|Maria and youngest son Nick at Nick and Kristina's wedding, Sept. 8, 2012|
My wonderful, wonderful friend. Maria.Maria was my neighbor in Patterson, CA, then population 8,000, in the early 1990s. She was then a single mom with three young sons of her own. My first wife Candy used to babysit Maria's sons. Maria and Candy had been friends. After Candy died, in April 1991, I was suddenly a single father with a 180 mile, four hour a day, commute from Patterson to San Jose and back.
Maria became a huge part of my life. She watched my sons, drove my cars, took the kids to school and came and went in my house right up until I moved to San Jose. We were best friends.
Maria would walk in the front door without knocking, that was normal for us. Sometimes she might just walk in and borrow my muffin pans and leave. Other times she would come over with her three boys and she and I would make dinner together with our combined six sons. Like a big family we would all hang out, talk and laugh until bed time for the boys.
She is a wonderful, lively woman. Everybody in Patterson, knew Maria. She has this amazing outgoing down to earth personality that makes folks want to get to know her. Plus, she has this infectious laugh that I could hear from my house, about 200 feet from hers, on warm summer nights when all our windows were open.
Until I met Sue, Maria was the lady of my house. When I met Sue, and Maria met Mike, the family expanded to include our partners and Mike's son Gene.
Leaving all that behind was the hardest part of moving from Patterson to San Jose for me. But, we still remained close friends. Maria did Susie's hair at both our wedding and my middle son Jeff's wedding. I photographed Maria and Mike's wedding.
The funny thing is; I always thought I got the better end of the deal and felt sad that I was not able to give back to her and her kids anywhere near as much as she gave to me and mine. Now, 20 years later, all the boys are grown men. My older sons are now the age I was then.
It was not until September of 2012, when Sue and I went to Maria's youngest son Nick's wedding, that her sons expressed how happy they were to see me and how much I had helped them and how much my sons and our big crazy patched together family we had then still meant to them now. My heart melted and I was in tears.
I could not have made it back then, as a single dad, without my female friends; especially Maria. I love her and always will.