Tropical Cancer—Remembrance

“No one is useless in this world who lightens
the burden of it to anyone else.”
—Charles Dickens

I’ve seen a lot of people come and go in the past five years. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if all of them had stayed. We’d still have a webmaster, a pilot, a handy-man, a couple more nurses, an EMT, a bee master, a few permaculture specialists, an IT person, a scientist with brilliant ideas, yoga instructors, chefs, massage therapists, various musicians, a psychologist, an extra bartender, a Reverend, over a dozen children, and a couple fire spinners. Some of these people have simply moved on to other places, while some have passed away.

Brad was the first to go. Poor guy… I understand he was manic-depressive or some such thing. He must have been in his forties. Big guy, and somewhat over-bearing. He had trouble wherever he went, it seems. In Sierpe, where he kept his fishing boat, the locals didn’t like him because he owed them money. Brad referred everyone to Gazpacho, saying he’d pay them because Gazpacho owed him money. The locals care more about soup than Gazpacho, of course, and beat the hell out of Brad for stiffing them. He was busted in Jaco for walking out of a store with fishing supplies and telling them he was from the CIA (and to send them a bill). As a matter of principal, the locals beat the hell out of him there, too, then shipped him back to the States. Back in the US, Brad showed up in a Huffington Post sidebar after having gotten busted for skinny dipping in someone’s pool and stealing a car. He told the cops that he only had 100 beers and they promptly hauled him away. At least he didn’t get a beating for it, as far as I know. Not long after, he took his own life.

Then Dan showed up to inspect his newly purchased lot. A very nice man originally from Uruguay and living in the States, a father of two teenage boys, he went in the ocean and never came out. I had just spent an evening with him at the bar the night before, and waved the next day as he drove to the beach. I said Hello, he said Goodbye—giving new meaning to the Beatles song.

My good friend Kevin… a self-diagnosed manic depressive with suicidal tendencies. Medicated in binges, washed down with alcohol, a bad love affair finally pushed him over the edge of a tall mango tree on a short rope. This man was a walking, at times stumbling study in human psychology. Brave enough to look for work in a foreign country and smart enough to teach himself Spanish by watching television and immersing himself in the culture. His intellect was keen, but discipline… that was his challenge, and it led to severe chemical imbalances in his physiology—which directly affects a person’s psychology. I guess things build up over time in a person’s heart and mind, to the point where one feels that no one cares about them so why go on? I cared about you, Kevin, but you were too far gone to ever recover.

Anita had physical problems before she got here and they continued to plague her throughout her stay. She finally returned to the US after her insurance company complained that they needed a test of her water or they’d stop paying her medical claims. Shortly thereafter, she died. The once proud Shaman, who beat the drum for divine inspiration and promoted enlightened communication in an unenlightened world, succumbed to the rigors of her uncooperative body.

Irene passed away suddenly, even though she had a history of physical problems, leaving her husband with a new house in Costa Rica he can hardly bring himself to visit. Poor Harold (her husband)… When he comes to Costa Rica now he is already in tears. When he returns to the States he’s greeted by Lucky, the Tico dog Irene insisted they bring back to Florida. Poor guy can’t make a u-turn without running into himself, and Irene, all over again.

And there was Ron McDonald, whose jeep rolled into a river—killing him and a local girl. Who doesn’t have a story about Ron, one of the funniest persons I’ve ever known? When we first met I admit I snickered at his name. He was okay with that and almost seemed to relish in the humor, which impressed me right away. He was proud his parents named him after an iconic American clown (better than Bozo, which was my nickname in high school). As two clowns, we were instantly compatible. When he told me he was conceived at Woodstock I mentioned that I had been to the concert. He immediately threw his arms out and said “Daddy!”

Ron… you had the whole package, almost (let’s be honest). You could be obnoxious to the humorless, but you were sharp witted, clever, absurd and even brilliant all in one afternoon—in time for happy hour hors d’oeuvres. What you lacked in discipline (at times) you made up for with laughter, personality, character and pura vida in the best possible sense. I hate that you’re gone (I’ll work on it). To imagine myself in your parents’ place is deeply painful. You had quite a heart, hermano. But such is Life, as they say. It’s not your fault. It’s karma, destiny, whatever…

Ron… who would gladly buy the house a round, then put it on someone’s tab he didn’t like. “Fuck ’em!” he’d say, raising a toast (fist bump), and laugh. Ron, who told prospective buyers he was coming to live with them as their son. Ron… fond of women, animals and children (in that order). Ron… for whom no couch, chair, hammock, car seat or kitchen floor was too uncomfortable to sleep on. Ron… at times inappropriate to the point of hilarity. Over the top, irreverent, some say wild, always smiling, kind-hearted, great-souled Ron. I’m going to miss the hell out of you. There’s nothing I can offer to those who miss you except time heals. Ronny was a gift to my life and to many others. We thank your parents for that, Ron. And a big thanks to Max Yasgur, without whom Ronald McDonald may have only been a gleam in his father’s eye.

(Musical interlude: Woodstock, 1969)

The good news, Ron, is there’s still a bartender on the mountain. The bad news is there’s no bar at the moment. For now at least, provide your own merriment and cheer. You were good at that, Ron. You too, Kevin and Anita and Dan and Irene and even you, Brad. Maybe you had personal issues and troubles (or not) but you added to my merriment and cheer. I would add, Mr. Dickens, that to lighten someone’s load is its own reward. He would have loved you all, and grieved after your passing. Rest assured, you are in fine company.

For those who have left the building, memories of lost friends may soon fade like an old photograph. For some of us here, they are as fresh as today’s bok choy. As for the community, there’s a position open for fire spinner. Apply within.

6 thoughts on “Tropical Cancer—Remembrance”

  1. thanks for sharing….what a great story….i am getting ready to come visit for 3 months and my last trip was in 2010…this story has helped me to know some history and made me feel comfort at the same time…I look forward to introductions…thx…Donna Bixby

  2. Hi Mitch,
    I found this hard to read since John passed on March 28, 2016. He fought against his cancer and CHF for over three years, but on January 4th he suffered a large stroke. He was in rehab and continued to tell his doctors he would live another 15 years. But sadly the stroke was too much for his body and he passed peacefully at home.
    Someday, when the pain is less intense I would like to write a story about him and the love we shared for over 35 years. But for now, I must focus on just getting through each day without him.
    All my best to you and Charlene.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that. It’s so hard for the living to adjust to such a shock. Fortunately, time does heal. Bless us all for keeping loved ones in our hearts. You’re invited to visit us any time. This place is good for the soul… Love and miss the whole family.

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