In Appreciation : Dan Aronie
There were so many Dan Aronies. And on January 29, at 1:21 in the morning, on the fullest, brightest moon of the whole year, one month after his 38th birthday, with his brother and his father present, we lost them all.
You might have known the little guy with dark eyes and long hair, which his grandmother always begged me to cut (he looks like a street urchin) and ribs that stuck out (people will think you don't feed him), who followed his big brother Josh everywhere, who could be found juggling with his father on Lucy Vincent Beach or hitching rides with the likes of Harrison Ford.
Or you might have known the little fisherman always on the jetty at dawn or late at night while his mother worried about whether he had eaten his snack and was in the middle of a diabetic reaction, or had fallen over and was at the bottom of the ocean.
Dan was diagnosed with diabetes at nine months old and became a rebel about an hour later. You might have known the inventive, creative survivor Dan who taught his fellow young diabetics how to cheat on their urine tests: don't put any drops of pee in the beaker. They won't know the difference, and the results will set you free. Think chocolate.
Maybe the guy you knew was the angry, contrary funny Dan, the Dan who drove his boat too fast, rolled two cars, skied recklessly, loved girls wholeheartedly, played his violin passionately (not always accurately). That Dan lasted for most of his young adult life.
You might have known him at Bard College when he was starring in View from the Bridge or driving his motorcycle down 9G, when he was supposed to be studying for exams. Or maybe you were there when he was diagnosed with MS at 22, and the anger turned white-hot. But for many of you here on the Vineyard, you most likely knew him in his early stages of losing his "abilities to do anything!", his words screamed often.
When he couldn't hold a cue stick anymore, couldn't make the steps in the Ritz, when he could no longer drive, when his short term memory started going, when his speech started slurring, a new Dan was emerging. If you had been a visiting nurse you might have been met with a tirade of four letter words. (So now, let us thank you for every loving moment you spent with Dan.) You may have seen him through two brain surgeries that didn't work, one open heart surgery that did. You may have noticed a softening, an accepting, a surrendering.
For those of us close to that Dan, he became a Teacher. We got to see how a person changes, actually takes lemons, squeezes the life out of them, cuts away the rotten parts and turns out the sweetest, tartest most delicious lemonade ever thought possible. I once asked Dan, Can you say why you stopped being angry. His answer was so simple but so profound. He said, "I noticed that being angry didn't help anything." Hello.
When Dan's bedsores prevented him from getting up and out and he became bedridden, he never complained. He got even funnier, if such a thing is possible. One night I stood at the end of his bed, and I said "Good night, O king of kings," and I did an exaggerated bow. And then I said, "Good night, O lord of lords," and I bowed again. And without skipping a beat, he said, "Good night, o fruit of loops."
One day, I arrived to the ubiquitous ambulances that knew 111 Leonard Circle by heart. (And let me now thank every paramedic who ever crossed his threshold.). I raced in to find Dan already strapped on the gurney, I leaned in to see how bad it was. I said, Danzer how are you, baby boy? And when he tried to say something, Alison, the caregiver of the century, raised the oxygen mask, and Dan, barely conscious, sang, "A three hour tour" from Gilligan's Island, one of the mantras he repeated to describe his life.
Four months ago, Dan got his third bout of pneumonia and was airlifted to Mass General where he was in the intensive care unit for four weeks. He was intubated and communicated with only his eyebrows and his dancing eyes. He had a tracheotomy and a feeding tube. He was transferred to rehab in Salem, where he spent another four weeks not really recuperating, but when he was stable they let him come home. And this community and the love and the energy and the support poured in. And it looked as if the Miracle Man was going to beat the odds again. He managed to fight two fevers on his own, and he was looking stronger and stronger and healthier and healthier. But then he got another fever. And this one brought him down. Five days before he died, a dear friend said, "Dan, on a scale from one to ten, where are you?" Mind you, he couldn't talk but with his signature grin and his twinkling eyes. He mouthed eleven. That's the Dan he became. A solid eleven. And to quote Dan himself, "not too shabby."
We thank and honor the following: The healers (Fae Kontje Gibbs, Niki Patton, Jackie Clason, Sarah Hull, Sidora Zeigler, Eilene Murphy, Jeanie Hay Sternbach, Heather Rynd, Betsy Shands, Walter Burke, Mike Perry, Michael Hayden, and Michael Ferrone, Erica Bartlett, Jewels Blake, Tracy Urban, Kim Derby. The friends (Bill Altman, Joyce Sayre, Amos Blinder, PJ Economou, Judy Hannan. Gerry and Margaret Storrow, Lorie and Richard Hamermesh , Harold and Erica Ramis, Jude Kaufman and Steven Kemper, Ben and Alex Kemper, Peter and Melinda Farelly, Peter and Martha Halperin, Rosabeth Kantor and Barry Stein, Bill Coleman and Julie Coleman, Wendy Weldon and James Langlois, David Brown, Liz Witham and Ken Wentworth, Kate Taylor, Bonnie Menton, Elizabeth Pickett, Kay and Buck Goldstein, Sherman and Susan Goldstein, Rebekah Blu, Patrie Grace, Shri Hitchcock, Toni and Richard Cohen, MJ Broder, Martha Magee, Merissa Gerson and Brian Martin. And the doctors (Dr. Jerry Yukevich and Dr. Julie Stunkel, Dr. David Finklestein and Dr. Sandy Nadelstein). And the nurses (Cheryl and Sandy and Audrey). If I left you out, it's because I'm still half here. To the staff doctors and nurses all, at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, who cared for and loved Dan and let us bring in our own food, do our own tests, apply our own ointments, give our own supplements, sing our own songs and hang our own Xmas lights, even in July, we thank you forever.