on October 1st. Wow, what a great time we had!
Our friendship really took off as she’s simply a wonderful, caring person, a great wife & Mom, and full of good cheer & enthusiasm! We also have a number of mutual friends (both on & off FB) so it always feels as if we’ve been friends forever!
After hearing Denise’s question about me, Cyndi starts telling her how she now knows me well, how we shared a common past @ Citi, etc..
Denise then tells her something about me that absolutely blew her away…and lemme tell ya, it had the very same effect on me when Cyndi retold the story to me!
Apparently, ~20 years ago, Denise was working in a different dental office when I brought in my wife, Laurie, for some treatment.
(Laurie passed away from cancer the day before 9-11 so it was probably early-mid ’01.)
Denise said that I carried my wife into the doctor’s office from the parking lot & then, into the examination room in the back. Laurie was in the throes of that cancer bastard & it would often draw the strength right outta her. (Laurie never used a cane & for certain occasions, she had a wheelchair, but….)
Denise witnessed the whole scene & said that she had to leave the room as she was so touched & broke down crying!
She was going through some pretty tough times in her own personal life during this timeframe almost 20 years ago.
She tells Cyndi what she was thinking at that very moment…
“One day, I want to meet a man who will treat me & love me just like how Mike LoRusso treats & loves his wife!”
As Cyndi is (trying to) tell me the story, she keeps breaking into tears herself & getting all choked up!
Denise said it was such a beautiful thing to witness & hopes that she’ll find someone who’ll love her similarly.
I was a bag of mixed emotions upon hearing the story from Cyndi. (Back when it happened in ’01, however, I really didn’t think much of it. She was my wife & I’d do absolutely anything I could to help her. It was just a natural act, that’s all. Nuthin’ special.)
First off, I was incredibly proud that someone was so touched by something I did…something that I personally feel was simply “the right thing to do”.
No big deal.
In moments like that, there’s no need to over analyze or micro-inspect the situation. You just do what’s necessary without any fanfare or production.
Hey, that was my Laurie! If I hadda break down a goddamned wall because all the doors malfunctioned, then that’s exactly what I would’ve done…break down the wall, then carry her over the rubble.
But as I’m hearing the story (which TOTALLY shocked me, especially the part about making such an impression on someone who worked in the office), as much as I wanted to “feel great & happy”, I kept telling myself, “Hold back your emotions!”
First off, I didn’t do anything “great or extraordinary”. This is what a husband is supposed to do for his wife, or a Dad for his child, or even a friend for a friend.
Hell, if it were a stranger that needed assistance, the only difference is that I would’ve first asked for permission.
Secondly, it was hard to “be happy” as it, of course, brought back a flood of memories of how terribly Laurie had suffered…and how she NEVER, EVER complained about her situation or even questioned why it happened to her!
Yes, I always love thinking back on our past, but that last year of her life…from that fateful Wednesday afternoon, August 30, 2000 when we received her fatal diagnosis, giving her a year to live, until early that Monday morning, September 10, 2001 when she finally passed as I held her hand, with her entire body shaking & trembling uncontrollably…will always remain the toughest period of my entire life.
I pray to God that none of you have to endure that pain when you not only lose a loved one, but you experience first-hand just how much the human body can withstand in terms of pain & degeneration. Laurie had the highest tolerance to pain than anyone I’ve ever known, but she suffered terribly!
Cancer is one nasty animal! When I told her primary care physician how much morphine I was administering to her daily, she remarked, “But, Mr. LoRusso, that’s impossible! That’s more than enough to stop a herd of elephants!”
“Trust me, Dr. Morgan, I know exactly what I give her. We start off with a shot glass of liquid morphine in the morning & she’ll usually get another 2 of those at different times during the day. If Laurie’s feeling the pain, I can only imagine how intense it must be!”
I spent every hour of every day with Laurie for that year, save for a few hours a month, here & there, when she insisted that I get out of the house. (Either Heather or Laurie’s best friend in San Antonio, Judy, would then watch her for me.)
As Cyndi’s telling me this story, I had all these conflicting feelings racing through my head…proud of what I had done (though I didn’t/don’t consider it to be “anything special”, neither then nor now)…sad about Laurie’s predicament & all she had to endure…relieved (somewhat) that she is now at peace & no longer suffering…devastated by not having her for the past 19+ years (especially for my daughter, Heather, who was 17 at the time & only 11 when Laurie was first diagnosed & began radiation treatments)…and I really didn’t know how to react.
“Stunned” is probably the best description, but when a story or event immediately takes you back to a period & situation that totally consumed your entire being (and still does), I just don’t know how to describe it.
I actually felt guilty that I wasn’t crying myself!
One lesson that we can all take from this is that anything & everything you do in life will somehow, some way, some time, have an impact on someone else.
It could be the “recipient” of your actions or words…someone who only observed or heard you…or someone else affected down the line as a result.
I’m pretty sure that almost everyone tries to “do the right thing” (almost) all the time. If anything, just be aware of the impact it’ll have on others (your kids, your spouse, your loved ones, your friends, your team, your business associates, your neighbors, etc.)…be it good or bad…when you least expect it!
And while actions speak louder than words, EVERYTHING you do or say will bear witness to the type of person you are!
Be careful. Be good. Be happy.
And, as always, thank you so much for listening!
P.S. This past Friday night, we (me, Cyndi, Denise & Denise’s bf Carl) all had dinner together at BJ’s Restaurant.
I learned that Denise not only remembered me & Laurie when she worked at Dr. Chu’s office (he also happened to live in my Camino Bandera subdivision), but she also remembered my daughter, Heather & the fact that she was training to become an EMT!!! Apparently, we had been there a few times!
When Heather picked me up after dinner to drive us home, she got to meet Denise (again!) & it was so beautiful to see!
I know I wrote this blog & all (230+ stories worth!), but there are SO MANY things in my life that I have completely forgotten. I constantly hear “But(t), Dad…!” when Heather reminds me of stuff.
it’s actually like I’m hearing about it for the first time ever…that’s 5 stages past “forgetting”! Even when I’m reminded, I often don’t remember!
BTW, we had such a great dinner! Denise is incredibly sweet (& a huge fan of Mario Flores & his band) and Carl’s a great guy!
Always wonderful to make new friends & strengthen existing friendships!
How the hell did I get involved with such nice people??? 🤔