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My brother with love

May 15, 2020
Since we were young Ruben showed us regularly how big his heart was, we never really comprehended it being so young, but we loved it anyway. Ruben being the youngest would go with our parents on their errands. No matter what dessert or candy they bought him, Ruben always saved a piece for us, we’d get home from school and he would be waiting for us with his treasured dessert and would give it to us with a look of joy, I can still remember it. He was only 4 or 5 years old then. 

Another time that really comes to mind on a very personal level, was when I was about 10 years old Ruben was eight. I was obsessed with drawing and tracing pics from books then coloring them. One day I found a gold covered book that had a sheet of tracing paper to protect each picture within the book. I felt I hit the jackpot and proceeded to tear out each page of tracing paper from the book. About a month later our father called us all into the living room lined us up, belt and gold book in hand, and asked “Who tore out the pages of this book, If you tell me you won’t be hit, if you don’t tell me you will all be hit”. We all stood there terrified for what seemed an eternity but was probably only a few minutes. Just when I was about to come forward, Ruben stepped up and confessed to the crime. I was stunned speechless and before I could make amends, my father, going back on his word struck Ruben with the belt, it was awe full. After a while I found Ruben sniffling and wiping away his tears, I asked Ruben why he confessed when he didn’t do it, I told him I had done it. He said “I didn’t want all of us to get hit”, for the following weeks Ruben and I shared everything I was so grateful to him and we never told anyone the truth. That was Ruben.

As many of you know, for years Ruben struggled with diabetes and many other complications. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to spend many many hours reminiscing of those days of playing out doors with our neighbors and our summer vacations in Mexico, with all our amazing cousins. We agreed that we were blessed beyond words to have had such wonderful parents and great childhood memories. We are all so thankful that Linda, Ruben’s love gave him a kidney which gave us so much more time with him. Iknow I have been really blessed in having a loving brother like Ruben, I miss him every day.

Love of a Lifetime

May 18, 2020
Ruben Martinez was a force of nature, full stop. When Ruben loved something or someone, he went all in.

When I first met Ruben, it was during a difficult time in my life. A marriage had not worked out and I was not handling it well. Ruben came along and did everything he could to cheer me up. This included presenting me with a surprise trail of red roses that ended with a fluffy white puppy that I rejected, which was the source of our first real disagreement and breakup. It's weird, because I still ended up with that dog as well as Ruben and they both resulted in lots of barking and yet true joy in the end. From the beginning, Ruben knew what he was doing, even if I didn't. Why? Because Ruben followed his heart.

Experts say there are basically three stages in romantic love: the Honeymoon Period, the Power Struggle and, if you’re lucky, Mature Love.

During that first phase, which typically lasts from 2 weeks to 18 months, everything is awesome. You see yourself in the object of your affection. Your thoughts are their thoughts, their wishes your wishes. You are exactly alike. Dopamines are flowing to form a bond.

Then that first part ends and a couple enters the Power Struggle phase. Suddenly, that soulmate is a complete stranger. You have no idea who that weirdo in your house is, but everything they do or say seems wrong.This period of frequent conflicts can last for months or even years. Heaven knows Ruben and I spent an extra long period in this phase. But then, to be fair, we had so many things to argue about.

I don’t remember now what all the issues were. They seemed important at the time. I found it maddening that he never would give in on an argument. He would just keep going and going with his points like the Energizer Bunny of debaters. It was exhausting. Honestly, it was also peak Ruben.

One of our last major conflicts had to with the Kardashians. I was never a fan of reality TV, and I especially hated that show because they are emblematic of everything that is wrong with the world today. So dumb! But, in 2009, Laker Lamar Odom married Kloe Kardashian and started to appear as a regular on the show. You can see why this was going to be a problem for me and Ruben. There was no way Ruben was not going to watch any show that had a Laker in it. I was doomed to keep up with the Kardashians because of Ruben Martinez and Lamar Odom.

Yet in between all our power struggles during this period, we also found shelter from the storm in each other. Diabetes and hospitalizations made us work together. Then, my mom started to get sick and Ruben was there for me. He made sure I was able to visit her frequently in Utah even while he was fighting off surgeries at home. When she died, his was the shoulder I cried on. A few years later, when my father committed suicide, his was the shoulder I cried on again. Ruben was always there for me. He had become my rock.

When we learned that Ruben’s kidneys were failing, we attended a kidney patient group called the Renal Support Network to gather information and strength from others. They discussed various EGFR levels, dialysis modes, diets, and transplant outcomes. We learned that blood types can determine whether you get a deceased donor transplant.

When it comes to kidney donations, some blood types can give to others and some may not. Blood type O is considered the universal donor. People with blood type O can give to any other blood type. Blood type AB is called the universal recipient because they can receive an organ or blood from people with any blood type.

What this means is several extra years on dialysis in Los Angeles County for people with type O blood waiting for a donor. It can mean the difference between life and death.

I knew Ruben was type O positive. Statistically, we were looking at a wait of 12 years on dialysis. Then I thought about how much I really did love Ruben, in spite of the Kardashians. Knowing I was, like Ruben, a universal donor (type O+) and armed with knowledge, I proceeded to start the process of donating a kidney to Ruben.

Ruben objected. Once I made up my mind, I told him I was donating a kidney that year to a stranger if he wouldn’t take mine and there was nothing he could do to stop me. Which was true. I would have and he knew I would. So he agreed. Finally, I had won an argument with Ruben.

Donating a kidney takes awhile. Besides the whole blood type thing, there are two other tests that are done to evaluate donors: crossmatch and HLA testing.

HLA stands for human leukocyte antigen. Antigens are proteins on the cells in the body. Out of over 100 different antigens that have been identified, there are six that have been shown to be the most important in organ transplantation. Of these six antigens, we inherit three from each parent. Getting a six-antigen match between two unrelated people is rare. Still, kidneys are successfully transplanted between two people with no matching antigens. When Ruben and I did our HLA test, it turned out that we had one antigen of the six that matched.

The final test to complete is the crossmatch test, which is very important. Blood from the donor and recipient are mixed. If the recipient's cells attack and kill the donor cells, the crossmatch is considered positive, which is bad. If the crossmatch is negative, the pair is considered compatible.

Imagine our surprise to learn that our “kill rate” in a petri dish was “zero.” In spite of all our fights, on a fundamentally cellular level, Ruben and I were compatible and meant to be together.

And so we proceeded. I am not exactly sure when we exited the Power Struggle stage and became partners in Mature Love, which is where the real treasure is. Was it a coincidence we stopped having big fights around the time Lamar and Khloe broke up and we were finally Kardashian-free? Or had we merely exhausted every single argument known to man? Either way, the result was the same. We were in our period of blissful love and unconditional acceptance. Only death could have separated us.

Over the years, we developed some great relationship habits. Every day began and ended with expressions of love for each other. Every day, I loved my Ruben a little bit more. He was sweet, intense, good and so passionate.

The truth is I gave nothing to Ruben that he hadn't given me on some level. I may have given Ruben a kidney, but he saved my life. He taught me how to be vulnerable. He taught me how to fight and how to love. I would have walked through fire for Ruben because he had walked through fire for me. His was a love that was magical, something you could build a world upon.

I am so lucky to have known that kind of love. My world is forever changed, my soul forever nourished because of Ruben Martinez. He was my hero.


“Death ends a life, not a relationship.”

My Dear Cousin

May 7, 2020
You left us too soon cousin, much too soon.
RIP knowing that your family and friends love you and will ALWAYS cherish the wonderful memories you left us with.
You were my Cousin (uncle, haha), Friend, Confidant, Roommate (thank you!), Teammate and you were even my driver on my wedding day. You were wonderful and generous to my family, we love you and will all miss you.
You were brave, loyal and stood proud for things you believed in, you inspired me.
I love you.Rest easy Brother

Ruben knows good food

May 1, 2020
Ruben and family first moved in next door when I was around 12. He was a couple of years older than me but was already driving. Our summers were spent going on drives. We didn't have a specific destination. We just drove and drove. Once we ended up by PT Mugu.  He knew a cool place where we just kicked back and drank some beers. Our other drives were to Eastside market for the pastrami sandwich or to Phillipes for a sandwich double dipped. He introduced me to their chilli No beans. As we got older, we still went on our drives. One day, out of the blue he decided  he wanted to go to Las Vegas. We drove around looking for a rental car. We found one and were on our way. We checked into a hotel in downtown. After checking in, we headed for the strip and found a place at the Rivera that had prime rib for $4.99. We ate like kings. I was going to pay for dinner but like always, he took care of the bill. He also paid for the car and hotel too. He was the most generous person. I Will truly miss those drives. 

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