Questions Introverts Ask

This is Excerpt 11 from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to find earlier excerpts. XO

The police had gone, the Fire Department had gone, the coroner was expected any time. The news had escaped, would never be contained, and the phones began to ring. My mom and sister were in the house on separate phones. I moved off the patio to avoid direct sunlight. I moved to the back lawn in the shade of the 50-foot-tall trees far enough away from the open back door to avoid hearing the phones ringing. I sat one leg tucked underneath me, percolating everything, my entire life trying to recalculate, absorbing this new reality as I sat on a glider swing very slightly moving it with my one foot on the grass. I sat numbly listening to the magical sound of however many millions of leaves live on the 80 plus-year-old trees hanging over the yard, clapping against each other gently applauding in the uncharacteristic breeze of this particularly beautiful day.

As my brain tried to untangle this problem of reality, I was being overcome with a need to leave, I wondered how long should I stay? Until the coroner left? Linda is here so mom won’t be alone if I left after that. There is nothing for me to do. For all the obvious reasons, I knew that as the news spread, there would be more calls, more recounting the story, more people stopping by, more recounting the story. Besides hating the details of bad news, I am a hardcore varsity level introvert, the thought of this was WAY too many people for me to think about encountering for one day. I was in thought, and people overload. I had a terrible headache probably from waking so abruptly or my lack of coffee or the rabid thought piranhas in there. From everything. Fuck this fucking day is where my thoughts kept resolving.

My parents moved into their house more than forty-five years ago at that point. I was a year old then, so again, almost my forever they had lived there. They, we knew everyone in the neighborhood for a few block radius (not an exaggeration) and everyone knew and adored Dave. The tapestry of connectedness had been woven through the sharing of our lives, backyard fruit, tomatoes. We waved at each other while carrying out maintenance of life efforts, as yards were cared for or trash cans put out and dragged back in on trash day. The common celebrations of life occurred, Halloween and Christmas and other holiday decorations put up and taken down season after season. A collective of every sort of update, stories (gossip) good and bad, potato chips sampled, graduation photos on front lawns, weddings, births, BBQs, anniversaries, birthday and pool parties, blood spilled, stitches were stitched, bandages employed, restriction meted out, and bone marrow tested. People arrived, lived, celebrated, aged, moved away or died, we mourned and were connected just outside our gate.

It turns out that people in a connected neighborhood notice when emergency vehicles rush to and are parked in front of your house. Especially more than one emergency vehicles. Fire Truck, Ambulance, Police car. These vehicles draw a crowd. Neighbors began showing up at the 11-foot-wide open electric back gate that had remained open since earlier that morning when the emergency personnel was summoned. There was nowhere for me to hide. When they, my former neighbors saw me, they inquired as to what was going on with the simple gesture of raised eyebrows and shoulders. My sister had called a few neighbors who lived a few streets away who had talked to other neighbors. They, too, were showing up.

Tomas from up the street and Mike and his daughter Karen from across the street came and had to see Dave. They came in the backyard and went into the house. I heard their breath taken away in gasps as their new recalculating reality hit them, I could not believe how many hearts stopped this day that Dave’s heart completely stopped. I remained on the grass. I felt sad for them but still happy for Dave. I also began to feel nauseous from what had to be residual adrenaline coursing in my stomach. Or I was nauseous from not having eaten anything when rushing out the door in response to ‘surprise’ bad fucking news or I was nauseous from everything.

Tomas, Karen, and Mike came out of the back of the house one at a time, ashen-faced, clearly upset. They made eye contact with and headed toward me. I stood and hugged each of them. They needed much more consoling than I did it seemed. A few other neighbors who were not as close with our family remained on the sidewalk periphery peering into the backyard. I gave a pathetic half-wave motion of my hand and nodded their general direction; obligatory autopilot manners take over at the strangest times. I would have preferred to have ignored them or been invisible or better yet, not there at all.

The coroner and his assistant had arrived and had gone into the back door with a gurney. A few moments later, they came out with Dave’s body in a white bag. For such a giant of a human being what remained of his physical body seemed so very small. It was odd how something as simple as the clean shade of white somehow felt so much better than the black ‘body’ bag I expected. The gurney was placed inside the low-profile station wagon, and they drove away. My mom, sister, and I stood on the patio and watched them pull away. My mom said, “Bye, Dave.” The electric wrought iron gate closed slowly, surreally making clinking noises as the metal chain was cranked over the drive sprocket.

I fleetingly felt that something may be wrong with me because I was not hysterical. I decided that not being hysterical inadvertently or whatever the opposite of inadvertently is, advertently? I had to look it up, advertently is a thing. Regardless, it was probably for the best, and I tried to stop psychoanalyzing myself. The only fact I could hang my hat on was that Dave was no longer stuck in that shitty body. FACT. I also no longer felt that life-long instinctual worry for him. I also was so relieved for my mom, knowing how long or how much my mom worried for him since forever. I was so young when he was hurt and learned a pattern of worry by watching my parents silently worry about things that people, wait, children, wait, NO ONE should have to worry about way before anyone should have to worry about anything, that I forgot what it felt like to not have it be part of me.

It was unpleasant to have that sort of worry forever in the back of every thought and liberating for it to lift away all at once. My husband and I thought my mom and Dave might live with us at some point in time. We had room for them. My sister Anne and her husband also thought they may care for Dave and were open to whatever was necessary to care for him without a doubt. I never thought that particular worry for him would ever not be a part of my thoughts, which can become a part of your identity and how you filter everything. I never thought about Dave dying before myself, never even considered it. I certainly hadn’t thought about how the only way to not have the worry was to not have him. I just assumed I would worry forever and ever, the end. Well, that was a shitty double-edged sword of traded emotions.

I knew through recent studies that worry can change our actual physical DNA and not for the better. I wondered how my parent’s DNA may have changed from carrying around that crushing worry. Would my dad have lived longer had he not worried so much about everything Dave related all the time? Will my mom live longer now without this dreadful worry? I wondered how my own DNA may have changed throughout my life and how it may now change for the better if that was still possible.

All these weird random thoughts were still rabidly running around my head out of control, biting my brain that morning. The thoughts persisted, and I bounced between them and wondering why we have such strange thoughts, were they wearing a rut in the gray matter of my brain, should I be worried about my gray matter being damaged and when would it all stop? My brain felt like the aftermath of the equivalent of a school of Piranha skeletonizing a cow but applied to the all soft and likely delicious tissue of my brain. Maybe it was my headache, the nausea, or the heat. The air stopped moving. The standing ovation of the leaves at my brother’s life well fucking done had faded as he literally left the building. The same leaves stopped making their magical shushing sounds in my library of thoughts they had moments ago tried to quiet. It was starting to get hot. It was July in Southern California. I decided, Fuck this, I’m going home.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019

B. F. News Ad Nauseum

Part 10 of the unvarnished upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to find previous posts…

Brian was the best lifelong best friend a guy could ever ask for. A dear, steadfast friend through thick and thin: starting with middle school and high school pranks, baseball, football, laughter, girlfriends, driver licenses, first cars, shenanigans that resulted in court appearances, practical jokes, laughter, college, Emergency Room crisis, hospital dorm room, life after broken neck, Dr. appointments, more practical jokes, weddings, births, divorces, better weddings, road trips, loss and many more days of adventure and laughter after that.

Brian was with Dave on his worst days, and Dave was with Brian on his worst. They were brothers by choice, self-designated, and Brian has always been a perfect addition to our family. Brian too has a tender heart…come on, he is a guy whose best friend was a paralyzed guy. I witnessed that heart on those worst days too. That heart had ached plenty and is the real reason I was strategically lining up the calls from bad to worse to THE fucking worst being that call to him.

I took one more very long look inside the house. My mom was STILL talking to the officer, adrenaline continued to hold her hostage, and the words describing the events of the morning were flying from her lips at a million miles an hour. He was still nodding and taking notes. My sister was somewhere in the house, I somehow knew that she was on the phone. I had to make the call as my mom had asked me to.

They, Brian and his wife Sharon had been on vacation on Lake Powell the week prior. We knew they were returning home that day. They were likely to be somewhere on the road in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

I was sick of or from delivering this B.F. news to the point of being nauseous, so much so that I can’t even spell it out here I am still that sick of it. I did pick something up in that steep learning curve of delivering B. F. news that morning. I thought more about how it would hit Brian and decided to call Sharon’s phone and ask her to have Brian pull over before telling her. That would be the safest thing to do, but it would probably scare the shit out of them regardless. She could then tell him. I didn’t want the news of Dave ‘leaving the building’ between coffee and toast to kill them too. It only took me two calls to get my B. F news delivery shit together.

I called, and while the cell network was silently trying to locate him and connect my call, I thought Oh shit-shit-shit-shit-shit, please don’t answer, please don’t answer, please, for the love of God, do NOT answer! I reached the voicemail box on the first ring. I was so thankful. There probably wasn’t a cell signal wherever they were. I chickened out and hung up, though. I couldn’t leave a message. I didn’t really want to say these exact words, any words to begin with and I really didn’t want them recorded anywhere on any device and listened to later, or ever, really. Whew…that was close. Yet here am I writing these words, memorializing them anyway. The irony of writing this book. Thanks, Dave.

I then had a brilliant plan. I decided to send a text just asking Sharon to have Brian pull over and call my mom when he had a chance. I simply could NOT talk to him. I just couldn’t. When they were in range, they would get the text. They would call my mom’s home phone. She was going to have to talk to him. She was Brian’s honorary mom anyway. Best to hear it from her. She was small but had the strongest spine of any of us it turns out.

Besides avoiding saying the words again, I also didn’t want to have to convey the details which I didn’t want to know in the first place, those details that Brian would definitely want. He would need to talk to my mom for these details anyway, I would have to hand the phone over to my mom. I envisioned how all this would play out. I had to skip being the middle-man, and just pass this one on. I simply could not talk to him, a part of me was dying from saying or knowing these words, this reality, that part of my brain that controls words was experiencing B.F. news rigor mortis and locking up fast. It lasted longer than one to four days, though. I didn’t talk about this to anyone until I started writing. I suppose I was talking to myself at that point.

My mom finally finished, let the officer out the side door, and she joined me on the patio. We sat in the declining shade, gazing inward without blinking, dry-eyed in stunned silence. Linda was still in the house on her cellphone. I was thankful she was inside. I could not take listening to her tell her C.P.R. encounter again either.

Within 20 minutes the house phone rang. It was on the table next to my mom. She was closest. I made zero attempts to move or to answer it. I knew it was Brian. I was thankful she picked it up and went directly into the house with it before answering.

Besides being incapable of hearing any of the B. F news all over again. I did not want to hear his reaction to the B. F. news through her or her reaction to him reacting. I know I am sounding repetitive but I cannot convey in words accurately how I could not allow myself to hear any part of this conversation. I was retreating into selfish self-preservation living rigor mortis mode. I already experienced enough that morning that will be stuck in my permanent memory along with all sorts of other random unnecessary crap that I have no control over which I have shared thus far…clearly it stuck…infinty.

My mom returned to the patio after the call and proceeded to tell me about her half of the conversation. I didn’t ask, but she spoke as if I did. She had to talk and I let her tell me. As expected, he asked her questions about every detail of what happened. I knew he would ask for all these details. He wanted to know who rolled on the call, as in who the crew members were and if my mom knew anyone who responded. He wanted to know what if any life-saving methods were used. If they used leads on Dave to listen to his heart to make sure it really was in fact, not beating, maybe even just a little. As a professional lifesaver, having responded to so many emergency calls seeing humans swaying between life and death he wanted to be assured that everything possible had been done to save his friend. I immediately thought “Sometimes the magic works.”

When Brian and I talked about his side of this experience, years later, the time passing didn’t help. I felt one hundred percent retroactively bad just as I had when I avoided telling my friends about my dad no longer living on this particular plane of existence.

He didn’t read the protective measure text I had sent. He didn’t pull over. He just saw the missed call and called, blind. When my mom said those words, however, she delivered them, he reacted by momentarily freezing-up, in the process locking up his brakes on the freeway. His heart obviously stopped too. He managed to maneuver his ‘duly’ truck and trailer to a skidded stop on the side of the Interstate somewhere out in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The exact thing I wanted to avoid, not avoided. There was no best way to rip this duct tape strength Band-Aid off. Our hearts were ripped open, regardless. It was all bad news on this bad fucking day of days.

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© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019

Bad Fucking News Continued…

Part 9 of the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to find the previous posts.

Real dread began to fill my throat as I thought of my next two calls. I did not want to make the call to Brian, Dave’s best friend from infinity ago. I strategically made the first call to Anne, hoping my mom would be finished with the officer and be able to take over making the calls herself. Well, you read that chapter already, you know it was brief. It’s not like I could have dragged that conversation on with a follow-up question like “So enough about me, what’s happening with YOUUUU?” Damn it.

I leaned in the back door to see how close to finished my mom, and the officer might be. It didn’t seem close. He was examining the labels of Dave’s prescription medicine bottles with squinted eyes. My mom still animatedly talking while he nodded, read the labels, and scratched notes on a small pad of paper. He appeared nowhere close to being done. I reluctantly decided to make the second bad fucking news call to Barbara.

Barbara was our former neighbor and longtime dear friend to Dave. I jokingly called her “Hot Barbara” because she was, Dave agreed. She still is. She is the most lovely and cheerfully animated person I have ever met. Always quick to laugh with and at the world as well as herself in the most endearing way. I dialed her number. I don’t call her that often, I may have never called her before. Actually, I definitely have never called her before that day.

I love the energy conveyed in her voice and her verve in general. I caught her off guard as I knew I would. She was just walking out of church toward her car, where she sat while the conversation continued. Her initial reaction to hearing from me was excitement. This is her nature, genuinely glad to hear from her connections in life no matter how random. I had to figure out how to bridge the conversation from glad to hear from me to where I knew it was heading…south…rapidly.

Barb, I am afraid I have some bad news. And then I proceeded to rip her heart out with the worst words forced from my mouth, knowing before, during and after that this was going to hurt and that there was no other way to deliver this bad fucking news than to say it. I again summarized my mom’s words from earlier.

Through the phone, I felt everything that she is, the composition of her, that magical liveliness inside of her, her words, her heart and all the complicated electrical and chemical processes therein, stopped in that silent moment that hung in the ether between us via cell phone technology. I know now what I heard in that next desperate gasp of breath that comes from that same stunned heart finding a rhythm, any rhythm as it resumes beating and we take a breath. It was a piece of her heart, leaving her forever.

With that breath, she cried out in an entirely bereft tone, Oh My God, I’ve just lost my soul mate! I understood everything she could not say in between the two sentences she managed to get out, I have to go! There was not one helpful thing I could add to this bad fucking news at all. Sometimes the only thing you can say is, I am so sorry, Barb. We hung up.

I worried about her driving home safely. She would undoubtedly be in the midst of bitter cold shock, like that of a cold winter without a jacket somewhere that it gets really fucking cold, but way worse than that. I felt horrible for accidentally ruining her day, well, I knew it was going to be much longer than a day, years probably. I hated being the source of this bitingly cold news in the middle of summer in Southern California in Barb’s car. I took a deep breath to try to leave all those cold thoughts of what I had just done and witnessed.

Barb later told me her side of getting this bad fucking news. She sped home, completely devastated as I had theorized. She ran into her home, shouting for her darling husband, Bill!!!! Alarmed, upon hearing the tone of despair in her voice, he knew something was very wrong, and came running to find her, to help her. She collapsed into his arms as he reached her, “My David died!” They slid to the floor of their entryway steps and remained there were she wept inconsolably with Bill incorporated into her grief, holding her, moved to tears himself, knowing how heart-broken she was losing her dear friend.

In the expected manner of the way news, especially really bad fucking news spreads like wildfire and is reacted to as such, she needed to talk to people, people who knew Dave, who would know her pain. She sent a text to her two sisters and her daughter. They all grew up on our street and knew Dave through being our neighbor for decades and through Barb’s friendship with him. Her sister Teri responded in wildfire fashion, within seconds, by calling. Barb moved outside to catch her breath, take the call. She sat down, overlooking the beauty of their yard and wild oak forested area where she and Bill live in Yucaipa, California. While talking, in her horrid moment of grief, she noticed, what a strikingly beautiful day it was. It WAS an extraordinarily beautiful day that briefly, captivated her, diverted her thoughts on that morning of bad fucking news.

She returned her attention back to her phone call conveying everything she knew, which was very little other than the fact that he was gone and what she was feeling with Teri as they cried together. Their call was interrupted by Barbara hearing the very loud buzz of a swarm of bees somewhere nearby. She cautiously stopped speaking to look around for the swarm, her attention divided between looking for them and explaining to Teri that she was looking for them. She spotted a shadow of bees coming across her yard toward her, but there were no bees that she could see in the sky, there were only loud buzzing and a distinct shadow.

She narrated everything all the while to Teri on the other side of the phone call. I see the shadow and hear the buzz, but I don’t see any bees. It doesn’t make sense. It’s coming right toward me, it’s above my head! It is circling me, oh it just flew away! She described everything a second time to Teri as she tried to make sense of what she just saw as she came to realize that there were absolutely no bees but a shadow of what she could only describe as a buzzing energy that circled her head and flew away. She felt at that moment that the energy she heard and felt and saw had to be David! There was no other explanation in her mind for what she experienced. She felt it completely, and it gave her a great sense of relief.

Again, I do not pretend to understand all forms of energy in the universe, and this too falls into that category of things, weird things that I cannot explain referenced earlier. I enjoyed living through that moment with Barb as she described her observations of that incredibly beautiful day and her encounter with my brother in some alternate form that morning. I found it very interesting, and I, too, felt some sort of relief from it. Comparatively, I was secretly thankful Dave chose not to visit me in the form of ghost bees since I am allergic. I likely would have panicked and run away. More on Barb later.


© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019

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Bad News Calling…

Part 8 of the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to find the previous posts.

I didn’t want to call anyone. I looked around for the adult in the room or on the patio, someone else, anyone else I could possibly pass this job on to but I was alone on the patio. Unfortunately, on this occasion, I was the adult in the room. Great.

When our dad left the proverbial building, I told no one. Dave had been the someone else who made those type of calls to people who needed to be called previously on behalf of my mom. He was her oldest child, the oldest son. It seemed like his duty by the manner of succession. Yes, he was paralyzed, but he had a cell phone, a headset and he could talk to people. And he did.

I didn’t call anyone then. It was more than a year before I mentioned my dad’s death to anyone outside my daily nuclear life between home and work. I had to explain why I was not at work because–death. I tried really hard to avoid the topic at work, but at least a dozen or more of my coworkers gave me clippings of the press coverage of my dad, which I wrote. It forced me to acknowledge something had taken place. I didn’t like it. I have no idea why people gave these to me. Did they think I didn’t know he was dead? I mean he was my dad after all. Or maybe they thought I didn’t know when the memorial was taking place? They had to have known I wrote the piece for the newspaper; I was quoted throughout the article. This is a strange practice, and I do not recommend following it.

Needless to say, I did not tell my life-long friends who grew up on our street practically in our house. I didn’t tell my semi-lifelong friends who were collected along my way through adulthood. People found out by reading about it in the paper. I was surprised when some of my friends showed up at my dad’s memorial, they apparently still read the paper. I didn’t know I knew anyone who actually still read the paper. For my friends who lived outside the shadow of our local paper, or fall into the do not read the paper category which includes me, they didn’t find out until more than a year or years later.

In retrospect, it wasn’t any easier later when they were expecting a normal type of catch up conversation, “How’ve you been?” They didn’t expect that I hadn’t told them that level of bad news. My friends loved my parents. How’re your mom and dad? My mom is ok, my dad, not so much. They then felt horrible for not knowing. I felt retroactively bad for creating a moment where they felt disconnected from my interior life like a friendship demotion or something. It wasn’t. I am an introvert by nature almost reclusive. Things like this put me deep under a rock. I don’t like continuing the unpleasant energy of such a time in life. It sucked and I hated ALL of it.

I could only think of three people who needed to be called right away. No one likes bad news, and as I mentioned before, people don’t know what to do with death as it is. I don’t, and I’m writing a book about it. Well, the entire book isn’t about death, only this part of the book.

We all adored our Viking Warrior brother in and for myriad different reasons. Dave loved us all fiercely but in a non-violent, wholly with every fiber of his being sort of fiercely. We were lucky to be loved by him. Anyone was lucky to be loved by him. Living with him with the interior view of a nuclear family member was definitely an honored place to be. His life was hard, incredibly so, but he laughed through it with grace and hot sauce and made us all laugh with him. Having to tell anyone he was gone with less than a moment’s notice was pretty stunning news to deliver. He was in his fifties, so, relatively young by human standards and he was gone, between coffee and toast, just like that.

There are five of us. There were five of us. Five children. Dave was connected to each of us very differently. Dave and Linda grew up almost Irish twins and had many childhood adventures. I predominantly heard about THE pre-school golf club concussion incident, bee stings and the revenge of THE golf club concussion with a pretend dental appointment and a mouth full of dirt because he deserved it reasons. Dave was three years older than Scott. They were in an almost constant state of wrestling from very early on. Anything with a ball, a pool, wrestling or broken windows usually included Scott, our cousins Jim and John who were everpresent in our house growing up, against Dave, the giant. Dave and Anne are six years apart, and the most alike, level headed, dot every i cross every t, always do the right thing, great listener, show up on time, lead by example, help you move sort of people. I am the youngest, eleven years younger than Dave. We were vastly different. I am writing a book about him so I will let my relationship with him unfold with the pages.

Linda obviously was part of the news, and I am pretty sure she called Scott. My sister Anne who lived on the east coast at that time was my first call. She answered, “Hey, you.” I didn’t think, I just summarized my mom’s words by using even fewer words than she, I prefaced that I was calling with bad news and then I just blurted it out. “Dave died.” Her one-word reaction was a very loud “WHAT?” in obvious surprised disbelief given the context of his healthy forever.

She reacted, it seemed exactly like I did. She didn’t ask what happened. She quickly collected her thoughts and asked how our mom was. As much as it is impossible to speak for anyone in this circumstance I did anyway. I said, “She seems OK.” No one lived with the burden of the worry of Dave’s care and future more than our mom. She suffered his pain even though he didn’t reveal any. She knew as only a mom could know. She worried as only a mom could or world worry.

I felt Anne thinking all of my unspoken thoughts, we were relieved for her. We were relieved for both Dave being able to fly away from that stupid body and for my mom being released of her worry of What is going to happen to Dave if something happens to me? The entire conversation contained very few words but with the obvious understanding that we would see each other soon, very soon.

I always ask people if they can take a call when I contact them. You never know what people are in the middle of doing when you call them. Almost anything can be picked up later if it’s not a good time. I learned an important lesson that day. I didn’t think to suggest that she sit down before I continued with the bad fucking news. Please make a note of this-my lesson to you.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019


If you enjoyed this post please click the like button below or share. I would love to hear your memories of Dave if you are among those who knew him or I would love to hear stories of your experiences with your lost loved ones. XO M