Sunday, June 10, 2012

Farewell to Michael Jurisch

Michael Jurisch and I visited Las Vegas together, never lovers ever friends, when we were in our early twenties.  I wanted to see Gladys Knight, and Micha agreed to drive.  We sat at the front table, close enough to touch both Gladys and her Pips.
After the show, we headed home in his trusty VW.  On the long uphill grind that led out of town, his Bug threw a rod.  It would need a tow, the repair would be expensive, and I had to be at work in L.A. the next morning.  I bailed on Micha.  He remembered it well.
“You grabbed your bag, crossed the road, hitched up your skirt and stuck out your thumb.  You almost caused an accident as the cars stacked up, wanting to give you a ride to the Greyhound terminal.  You abandoned me, but it turned out okay.  I got towed back to Vegas, waited for my Beetle to be repaired, and partied with my friend, Axel, for a few days. ”   
I felt uneasy, even guilty, about ditching Mike.  I didn’t offer to pay half of his repair bill, either.  I handled the situation by avoiding him.
I saw Micha at a spontaneous shindig at my parents’ house a decade later. I had a three year old son and Mike had a sleeping, two-year old daughter in his car. A blurry photograph from that party shows a swarm of happy Germans, standing in the living room of my parents’ home. Micha, my son and I are together in the front row.

Fast forward to autumn 2009, more than twenty years later.  We reconnected via e-mail.  Micha had moved back to Berlin and my mom and I were going to be visiting Berlin in a few months.  Micha and I would reunite and get caught up.
We hugged and the years fell away.  We had much in common-- too much. Failed marriages, riches to nearly rags, and chronic struggles, from which we were trying to mend.  
We spent almost every afternoon and evening together after that--  outside during the coldest winter on record, and inside at my mom’s, the warmth of the radiator and cozy cheer of her tiny apartment making us all merry and bright.  
 My mother and I forced Kniffle (Yahtzee) on Mike, a self-proclaimed “Kniffle Virgin.”  Good natured, he joined us at this mind-numbing board game to which many elderly Germans are unduly attached.  He and I kidded that it didn’t get much better than Yahtzee with hot tea and holiday goodies, in a warm apartment when outside it was twelve below.
We both knew it was a lie and, at the same time, true.  Now we knew what mattered most-- the people who loved us and whom we loved in return.
More than any of my other friends, Micha’s life paralleled my own.  We had that cross-cultural thing together.  Sorta American, sorta German, never quite fitting into either world.  He glorified the American.  I glorified the German.  He ended up almost exiled in Berlin.  I ended up almost exiled in Claremont, close to where we both began as friends, thirteen and fourteen year old kids, in Eagle Rock.
     When I heard he was gone, I first cried for him and his family.  Then, my tears began to fall for me.  He was my buddy, my Kumpel, my close confidante these last few years.  
     We called each other “Sweetheart” and shared our most shameful secrets, then promptly laughed ourselves silly over them.  We propped each other up and, when last we yapped on the phone, we said “I love you.” before we said goodbye.  
We made plans to rent electric bicycles this summer and explore the inns of the Berlin forest.  I planned to surprise him with the first twenty chapters of my new book-- the sidekick photographer character is based on him.
Plans-- the best laid plans. Man designs and God divines.  So much for our plans, Big Guy.  When You take people away, there is a period at the end of the sentence, not a comma nor a question mark.
Good-bye, sweet Micha, my dear, dear, beloved friend.  Your flaws and foibles are safe with me, and I was always safe with you.  How sad I am to lose you.











17 comments:

  1. Marta, I'm sorry for your loss. He seems like a great guy.

    --John Brantingham

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  2. Thank you, John, for your sympathy. He was the greatest of guys with the best sense of humor. Hearing from you and my other friends, who have posted on FB or written me notes at my email address, makes me feel less alone and sad.

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  3. That's quite a tribute, Marta. I think I would have liked to have known your friend. I'm also very sorry for your loss.

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    1. Thank you, Marja. I've just been looking at his FB page. So many kind words and thoughts. He was unaware of how many people loved him.

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  4. Marta what a beautiful relationship, many of us go through life never knowing such a love of a friend. Always cherish the moments and delight in the remembrance. Augie

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    1. You are so wise and such a comfort, dear Augie. Thank you for guiding me to this way of thinking.

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  5. Thank you for making me cry in my public venue! it's okay though, I am alone and listening to beautiful flute music. It is good for my heart to ache now and again. It helps me to remember to embrace life, love, and friendship. I was right there with you being sheltered from the cold.

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    1. Sweet Charlotte, thank you. Misery really does love company, and I feel so much better for having shared my troubled spirit with all of you. To know you sympathize gives me such support and life doesn't seem quite as bleak.

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  6. BTW - it is me, Charlotte - I didn't know I would post as an "unknown"

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    1. I love your profile photo, little Buddhamouse!

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  7. Found your blog with a Google search on Michael. I graduated from Eagle Rock High School in 1982. My first job was with Heinz Jurisch at the photo lab. My Mom worked for Heinz. Michael invited me to work at his photography studio. I did and learned a great deal from him. He photographed my wedding in 1986 as a gift for me and Frank.

    Haven't seen him in years. My Mom kept up with him and his parents. I just got home from being in Germany and Italy for 3 weeks. We were in Berlin a couple of days after Michael died. I'm very sad by the whole thing and hope and pray for his family.

    Loved reading your friend tribute. I read it to my Mom who cried.

    Tanja Helms

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  8. Hi Tanja,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You know firsthand what a special guy Michael was. He often reminisced about those early days in photography and mentioned you, as well. He would be moved by how many lives he touched in a positive way, and how much we all loved him. Please give my kind regards to your mom.

    Marta

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  9. Marta, I found some really nice pictures of Michael. Can I send them to you? You can email me at tanjahelms@mac.com

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  10. Yes, please, dear Tanja. I'll email you. My email is: focusonaction@gmail.com

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  11. Hi Marta; Just a note to say I knew Michael very well 35 years ago! Our two years together as a young couple hoping to marry was a special and sweet time but alas it was not meant to be. I had a chance meeting fifteen or so years ago with him once in Vegas, and then looked him up a few months before he passed on Facebook. I didn't find him but found Marcus who put me in touch with him. We ended up speaking for hours on the phone; late into the icy cold Berlin pm/am. He was the same sweet, self-deprecating, intelligent, sensitive, reflective young man I had known back when. We laughed and caught up on all the people who we had known together. I am so grateful for that conversation. He then would send me updates and photos about his life and set up his Facebook page. So devastating to lose him so early. My faith gives me a perspective to lessen the burden of loss but yes, he was a kind man, with so much to offer the world. I enjoyed your tribute to him. I am so happy that he had you in his life.

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    2. Wow! What loving and warm memories of dear Micha. He was a love, and had no idea about his positive impact on other people. If only we could get a "do over" with him. He is so missed by so many.

      Thank you for your thoughtful and reflective words. I'm so glad you got a chance to reconnect with him when you did.

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