If you are new to this blog, welcome to our Viking Funeral as we toast, figuratively, Dave Linane. Click the link above to read more about Dave. This blog is an actual book released one chapter at a time. To read in a linear fashion, please scroll down 40 something chapters to the beginning, March 13. Be warned, I curse like a sailor, no offense to any sailors. I was having a bad day, and you, the reader are inside my head where I am free to curse all day long. Writing Dave’s unfinished book has been the most helpful path of my grieving. I hope that you will join me and see an alternate way to live as a paralyzed man and party like you are on your way to Valhalla. XO M
Barb, without question, planned to speak in tribute to Dave at our Viking Funeral. She spent the time between getting the bad fucking news that Sunday and his memorial the following Saturday torn up by and with her grief. She felt anxiety finding the right words. What words should she say with so many to choose from? It wasn’t the so many words part but so many things she could say about Dave, how was she going to narrow it down? Tears and memories and thoughts about the words, for, and about her time with her dear friend simply escaped her.
She called her daughter Kirstin in her frustration one of the days that week. She was upset as she spoke, fearing that she was going to be a mess, might start sobbing without end, without saying anything that she wanted to convey at all. She couldn’t understand why she was having so much trouble thinking of what to say. This was not like her at all. But Kirstin knew and encouraged her with what Barb could not know or believe yet, that all the right words would come to her.
She called Brian a few times that week to check on him. She shared her fear of finding the right words with Brian. She asked him what he was going to say. They shared their remorse; Brian was so close to retiring, he and Dave had so many plans of things they were going to do and see once he was retired and could drive them everywhere with fewer restrictions and commitments. He was in full-on regret survivor’s guilt mode. She was still speechless upon hanging up. Her heart was breaking for myriad justifiable reasons, for her loss, for Brian, for my mom. And that feeling you have when you know the world is a better place with certain people in it, she felt that loss too, for everyone.
The day of our Viking Funeral arrived. Her husband had a previously scheduled commitment and was unable to attend with her. She was so upset with the day that she resorted to taking Xanax to help her cope with the finality and totality, the abrupt end of the existence of her Dave, and having to appear in public and speak about all of it without falling into a million inconsolable pieces and yet the words still evaded her.
When she arrived at our parents’ house, it was early, but the celebration was already blooming to life. She hugged me at our sign-in table outside the back gate, signed our guest book, got a card to write a message to Dave for the Fire Act later.
She headed into the surprisingly festive environment of the beautiful lush yard filled with; round dining tables and chairs everywhere there was room, lights in the trees, flowers, and candles on the tables. Dave’s favorite classic rock music filled the air, along with the smell of a variety of spicy Mexican marinated meats on the grill. She walked around, surprised by so many familiar faces, hugging everyone as she went. All these people were in the same boat of grief, starting the evening paddling with margaritas from the adult-rated freezie margarita machine, toasting their favorite Dave with smiles and shining eyes.
She jokes about spending that first Act of our Viking Funeral, the Food, Booze, and Schmooze Exchange Act doing copious shots of tequila with Brian to help her prepare the right words and steal her strength as only the best tequila can. While Dave would have LOVED this party we threw in his honor, he would have hated to think of anyone being sad.
When it came time for her to speak, she stood up at the podium and talked about her initial impression of Dave and then, really meeting him for the first time decades later after passing by our house thousands of times to and from hers either on foot, bike or driving. Our families lived on the same street for decades before Barb and Dave became more than glancing acquaintances, to be really good friends.
The two attended sixth-grade together at Holy Rosary, the Catholic school, less than half a block up the street from our house. The only memory she had of Dave from that time was of him throwing her school uniform beanie up in a tree. (He was always very shy with girls, but if this wasn’t an obvious sign of affection, I don’t know what is). They attended different schools after that. Dave wanted to attend the local public middle school, where he subsequently met Brian that next year in seventh grade, then later moved on to San Bernardino High School.
Barbara remained at our neighborhood Catholic combined elementary-middle school then went on to the local Catholic high school, Aquinas High School. The only time she saw Dave was occasionally when the two happened to be walking home from their separate schools. She described his swagger as that of a badass. He usually wore his letterman’s jacket, earned his freshman year. Associated with that jacket, was his reputation on the football field, the wrestling mat, track, and field (shotput-for those built like freight trains). Unfortunately, the one time he threw a punch at anyone also attributed to that reputation. Dave later bemoaned having done so but added in his defense, “That guy did deserve it.” Beyond that punch, no one crossed him, no Halloween candy thieves, no crowd of football players, no one. Badass was the rumor and her perception of Dave.
She moved out, lived life for a bit far far away, later moved back, with her young daughter Kirstin after a dissolved relationship. Her parents LOVED having them light up their lives as only the energy of a young mom and child bring to a home. Barb loved being back with them among the lovely Spanish style homes, the familiar comfort of the sentries of huge elm trees that had lined the street for decades, their continuous shady tunnel of canopy that marked the time cycling through seasons of leaves, bare branches, bright new leaves again, and with so many lifelong neighbors.
After her reentry, she couldn’t go anywhere without frequently seeing Dave out in his wheelchair, either sitting outside our house or cruising most likely, past her house, the halfway mark to Brian’s house further down 25th Street. Like our other neighbor, Annette, who spoke at the beginning of our Viking Funeral through her letter that described not knowing how to approach Dave; Barbara similarly admits she too didn’t know how to approach him, that for lack of knowing she simply avoided him. She best describes feeling uncomfortable, fearful she knew not of what, maybe the guilt of how his life must have felt from the outside by comparison. Barb had never known anyone who was paralyzed. She avoided seeing him when she drove by. But Dave saw her; he saw everyone.
She was working in her yard one uneventful day, focused on pulling weeds when Dave’s wheelchair rolled up next to her. She knew it was Dave because she had seen his chair plenty of times when she tried not to see him. She was stuck, crouched down as one has to do to pull weeds, his wheel was right next to her, she could not avoid him any longer. She worried, Oh, SHIT, to herself, stood up and faced him, as Dave made eye contact with her for the first time, his green eyes exuded something disarming, his persona radiated with an unidentifiable warmth. In his pleasant radio voice said, “Hi, Barbara.” That was all it took to forever set aside the armor of fear of the unknown that she had hidden behind; it was just so easy to talk to him, “Hi, Dave.” They fell fast into, a conversation talking about nothing, followed by thousands of conversations about everything, laughter, and a kindred friendship.
“He was nothing like my initial badass conception of him. He was the most lovely gentle-spirited man, and I just adored him. We went for really long walks all the time-a walk and a roll, talked on the phone, sat in the yard, hung out in my kitchen. We talked endlessly about the everything under the sun topics of the day; we laughed all the time, we questioned the meaning of life…the big and small of it, love and loss, really…everything.” The everything left her with a comfortable sigh. It felt like we witnessed both relief as she let go of the words and a pleasant remembering of contentment in front of us. She unveiled in mere minutes a view into her heart where she stored the memories of passing time in life on 25th Street.
The right words did come to her. She found them as she looked out at the faces of everyone cast in the dark moving shadows and reddish-gold firelight against the contrast of melting darkness that had almost completely fallen around us by then. She acknowledged Brian, “Thank you for being such a good friend to Dave. My heart really goes out to you, Brian. I know this is incredibly hard. Dave loved you so much!” He nodded modestly.
She continued by lifting her gaze beyond Brian in the front row, “Bruce, all you guys, you were SO young when Dave got hurt. You were all just 18-years-old! You were just kids. You all took everything in stride with him and continued the party at the hospital remaining by his side all these years. I am so impressed and thankful to all of you for really stepping up and being such good friends to him. He loved you all. Of course, my heart also goes out to Sandra, the Linane family, I know this is a huge loss for all of you. I ask everyone here to check on them. We are all going to miss him. I am really going to miss him.”
© Mardi Linane Copyright 2020