Genetics and other announcements in the background (1)

Excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to read from the beginning. Thank you all for reading and for your comments. XO M

Part 1.

Dave was the oldest of five children. The son of a world-class athlete, our dad Tom and our world-class mom, Sandra. They were married 52 years, the Linanes. A world-class pair who created a world-class quadriplegic. By the end of this book, I think you will agree about all of them.

Our parents met when they both moved to Redlands, California in the summer of 1946 when they were twelve. They began dating at 16 and married when they were 20 in 1954. In the next six years, they had four children…under the age of six. I am going to pause for dramatic effect to let that just sink in. And further, they almost had five sets of Irish twins under the age six but one pregnancy did not make it to term.

Then I came along five years later. Just when they thought they were done…they were not. My mom was pregnant when I was seven but this pregnancy ended as a result of a dangerous condition called Placenta Previa in the summer before Dave was hurt. She would have been due about the same time as Dave’s accident.

I thought I wanted twins when I was pregnant, a boy and a girl, pregnant once, one of each. Boom, done. At the age of twenty-seven years, I produced my one and only child and retroactively realized how crazy their house must have been with all those babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers, elementary school age children finally and then another baby right after they got rid of all the baby stuff…and almost another baby dealing with Dave’s accident. I don’t know what I was thinking, Twins? And for my mom with what probably felt like quadruplets and my friends out there with twins…I raise my glass to you. OMG. Is it nap time yet? I meant for the adults?

I asked my mom what my dad’s reaction was when she told him she was pregnant…AGAIN. She said, “Well, (she giggled) he was never surprised.”

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Talk about bad fucking news

Excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. To read previous chapters, scroll down. Love all the love you are giving me with your comments, follows and likes. Thank you! XO M

The phone rang. I remember being in the kitchen. The connecting room to my right, the breakfast nook is where one of the three phones in our house was located at the time. My dad had been reading the paper. He hopped up from the table away from his paper to answer the phone.

I remember feeling something change in the room. I didn’t hear one word from my dad after he said “Hello? Yes…” It is not often that we recognize such a definitive moment in our lives as it is happening. I knew then, I felt it, the split-second joy had been sucked out of our house. It was as if a portal into deep space had been thrown open in our kitchen and the entire existence of our family was scattered beyond to the ends of the universe by the vacuum of nothingness, to oblivion.

My seven-year-old eavesdropping antenna was all the way up along with something else I had never before experienced, true fear. I paid close attention with my peripheral vision so as not to look directly at him. I had never overheard a phone call quite as silent as this one or felt the room so heavy with something I could not identify, something unnatural. He hung up the phone. I tried to search his face for clues of something in that half-second, whatever this unnatural thing was, only to discern that his gorgeous bright blue eyes had lost their beautiful energy. He hurriedly left the room in one quick turn. His sunny disposition, his entire being, everything about him had been washed over a dark gray.

Minutes later both he and my mom rushed out the back door into the garage. Wait, what about dinner? Where are you going? I wondered but remained silent, taking it all in. I didn’t understand where they were going or what was happening. I just knew something bad ushered or followed my parents out the door in a rush. Whatever it was I was very afraid of it.

It was rare that both of our parents were not home for dinner. I do not recall a parentless dinner prior to this day, but neither of our parents was present at dinner this night and many nights to come. I remember eating in frightful silence with my sister Anne, she was 12 at the time.

I know they would have given anything including their lives to have been at the table with all of us like normal that night. I know they would have traded places with Dave rather than face the fire of the worst news of their existence in the Emergency Room at San Bernardino Community Hospital. But we don’t always have the option of choosing our fate.

My parents were met at the hospital by a neurologist who explained in a flat tone, “Thomas (Dave’s actual first name) has experienced severe trauma to his spinal cord.” The neurologist slapped an x-ray up on a lightbox in front of my parents, people with no medical background getting their first of many accelerated med-school by force lectures. My dad took one look at the film and dropped to his knees with a stunned overwhelm that anyone could imagine looking at the horrifically obvious misaligned vertebrae of your child. My mom stood fast facing that fire. Her immediate reaction was to catch my dad from falling to the ground completely, along with the doctors and help him up. The doctor coldly asked if they understood what the x-ray was depicting. My dad clarified, “Yes, my son’s neck is broken.”

My parents began a frightening and heartbreaking path that afternoon that I watched my dad turn from a vibrant glowing soul to a shell of dark gray presence, our house was shrouded, an unspeakably broken home, a broken-hearted home.

 

 

November 6, 1973 (fan meets the shit)

I have always envisioned the way this event unfolded in my mind’s eye from the safety of a birds-eye view drifting on a vent of wind far above the action as this is as close as I could ever allow myself to get, even now. I am way above the football field at San Bernardino Valley College. I see players and coaching staff on the field, its a typical afternoon of practice. Players are running through drills and scrimmage line ups are tested.

The defense lines up against the offensive line. The ball is snapped. The play has run its course of bodies crashing into each other. The practice has come to an unusual halt. Something is wrong down there. A large circle has slowly closed in around a player, Dave who is on the ground. He doesn’t look right. He is laying on his back, with his legs unnaturally folded up underneath him, his cleats are digging into the flesh of his backside yet he is not moving around in reaction to what looks like a painful landing.

The coaches jog over to assess what has happened, why he has not shaken off this hit and simply gotten up. It is determined immediately that something is wrong, very wrong. Someone sprints to the sports office to call an ambulance. Most athletes at the college level have all experienced an injury at some point, but they don’t expect to go to practice and leave in an ambulance. The energy of the crowd of players shifts quickly to shock and grave concern for their teammate because none of what they see looks to be anything but ok.

The ambulance arrives in minutes and enters the field through a large chain link gate near the north parking lot of the SBVC campus and drives right onto the football field grass as everyone present steps aside, opening the protective circle of concerned players on one side to allow its approach.

He did not lose consciousness, he explains what he thinks has happened, clearly remembers being hit, a delayed hit. He looked up to see his opponent to determine the reason for the delay. At the moment he looked up his teammate tackled him, basically over the top of him. His head was in the completely wrong and unprotected position of looking up. Instead of the energy of the impact going through the helmet, through his spine and body like it should when the head is tucked down, his head snapped backward, the back edge of his helmet dug into his spine.

He described feeling something like an electric power panel lever being thrown in a lights-out manner of speaking before hitting the grass. He was confused because he had no sense of his body as he lay there, he asks where his arms or legs were situated. He could tell he was in an awkward position but felt nothing physical, only concern for the unknown whatever in the hell this was. He conveys the above-outlined steps he moved through that led to this moment to the coaches and again to the ambulance crew as they too, quickly assess the critical severity of the situation.

An ambulance in an odd location like the middle of a football field draws attention. Brian, Dave’s best friend, is leaving campus for the day. He is heading toward and enters the same north parking lot directly adjacent to the football field. He notices the ambulance and crowd on the field because the unusual spectacle is not anything one would miss. He stops momentarily, concerned about whoever was obviously injured enough to need an ambulance at football practice, but he is too far away to be able to discern anything. He continues as he was, on his way to his car and heads home.

Bruce, another close friend of Dave’s, is in shop class, also adjacent to the football field on the west side. The doors to the class are open because it’s a hot day. Among the noise in the shop, Bruce and other students also notice the ambulance on the football field. Like Brian, Bruce felt some mild concern about what may have happened on the field that required an ambulance response, but he too was too far away to really see anything one way or another. He goes back to his work at hand as the ambulance crew is working on someone.

An isolation board is slipped under Dave in an effort to avoid moving him and possibly causing further damage. He is strapped in place and quickly loaded into the ambulance. His friend from way before junior college, Steve Avila jumps in the ambulance to be with his friend who may be in serious trouble. The ambulance heads off the grass carefully out of the parking lot and north toward San Bernardino Community Hospital a short drive away. It was in the later part of the four o’clock hour leaning toward five.

From up in the sky above the college I can see our rooftop six miles just north of campus to the middle of town, where dinner was being prepared when the phone rang.

Time Travel: 1973

Unvarnished, unedited excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to read previous chapters.

A shitty end to the day before the shitty day to end all shitty days (my words, not his)

Following graduation from San Bernardino High School, Dave spent the summer of 1973 working as a lifeguard at the high school swimming pool. A fun job where he enjoyed looking out for people and of course enjoyed the cute girls in bikinis.

Dave attended San Bernardino Valley College in the fall. He signed up to play Football as he had every fall since the 7th grade. Like many 18-year-olds, he didn’t really have a life plan yet. He had attended junior college as an easy way to defer those thoughts for a while and maybe find an idea along the way. It was also one way to extend his time playing the sport he loved. This year was a complete change up with a new school (college), new coach, new team. Some of the rivals from the past were going to be teammates. Definitely a change-up.

Fall can be VERY hot in Southern California. It is not uncommon for temperatures through October to remain over a hundred degrees. It doesn’t always happen, Dave braved another one more blazing hot Indian Summer football season playing with this new team .

Something had taken place that brought the team under question, and the entire season was going to be disqualified. I am not sure if it was recruiting practices or what but Dave was disappointed with everything about his experience playing that season. He was a great athlete, but he had no illusions of “going pro.” He was falling out of love with playing football and growing up quickly thinking about the answer to the “What am I going to do with my life?” question.

What would be next for him after football? He didn’t really love academia. Did he even need to attend college for the kind of job he thought he might obtain? Because he was such a physical being at that time, he considered himself to be in the “all brawn” category of the “all brawn and no brains” descriptive phrase commonly used to describe athletes. He had to explain what that phrase meant when I was a kid of about 10 in response to me asking him what he thought he might be doing if he hadn’t broken his neck. This was the first time I had a conversation with anyone about judgment or prejudice, people deciding who you are based on your physical attributes. He told me that he thought he may have applied to work for the Railroad as a dock worker or some physical type of job. I specifically recall that when he used this phrase, he never referred to himself as the ‘no brains’ part of the phrase.

He decided he was going to quit the team and focus on…growing up. He went to tell the coach. His coach unloaded a litany of obscenities at Dave from the top of his lungs the way only a football coach can. That reaction paired with our parents’ life lessons drilled into each of us that “if we start something, we have to finish it.” left Dave conflicted. He felt bad enough about the idea of quitting anything and left the coaches office feeling…pretty shitty.

Not all things were bad that day. Dave was a bit shy with girls. He was very popular with people in general but was a shy, gentle giant when it came to girls. He bravely made plans to watch TV at a girl named Susie Andrews house that night. Her parents were not home. His friends, Paul and Steve, joined him.

Paul was a year older than Dave. Paul changed schools in his junior year of high school due to boundary changes. They met playing baseball that year and just clicked. Steve was Paul’s cousin, who attended another high school in town. Dave and Steve met through Paul, another lifelong connection clicked. I don’t know if there were other girls at Susie’s house, but Dave said two friends were with him and Paul couldn’t remember when I asked him. Paul drove.

The boys had made themselves comfortable in front of the TV at her house. They spread out, had taken their shoes off…they got comfortable. For a while, they enjoyed the time spent visiting, watching TV. However, all good things must come to an end. It was bound to happen since her parents lived there. But, they came home, early. Quite unexpectedly early.

The boys were there unbeknownst to her parents and could not remain or simply leave via the front door because they would definitely cross paths. Susie panicked and suggested the boy’s exit out a window on the side of the house to escape undetected. The boys quickly grabbed their shoes and rushed out the window in the dark, barefoot.

Dave was the last one out the window. As he made that first step out into the dark, he stepped right into a fresh, warm, soft, pile of dog shit produced by what e could only imagine had to be a large-sized dog. He felt it squish in between his toes, filling every possible space imaginable. He felt the warmth. He detected a thick gooey texture. He shuddered with disgust.

Ahead of him, Paul and Steve sprinted their asses back to the car parked incognito a few houses away while Dave awkwardly limped and hopped, wiping his foot on the grass, in complete horror at having stepped in dog shit with his bare foot! He was embarrassed that it was not a very smooth way to end an evening when he was trying to connect with this girl he had a crush on. As he was telling me this story, I was crying with laughter, and could not pass up the opportunity to state the obvious, “OH MY GOD! Smoothe move Ex-Lax!”

Paul had started the car. Dave said it seemed like forever was stretched out between him and the car. Dragging his foot through the damp grass all the way back to the car, he finally made it, jumped in and shut the door. They sped off like a bat-outta-hell.

And THEN…Paul and Steve were slapped across the face with the stench of the lovely warm dog shit. The exceedingly fresh nature of its consistency, the way that it had oozed up between all of Dave’s toes made it impossible to have wiped all of it off without thoroughly washing his foot with some caustic cleanser. Paul and Steve were both retching with disgust and in hysterical laughter, relentless in their teasing Dave of “the world’s shittiest getaway.”

About a year before Dave left the building, I was meeting with him specifically to coach him through the writing development process for what should have been something like this book but of course, in his words. That is when he shared this warm dog shit between his toes story with me. He said “Of ALL the things to remember about physically feeling anything in this world, the irony of having stepped in warm dog shit being such a strong and memorable feeling before becoming paralyzed is annoying and hilariously ironic to me.” This is why I just loved this guy, his hilarious sense of humor and the was he just dealt with shit.

I was already laughing, but to see him relive the memory of that feeling with such a shudder of revulsion, and the hilarity of having to muffle his scream of horror because her parents were inside made me lose it. He played all the parts of the three people trapped in this small car perfectly, at full volume for accuracy. The expression of downturned frown with flared nostrils, head cocked to one side, holding very still as he portrayed Paul and Steve’s reactions, sensing something bad and internalized the information, were so perfect.

I laughed so hard at his physical comedy performance, how they recoiled in their horror and disgust by jerking his head back with those flared nostrils as they did from the smell slapping them across the face. Then dividing their reactions between disgust, hysterical laughter until they lost their breath. Then yelling at him in tandem, alternating and in tandem again as they were repeatedly laughing until they ran out of air was all beyond hilarious to me.

Dave was barely getting each sentence of the story out between running out of air himself in that high pitched, can’t finish a sentence because I am experiencing an uncontrollable fit of laughter, story-telling voice.

“And then Paul floored it,” (snickering with high pitched voice running out of air). Long quiet pause as he laughed hysterically, long since out of breath, trying to both breathe and continue telling the story. Keep in mind that his diaphragm does not work as efficiently as every else’s, so it was work to laugh this hard.

“And then the smell overtook us in the car.” (higher pitched, labored breathing due to lack of air laughter). “Oh God, the LOOKS on their FACES!” attempts to mimic the scowling faces of his friends while trying to hold that scowl for one second for comedic effect, failing terribly into more completely uncontrolled silent out of breath laughter.

I was writhing on the couch, holding my sides, hysterically laughing, coughing, wretching, running out of my own air, tears rolling down my cheeks as I was watching, listening and envisioning the story unfold. I was simply overcome by infectious laughter caused by him laughing so hysterically. It was unavoidable and why in the hell would I want to avoid this hilariousness anyway?

He reached a point where he was no longer making noise for more than a few moments he was laughing so hard and so far beyond breath. His face was red with a huge ear to ear smile chiseled on his face that was stuck. He practically convulsed from whatever you call that level of laughter that you are uncontrollably, unapologetically, crying, retching-but in a good way. I have yet to find a word that means this exactly. But that.

The story was hilarious on its own but watching him tell it, then lose all his breath, while his entire body got involved was even funnier, contagiously funny. He laughed himself into a full body spasm, which meant he was definitely having a great laugh. It happened every time he laughed really hard, and he never avoided laughing really hard. Oh My God, we laughed.

I laughed at him, laughing at himself. He knew that I was laughing at him for laughing at himself, and he laughed at himself harder. And then the long wind-down recovery hhhhhhhhuh to catch our breath, cleansed of dog shit tales of smooth moves.

This sort of perspective of his life is a typical day hanging out with Dave. He was so very easy to pass the time with, so easy to laugh at himself. He brought his best to every situation. He didn’t talk about the elephant in the room part of his life in any negative manner which is why it was decades and decades later that he told me this story of the day before “the shittiest day to end all shitty days,” again, my words, not his. He joked about STILL living with his parents when he gave the toast at their 52nd wedding anniversary. His levity is probably what saved him from going insane, that and his optimism that if he ever walked again, he was going to immediately take up ice hockey. “Now there’s an exciting sport!” My response to that was, “OH! Don’t play hockey, you have such nice teeth!”

I talked to Paul to confirm who this mystery girl was. After much laughter as he recalled the events of the evening, he said he thought it was Susie Andrews’ house they had visited. She lived next door to Brian’s girlfriend at the time, Lisa Pepitone. Brian confirmed that Dave had had a crush on Susie, and that would not have been out of the realm of possibilities. Steve unexpectedly passed away before I was able to laugh with him about his perspective on this and other adventures that I had questions about. I have a feeling someone will reach out to me after this is published to confirm or deny Susie Andrews had a dog that may or may not have been involved in this story.

At least the middle part of the evening had been nice. Things were about to get shittier. Way, way, way, way, way-way-way shittier.

Viking Funeral – We Burned Shit

This is an unvarnished excerpt (13) from the upcoming book Viking Funeral, to read previous posts scroll down. Love and appreciate your comments, stories of your loved ones, likes and shares here or on Facebook. All of you are helping me heal, more than you know!! So many insights are coming to me through conversations with people who knew Dave or knew a coach or knew someone who knew Dave. I have theorized that this is growing into a memoir of a community, thank you all so much. The more comments and likes, more people will have the chance to see or read based on FB algorithms. XO M

***

Everyone had been called, emailed, got the memo, food, booze, tables and chairs, linens, were ordered and delivered, the yard and house were ready, our playlist was set up, we were now ready for the par-tay.

Dave kept every friend he ever made and remained in their hearts regardless of the distance between them. He was so endearing. He was kind, thoughtful, gracious, humble. He always did the right thing. He had your back and always defended the underdog. He had a certain calm easiness about him, an awareness, a confidence within his own skin. He was funny and quick to laugh. Dave’s physical talent had been impressive. His life took a scary turn, then grew to be amazing and definitely inspirational when it comes to finding joy in everyday life, living well and purposefully. People were simply drawn to him.

We had no idea how many people might show up. In our conversations with close friends throughout that week prior we followed the very sophisticated crowd planning math tactic of our long-time friend and renowned party planner, Billie Daniel who suggested in her native Texan accent: “Ya add up the number of people in yer family…and ya add 80.” We have a large family, so we planned for that plus 80 so about 200 to make sure we had enough food, booze, and chairs.

People arrived from near and far away. Two fire station crews came-not because of the risk of fire but because they were fond of Dave and to support Dave’s best friend and fireman (their captain), Brian. The two fire trucks were double-parked in the street right outside the back gate. All the little kids were stoked to be able to climb all over the trucks while their parents took pictures.

We set up a table outside our back gate for people to sign the guest book and if they wanted to burn a note in the bonfire transformation ceremony, there were pens and cards for people to do so. Some people wrote a favorite inside joke they shared with Dave; some wrote a reminder of an adventure. Some people wrote recipes because Dave loved food and loved to supervise anyone he could get to cook or bake with his input and ‘back seat driver chef’ his way through to the finished product. Most people wanted to tell us what they wrote and why before heading into the yard.

Besides our extended family, all the expected friends of Dave’s, my Mom’s (and Dad’s) friends from forever showed up as well as the longtime friends of Linda, Scott, Anne and surprisingly, mine too (I guess my nerds still read the paper). We, of course, met a few new friends of Dave’s we didn’t know, and that was a joy too. It was very overwhelming in the best way possible to feel their love for our Dave, for us.

In the process of greeting people at the gate and hearing their stories from their notes for the fire, we were encouraging everyone away from any tears, asking them to join us being happy for Dave, that he was no longer stuck in that body.

It was a mild summer evening for July in Southern California. The energy of our guests completely shifted once they passed over the threshold of our back gate. The great music, the smell of Mexican food grilling and friendly familiar faces everywhere allowed people to mingle, to immediately connect with their humanity like they really needed to in dealing with this huge collective loss. The backdrop of the tall hedges around the perimeter of the yard with the lights in the old elm trees created the perfect lush atmosphere of beauty and privacy to amplify and contain the joy of the crowd who was growing in their awareness that they were a part of and witnessing something truly special.

We set up a podium and the bonfire pit in the lowest, grassy part of the yard, opposite the gated entrance. The ‘audience’ portion of the yard was set up like a dinner theater with round tables and chairs everywhere a round table and chairs would fit. If there was a flat space, tables and chairs were on it.

Out of the gate, the bar was ready to go to serve our first guests with typical boozy booze or at another drink station; margaritas flowed from a magical bottomless machine that cranked them out nonstop like self-serve adult snow cones. Dinner, catered by a taco truck was ready upon arrival as well as chips and salsa on all the tables. These were Dave’s faves. We cranked music from a playlist of his collection of classic rock turned up to Spinal Tap 11 basically, party volume. Actually, the music had been playing all day as we set up. I’ve recreated the 11-hour playlist called Viking Funeral on Spotify. (Menu link on the blog).

Our historical conditioning of what to expect at a funeral looks something like this: We go to a church or a mortuary. We remain isolated in our socially required quietness for a period of time. A formulaic liturgic order is followed with singing some religious songs that may or may not be applicable to the person being memorialized. Words are read from the Bible, which again, may or may not apply to the person being memorialized. People will stand up and say some words. Often it is very uncomfortable witnessing them speak as they struggle with their grief and their words at this very stressful time. A pastor or priest will reiterate things they were told about the decedent who they may or may not know. General words of hope are spoken. Money is exchanged for these services.

Then everyone gets in their car to drive to a cemetery, or we walk to the grave where we remain quiet, isolated in our collective grief, side-by-side for the graveside stuff. Often it is brutally hot especially given how dehydrated we may be from crying. Way more money exchanges hands for this stuff, maybe even credit is extended or payment plans.

Lastly, you then drive elsewhere to eat some party platter food with a smaller crowd than initially came to the first thing at the church. It takes so long to ramp up to the heart of the matter of coping with the loss or supporting each other as a group with the sharing of stories, hugging, crying openly together, laughing, and eating. It is this formula that is just unbearable to me and that I simply could not face when planning my dad’s memorial and definitely not for Dave’s.

My husband always makes an emphatic point of saying that he “HATES funerals” when one is on our horizon. I ask him every time, “Again, have you EVER met ANYONE who likes funerals? He shakes his head no (for the I don’t know how many times he has shaken his head no when we have had this conversation). That’s right. Everyone hates funerals. But we go anyway.” This funeral was already not like anything anyone had ever attended, myself included. This was a Viking Funeral, custom, made-to-suit.

People milled about the backyard and house enjoying seeing one another somewhat like a high school reunion. They hugged across rented chairs and tables, they told funny “remember that time we…” stories. They then headed for the bar, grabbed chips and salsa, back for more stories, more visiting with other people, then food, in that general order.

As I watched from the upstairs bathroom window that overlooks the back yard, a favorite vantage point of mine, I didn’t notice any tears. I only heard laughter, and I could see everything. Everyone was laughing and genuinely enjoying being together. It was amazing. There was so much hugging and laughter I loved every minute. Even as introverted as I am, as separate as I kept myself, I loved being there, watching, witnessing from both the window upstairs and among the crowd. Even though no one loves a funeral, I loved being there. I loved knowing with complete certainty that his life was so well lived, that he was so loved. And it smelled so great too, tacos! Dave so loved a party, he loved party food, beer and he loved people. He really would have loved this bash. I kept looking for him at the edge of my peripheral vision but then remembered…”oh, ya– that.”

It was growing dark. I had to get all my ducks in a row. I planned to add some of my dad’s ashes to the bonfire to start the fire and tribute act of the evening. His ashes were somewhere in my mom’s house but being pulled many directions at once with this very full house of well-wishing people; I could not reach her to ask her where they were. Everyone had eaten, and margarita’d. We were going to be getting started soon. A solution came to me. My mom used to have some of my dad’s ashes in the glove box of her car; maybe they were still in there. It’s a long story.

Ok, long story short, my dad had a fascination with Asia. A friend of mine was going to take a trip to China. I asked him if he would take some of my dad’s ashes with him to put in the Yangtze River. He agreed. But when I brought the ashes to work, my friend, an older very conservative gentleman who had somehow never seen any human ashes in his life, thought they looked too much like ‘cocaine drugs’ to take through security or customs in China. Apparently, he had never seen cocaine either because human ashes basically look like very course, gray gravel. Not that I know that much about cocaine, but I have seen that Al Pacino movie with that phrase “Say hello to my little friends…” Scarface, so, no. I could not help laughing.

I also had some vague memory that popped in my thoughts right at that moment, of it being illegal to transport random unsealed ashes by plane-but it was the thought that counts right? I understood his discomfort. So, I tossed the Ziploc baggy of my dad in my glovebox, where they remained until I sold the car to my mom. When she went to put the new title in her car, she found the baggy in the glovebox and called me to ask, “Mardi, is that your father in that baggy in the glovebox of the car?” We both laughed at how silly her question sounded for those who may be eavesdropping. I felt a little bad for forgetting him in there but could tell by her tone that she was not freaked out. I reminded her of “The ‘cocaine drugs’ incident and that I didn’t think it was a bad idea to keep his ashes in the car for company or to watch over me and then I just forgot he was in there.” She agreed and had already made the same assumption and had tossed them right back in. Now I am wondering if she removed them when she sold the car a few years later. That is my long story, short.

I went to the garage to see if they were still in the glovebox and they were. I grabbed them and headed out to the back yard with my notes, a string from Dave’s letterman jacket and my dad in a Ziploc bag in hand.

After about two hours of hugging, drinking, eating tacos, story-swapping, musical chairs hopping from table to table visiting with people and getting people to write their thoughts down on bonfire cards, we started encouraging people to grab a drink and find a spot to sit down. People were coming up to us throughout the food and booze act, asking if they too could say a few words. The list was growing. We just let it unfold.

Dave was unaffiliated spiritually speaking, so we were not following a formulaic liturgy as outlined above. My sister Linda and I stood at the podium next to the fire pit and thanked everyone for coming. I read the three-page obituary tribute with the Viking Funeral explanation and Viking designation of Dave just in case anyone at the event had not “gotten the Viking Warrior memo.” I explained that we would be starting the fire with our dad’s ashes and a thread from Dave’s Letterman’s jacket along with a printed copy of the Viking Warrior obituary. I have included just an excerpt here to avoid spoiling the contents of the following chapters. The entire tribute is at the end of the book. Brian helped us light the fire and those with drinks raised a glass as he did so.

Vikings burned their boats when they landed a beach. They intended to conquer or die in the process of achieving what they came for, empire building. There was no going back in the life of a Viking. David was a twenty-first century Viking warrior. After breaking his neck, he always moved forward in life without complaint, without looking back. He was a gentleman, a natural protector of everyone and did not need the ordinary use of arms or legs to be brave. He lived with honor and dignity every day and treated everyone with respect.

I then read the many lovely words and sweet stories sent to us by complete strangers that became fast friends, more friends, family members who could not be with us or those who were too shy to stand up and speak. People had things to say.

From a former neighbor Mary Ann:

Hello,

I know you do not remember me, but I do believe you used to know my parents, Glenn and Mildred Buhrle. We lived at the end of 25th, across the street from Barbara.

My parents walked to church every day as well as walk around the neighborhood. Dad, who passed away in the driveway in 99, used to talk about David all the time and how he used to talk to them. This meant a lot to dad and mom, as they felt they were one of the oldest couples in the neighborhood.

When dad passed away, David attended his funeral. It meant so much to my brother Bob and me to see him there.

Mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in ‘96’. There were many times when mom would run off from dad, and we had to look for her, David would somehow appear to help us out. He was the Guardian Angel of 25th Street. David was the only one that could calm mom down.

I met David and your family when they first moved to 25th Street. Your whole family was sooo nice.

David saved my neck one afternoon when I was 16. I had borrowed my brothers’ Jeep without permission to cruise a little. However, by the time I had gotten to the convent in front of Holy Rosary, the Jeep had stalled. Since I was only 16, I did not realize that cars ran on gas. So I kept turning the engine over and over again. I did not want to walk home and tell my brother or parents, or they would have grounded me for life. It was about 30 minutes later when I saw David walk across the street and ask if I needed help.

I told him that the Jeep wouldn’t start and that my brother was going to kill me. He laughed. Then he asked for the keys so that he could check the engine. The first thing that he said, ‘You are out of gas.”

Then he started looking at the switches on the dashboard and under the seat when he had found what he was looking for. He flipped the switch under the seat then tried to start the engine again. And it worked. I would have hugged him; however, at 16, I was really kind of shy. David said that the switch was to a reserve tank. I thought he was one of the smartest people that I had ever known.

I did keep saying ‘Thank you…thank you…thank you about a hundred times. Then I asked him if he needed a ride home… but he was only about 100 ft away.

He saved my life that day. And we became friends ever since.

My brother Bob remembers David too. We were talking last night about how David was so nice to our parents. I believe he found dad when he had the heart attack in the driveway.

I know in my heart that he will be around you forever. That is the way David is.

Please let me know where the service will be. I am going to try and make it.

Thank you for the story of David. He would have loved it.

Hugs and Prayers

Mary Ann

An Email from a friend of Dave’s who I did not know:

James M

I would just like to share some of my favorite memories that I shared with Dave. We had a daily joke that we would share with each other. It was really fun because I obtained quite a bit of jokes from the time I spent in the Military. It was fun comparing a daily joke and was pretty much the core of our relationship. Dave seemed to enjoy the joke time because I think it took his mind off of the trials and tribulations that many of our students were enduring. I missed that time when I moved on and should have kept in closer touch because it was a real good time in my life too.

Here is one of the ones I think Dave enjoyed the most:

This merchant Marine got thrown overboard one night, after a big storm, and got marooned on a deserted island. After having spent four months on the island, he started to get urges. One day he was exploring and came upon a herd of sheep. He thought that he could sneak up on a sheep and have his way with it. He crept up and just as he was about to grab one of the sheep, a dog came out and barked wildly and scared the sheep away. The next day he tied up the dog and went exploring. He found the sheep again and just as he was going to catch one, the dog came out and scared the sheep away because he had chewed through the rope. This really depressed the man and as he and the dog were walking down the beach, he saw someone had washed up on the shore. When they got up to the person, it turned out to be a very beautiful woman. The man gave her mouth to mouth and revived her to which the woman was very grateful. The woman asked if there was anything she could do to show her gratitude. The man thought and thought, and the woman said she would do anything the man wanted. The man thought some more and asked if she was sure he could ask for anything and the woman told him absolutely anything. The man looked at the woman and asked her, “Can you hold this dog for about an hour.”

I can hear Dave laughing hearing it again.

Have a Peaceful Rest friend.

James Mo

Email from a neighbor who worked at Cal State San Bernardino

Dear Mardi,

I was sorry to hear the news about your brother. Turns out I will be out of town this weekend so I will miss the event on Saturday night.

I live at the SE corner of 25th and “D” – just down the street. I would see Dave at various times throughout the neighborhood. Once many years ago, I was on a training run when I came across Dave who was stuck in the gutter around 29th and Arrowhead. He asked for help in pushing him back out onto the street.

I will miss seeing him.

Regards,
jpv

Email from Tom and Annette Harmon

First of all, Tom and I send the Linane family and all Dave’s many friends, our deepest condolences. There is no doubt that we have lost a treasure here on earth and he will be missed greatly.

I am so disappointed that we are not going to be able to attend the Viking Warrior celebration you are planning for tomorrow. It sounds like an awesome way to honor such a courageous man, and I’m sure it will be a beautiful ceremony. We will definitely be there in spirit, but since I won’t be there to share some stories, I thought I would let you know how I got to know Dave.

I remember hearing of Dave, Scott’s brother, who was injured in a tragic football accident. Later, I remember seeing him cruising all around town in his wheelchair. I was always so amazed at how far away from home he was and how fast that wheelchair could go! Whenever I saw him, I would feel so sad and momentarily try to imagine what he must have to deal with on an everyday basis; then I would go on with life as usual. I knew of the man in the wheelchair, but I didn’t really know him.

It wasn’t until we found ourselves renting a home on 25th Street that I got to know who Dave was. I can remember feeling a little bit intimidated walking my kids home from Holy Rosary, and he’d be sitting outside getting some fresh air greeting us passersby. I felt awkward; what do you say to a man in a wheelchair? But I didn’t want my kids to see my shortcomings, so I said a quick hello and moved on. Well, I don’t know how we eventually started chatting, probably through Barbara since we were right across the street from the Brzezinski’s and he cruised by so often, but once we did I finally got to know who Dave really was. We talked about politics, jobs, friends, family (esp. nieces and nephews), school; you name it. I remember thinking he was so smart! He knew about everything. But the one conversation that sticks out the most to me is when he told me the story of the day of his accident. He told me of considering ditching practice that day but changing his mind, then so matter of fact said “if it weren’t for that accident, I wouldn’t be the man I am standing here today,” of course chuckling about the standing part. I thought, “wow, this guy is incredible!” Needless to say, I was no longer intimidated by the man in the wheelchair; he was my friend. I no longer felt sad when I saw him and I’m sure that’s how he preferred it. How could you be sad for someone with such a love for life? His attitude toward life showed that he was o.k. with the path, he was chosen to lead, and he was going to do it with courage and strength! He taught me that self-pity is a waste of time and I consider that a great gift. He was an inspiration to everyone he met and something we all should aspire to be more like. I will never forget my friend Dave.

Much Love to you,

Annette and Tom

Email from our cousin Jim Moffatt:

Thomas David Linane, Dave to most, Big D to many, a cousin to me. We questioned why, we tried to understand, some say you were dealt a bad hand….

But your family was there to support you, just as they had supported my mom when she needed someone to lean on. And Dave you were there to be the “Big Brother” I never had. Summers swimming at the pool, playing catch, throwing the football around, taking hikes in the fields of Sweetwater, challenging me to some Mumblety-Peg, I always looked up to you. I remember Scott, Johnny, and I always trying to sneak up on you to throw you in the pool, only to have you send us time and time again into the deep end as you laughed from the diving board. Playing cards with your buddies, 5 card draw, deuces wild, 7 card “no look” and always at your side, Brian Petty, the very definition of a “best friend.” Smoking cigars, drinking a few beers and telling me to “….throw that Paul Simon album away and put on some Edgar Winter, I want to hear some Rock ‘n Roll”, whatever you want Dave…

Your heart was as big as your smile, your compassion as big as your laugh… I do however have to smile a bit when I think of the irony of the surgical Halo you acquired after your football injury…I believe it was you that acquired a few cherry bombs that we set off in some mailboxes on the early morning paper route and I am pretty sure you were there for my first beer….just telling it like it was “D”, you enjoyed yourself and we were lucky to be along for the ride…

I couldn’t have asked for a better cousin… Coming over to visit you, talking politics, arguing about sports and swapping stories about our families, I felt guilty getting up to leave and walking out the door. But those of us that visited you always left with a smile, with certain regrets and what ifs…but richer for having spent time with you.

David, as you look down upon this gathering today, you can see the many lives you have touched. We were all proud to say, Dave Linane, yeah, he’s my son, he’s my brother, he’s my friend….it was the Dave Linane club, everyone was invited, everyone was welcome.

I would like to ask from all gathered here today that your special thoughts and prayers should be with Sandra, Linda, Scott, Anne, Mardi, and their families. Dave won’t be wheeling around the yard anymore, but you have all become a part of the family. Remember them and know that you are always welcome to stop by to say hi or share a favorite DAVE memory.

And finally, Dave….thank you for your friendship, your love, your courage. I can’t imagine ever knowing a more heroic man than you…so turn up the stereo, play that rock ‘n roll as loud as you like, your turn to deal the cards cuz…

Love you, Dave,

Jimmy

From Dave’s Niece Stephanie:

I was extremely lucky to call David, my uncle, and even more lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up around him. I have many memories of him that I will cherish; he was a great listener and was always there for me when I went through some tough things when I was younger. He was there to guide me, give me advice and throw in the occasional (actually often) bad joke. Such a jokester. Dave possessed a spirit, unlike any other person I have ever met, and he also possessed a very distinctive laugh. You could be anywhere in the house, and he would be either in his room or wheelin’ around outside and all of a sudden you hear, “Eh eh eh eh eh.” Who knows what he was laughing about but you knew whatever it was, it was funny. I’ve never heard a laugh like that and I will forever hear it in my head as well as all of you now have it running through yours.

Jaclyn and I never missed the opportunity to hop on the back of his wheelchair for a ride, and we would race the short distance from Holy Rosary to him when we were let out of school to get the first ride. Jaclyn usually won…she ran faster than me. I would patiently wait for them to return, Jaclyn would hop off, and I would hop on and off we went. I would still hop on for a ride to this day; if I could, they were fun! Especially when he got his new chair…that meant we could go faster!

I also have my uncle to thank for my first exposure to Pink Floyd. Although, when I was younger, I didn’t quite grasp the greatness of Pink Floyd, but as I got older and started to enjoy that era of music, I thought to myself, “Alright Dave, I get it.” So, I thank him.

I thank him for listening when I needed to talk, and I thank him for talking when I needed to listen. I thank him for letting me sleep on his couch and stay up past my bedtime to watch T.V. with him when I was younger, even when he accused me of snoring in the morning, and my retort would be, “No, no that was you.” I wish I could tell you about every memory I have that included Dave, but I’m pretty sure everyone has a pretty good idea of where I’m coming from. Dave, you meant so much to me, and you’ll always be in my heart. Pink Floyd said it best, and I say it to you, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”

I love you.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019

Never Underestimate the Healing Power of Laughter

Excerpt 12 of the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to read previously posted chapters. If you found this blog via Facebook, please consider commenting on Facebook or Liking it on Facebook so it will gain more circulation. I encourage everyone to write or talk about their loved ones. I love all your comments and would love to hear about your loved ones, how you celebrated them. Let’s focus on how they lived and touched our lives. XO M

***

Our family was so touched by the immediate and overwhelming kindness and the love of so many people that followed the loss of our beloved warrior. We heard from hundreds of people we knew and many we didn’t. We received cards, calls, flowers, emails, and unexpectedly-money.

Stuart Campbell, An older friend, and former college professor of my parents, sent by far my favorite note. My mom opened the card and found a hundred dollar bill inside, signed, “Who loves you? Stu Do.” I looked at my mom and giggled at this unexpected gesture, his words just knocked it out of the park. “People still send cash in the mail?” My mom smiled, shrugged with raised eyebrows indicating she had no idea about any of it, of what to expect. She added the card to the top of an enormous pile of cards she had already received in the three days since Dave left the building.

The kindness of humanity buoyed us but seriously, the sweet little note along with a series of other funny memories, learning new funny stories and hilarious moments that week saved me, us.

We decided on a day for Dave’s party, the next Saturday, July 16, 2011. We had roughly six days to get everything together. It was plenty of time, people die all the time and have funerals within a few days of their death. We were going to be fine. I was at my mom’s house almost every day that week helping plan and get ready for our party along with the many people who were showing up.

As I wrote Dave’s obituary tribute, he gained his Viking Warrior designation. I thought of a funeral I had attended with Dave, one of his coaches, Joe Page, had died. The service was at the Catholic Church across the street from our house. I had gone to school with Joe’s children and wanted to give my respects and be with my brother, who loved this coach. I don’t ever recall seeing Joe attend church, but then again, I didn’t attend either, but his wife was very involved with church services, and I saw her coming and going all the time.

Joe was such a character, he was a wiry 6’6″ guy, loud-spirited, results-producing track and field coach, who always had a cigar hanging from his mouth. He reminded me of a retired military man with his crew cut, not sure if he was but seemed like it to me. As suspected, Joe’s son Paul confirmed Joe served our country in the army. He drove an old classic MG B as long as I knew him which was before elementary school. I remember seeing him parked outside my parents’ house leaning up against his car, arms crossed, chatting with Dave every now and then over the years. He still had that cigar hanging out of his mouth. Dave participated in the only event for burly guys on a track team, the shot put. He was built for strength, not speed.

Before we headed over to the funeral Dave told me of his most memorable track and field event with Joe. During a track meet, the 800-meter event, the other team had no runner, which meant anyone could run for Dave’s team and win just by finishing. As a joke, Joe put Dave in to run against no one.

As Dave made his one and only lap around the track that season, maybe ever, Joe was running next to him on the infield grass shouting, “RUNNNNNNN LINANE RUNNNNN!” laughing hysterically the entire time. Dave was trying his hardest to just run the distance ignoring his coach in his face trying his hardest to make Dave laugh. Joe had a very thin gruff exterior with a heart of genuine love for all his athletes. I laughed so hard picturing Dave running with his Clydesdale war horse like shot put body and wiry Joe with his cigar in-hand, yelling at him. He laughed as he told the story and joined my laughter as he watched me visualize all of it.

We attended the nighttime funeral, a typical Catholic affair, of standing, sitting, more standing, kneeling, shaking hands, and communion. There were many more speakers than a typical funeral. More stories were shared like Dave’s. I wish Dave had thought to speak, his story would have been a welcome addition to the summary and celebration of Joe Page’s life. People were not crying, they were laughing. We were laughing. When it was over, a group of musicians with horns started playing a brassy, raucous rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” and brought down the house as everyone began singing, cheering and clapping like we were in a decades past juke joint somewhere in the south.

We were near the front of the church and followed the musicians and family down the main aisle of the church, facing all the people joyfully clapping and singing as we made our way out. Dave was bobbing his head, singing the parts he knew, he had to shout for me to hear him, “THIS IS THE KIND OF FUNERAL I WANT!” I yelled back above the music, above everything, in clarification, “YOU WANT A ‘FIRST LINE’ JAZZ BAND AND PEOPLE PARADING BEHIND YOUR CASKET IN THE STREET?” “YA! THAT!!” “DULY NOTED.” I mean, it’s important to tell people what we want. Dave and I laughed and continued heading out in the procession, singing and clapping along in this beautiful, energetic tribute fitting the man we were there to celebrate.

Thoughts of that night were in the front of my head as the concept grew from Viking Warrior into the way, we were going to celebrate Dave…with a proper Viking Funeral, booze, food, fire, and everything. Not a First Line jazz band in the street, that had been done already.

My written tribute was a thinly veiled open invitation to our Viking Funeral. I emailed it off to our local papers. All three papers held fast to their new policy that we had to purchase an obituary before they would run a ‘general interest’ story-what they called my tribute.

Fine, we will run a paid obituary. You’ve already read my one sentence “party at Dave’s house” $600 notice in an earlier chapter. I followed up after running the paid spot and asked when the tribute would run. I reminded them how much ink my dad got when he died, and the reporter on the other end said, “Yes, I remember writing that piece.” I had to hold my tongue since I had written the tribute that she cut, pasted and peppered with, “Linane said,” throughout the article to sound like she interviewed me. They didn’t run the tribute…for the time being.

In our on-going effort of trying to think of everyone who needed to be notified by phone or email, I also emailed the tribute to the President of Cal State University San Bernardino where Dave had attended and made many friends among students, staff, faculty, and administration. I said I was an introvert, I am not, shy, that is different.

Hello Mr. Karnig,

I used to be your neighbor–the house with ivy down on the corner. I used to tease you when you put your trash out yourself about having some sort of university secret service detail to do that for you. I thought it was funny. My son still lives there with his father (every other week)–the long-haired boy whom you may have seen riding a bike or walking a dog with his dad.

I am not sure if you remember your very first graduation ceremony at CSU. My electric wheelchair-bound brother (Thomas) David Linane had a little boy on his lap to accept his diploma for him. The now long-haired teenager down the street from you is that same boy. I am sure you remember that graduation.

My brother loved his time at CSU. Your staff encouraged him to continue when it took him so much longer than most to finish since he could only attend a little more than part-time for reasons beyond his control-my dad had to physically put him in his wheelchair and could only do so a few days a week without overdoing it physically. Dave learned well in the classroom but gained greater understanding from his counselors and in turn, loved helping others achieve their educational dreams when he became a counselor to students with disabilities at San Bernardino Valley College.

We are having a hard time getting the local papers to publish anything about him before his Viking Funeral at our parents’ home on Saturday. I would really appreciate your help getting this routed through your people via email on your campus as these are some of the most important people in his life.

Our family is doing well with this unexpected departure–we are having to console others so much more than ourselves. We feel lucky to have been able to have spent so much time with him and called him our own.

Thank you for your help,

Mardi Linane

He responded right away with his condolences and clear memory of Dave, who had been featured in their alumni publication a few times. He remembered me teasing him about the theoretical University Secret Service trash detail and he knew my son.

He then sent me a courtesy copy of an email he sent to his Communications Department that they feature Dave on their homepage with information about when the funeral was taking place. I had a similar response from San Bernardino Valley College where Dave had worked. They put the tribute on their home page as well. We felt that we reached all the people who we didn’t know who needed to know. Newsprint was officially dead to me (accidental pun but so applicable).

As the word percolated through the collective of our people, Dave’s friends from near and far, some long gone away began showing up at my mom’s house in the hours and days right after Dave left. They needed to return to our house. There was such a comfort to be found in our home. Even with Dave gone, the people who stopped by were happy to see the other random people who were there looking for the same something, consolation. Our family knew up close and personal how hard Dave’s life really was and how bravely he moved through all of it. We felt joy for him, relief for him and we had to work to help others see and hopefully gain similar relief from our perspective. In retrospect, I am pretty sure we were also still in shock. It lasts way longer than you think.

Some of Dave’s closest friends, Brian, Dave, Jim, Steve and their wives Sharon, Carol, Natalie and Peggy showed up asking how they might help get the house or yard or whatever ready for the party. My sister Anne and her husband Randy arrived from the East coast. Everyone helped in some way. They trimmed trees and bushes. They raked leaves. They climbed our huge Chinese elm trees and hung lights way up high. They swept and watered and in between, with the music turned up high, they laughed. They shopped and took lunch breaks, and we had sandwiches from someplace brought in. We all sat around the table eating, laughing in between a few long quiet moments of chewing lost in thoughts of the person no longer at the table with us. And then we laughed more and hugged at the end of the day. I was so happy for my mom to have so many of her favorite people around her, helping her move through these horribly difficult days with so much love, laughter, and genuine human kindness.

One of these days prior to our celebration, Brian suggested we look through Dave’s cell phone contacts to make sure everyone had been notified. Brian, his wife Sharon, my mom, and I went into Dave’s bedroom where his cell phone was in a drawer. Brian was standing near the dresser, reading each persons’ name as he scrolled through. Sharon sat on Dave’s bed, I sat across from her on the couch, and my mom sat on a stool in between Sharon and me. As Brian stated each name in the list of contacts, either my mom or I confirmed with a “yep” or “ya” that we had spoken to that person.

We made it through a large number of people, and surprisingly, everyone had been reached. He made it to the letter S. He made a physically notable double-take. He paused, I watched him look closely at the number with a furrowed brow, and his head tilted to one side before bursting out laughing, “Who’s Shithead?” We were launched into laughter with him at the unexpected question.

My mom is not really one to curse much and some may even perceive her as somewhat formal…to see her falling over laughing was such a joy in itself separate from the context of the pretty hilarious riddle we were trying to solve. Brian, Sharon and I were laughing at her reaction.

We unwound from the laughter this question unleashed, while trying to recover our breath we all looked back at Brian questioning, waiting for what, I don’t know. Brian had a look on his face, raised eyebrows that conveyed the question Any idea? Any? He repeated slightly more slowly this time, “Shiiiiitheeeead?” My mom and I looked at each other for a long moment as we shrugged our shoulders, paired with an ‘I dunno’ blank face, raised eyebrows, and more ‘snickertering.’ I made that word up, it’s when a laugh comes out your nose in a half snort. We looked back at Brian for more clues. None came. We looked at Sharon, shrugged again, and got lost in more out of control laughter in response to his slow pronunciation of “Shiiiiitheeeead.”

We half-straightened ourselves up once again and looked at Brian for more information. I love what can be conveyed between humans without words with micro-gestures, eyebrows, nods, shrugs. This is my favorite nonverbal moment of all time. Brian continued this time by reading the number. 619-xxx-xxxx. L-O-N-G Pregnant pause as the four of us searched each other’s faces yet again, as we looked around the room as if the answer was going to be somewhere up where the wall met the ceiling in the corner. Nope. Nothing. More hysterical laughter. We didn’t really recover, we were still laughing as we continued to scour our brains trying to figure out this name or this number. Nothing. It was not familiar to us. We simply could not figure it out or stop laughing

Not only was Dave a very kind and patient man he didn’t curse all that often, I mean, he did from time to time, but for him to have this particular contact, was definitely a thing. A very funny thing. There had to be a good back story to this, and I was dying to know what that story was, but the guy who knew was…dead.

Being paralyzed, Dave could not program his or any other phone. When you are paralyzed, you need help with EVERY, everything. His personal assistant for everything from putting Dave in his wheelchair, driving him to work, to feeding him during the day would also have had to have programmed his phone. Specifically. On purpose. His assistant was not a super technically savvy guy and definitely not one to use colorful language so as the humor of this contact “Shithead” continued to sink further into this moment of question, we just laughed harder and harder.

We theorized what the conversation sounded like when Dave asked his assistant to program this contact. We envisioned Dave patiently talking him through the setup process, “First push *2,” we laughed hysterically at every description of what that process must have looked like, “select the ‘add new contact icon, hit enter, the name is Shithead. YES, SHITHEAD, S-H-I-T-H-E-A-D, YES ENTER IT! hit the ‘Done’ button.” After several more minutes, the laughter calmed down for the most part.

Long pause as Brian’s eyes were transfixed to the screen with the mystery contact. He repeated the number one more time, 619-xxx-xxxx. Another quiet moment filled the room as we all concentrated really hard this time. The silence was broken when my mom triumphantly recognized the number and joyfully jumped up and shouted “Oh that’s Scott’s number!” like she was solving a million dollar puzzle on a game show. Or, “WHAT is Scott’s number?” for the Jeopardy fans in the crowd. The sheer victorious joy in her voice was so hilarious, and we lost control laughing at HER again. Just as that wave of laughter began to slow down, it hit us all at once, the realization that Dave had listed his brother Scott as SHITHEAD in his contacts and we completely lost it with laughter, AGAIN.

Brian was crying, laughing, his arm moving with his laughter as he held the phone for us to see the SHITHEAD contact, ALL CAPS as proof he wasn’t making this up. I managed to get out a confirmation, ‘Yep, he’s been contacted.’ We all cried with the last bit of information with roaring laughter, again.

There is nothing more healing than a really, REALLY good, out of control laugh that goes on for several encores until your sides and face hurt. If I had peed a little, it would have been worth it, it was so fucking funny. The sights and sounds of a collective laugh like that can stay with you forever. We needed that laugh. It was unexpected and so perfect, so poetic on so many levels. Only two people likely knew what that was about. Maybe it was a term of endearment. Any one of us could be a shithead in this life, I could have made the shit(head) list myself, on occasion. I will theorize no further, and leave it at that. However, this was the very best moment of our collective grief recovery.

That same day I responded to an email I received from a former neighbor, Mary Ann to ask if it was ok for me to read her email at the memorial. This was her response.

Hi Mardi,

Of course, you can read my story at the Memorial!

I love the idea of the Viking Memorial. It is so fitting for David.

I understand how hard it is to have the service the way that you want. When dad passed away, I got into an argument over the songs for his service. Dad was a huge, Dodger fan. So, I wanted the organist to play “Take me out to the Ball Game.” However, she said, “I’m sorry we cannot play that in this church.” So, I said, “too bad… dad’s dead… play it anyway.” She said, “No.” again in her Spanish accent. I was really mad at this stupid woman. Bob, my brother told me to “Shut up and to let her pick out the songs.” I told him, “Her songs kind of suck!” He whispered again, “SHUT UP!!” So, I had to agree on…. Amazing Grace. Trust me, I did not feel too amazing at the moment. I think I kind of glared at the organist over dad’s casket.

And to make matters worse, mom, kept running all over the church that morning, asking…”Who’s in the box? …Who’s in the box?” (the casket).

However, I would not change one thing that day. It took our minds off of losing Dad. I’m sure Dad got a big kick out of his special day.

It’s okay to cry. If we did not love the person that we have just lost, then the tears would not appear.

Songs that I hear always bring on the tears. (Except Amazing Grace!!)

David, who will be there in spirit, will love every minute of it.

I’m glad that Barbara is there to help. The list of things that need to be done before a service is a little overwhelming. Especially when all we want to do is remember and cry.

I hope to see you at the service. I have walked past your home over a thousand times, yet I have never been in it.

Hugs and Prayers,

Mary Ann

When writing this book, I contacted Mary Ann again to ask if I could share the above private message with the world.

Hi Mary Ann,

It’s been a bit since we have chatted. You may know that I have written Dave’s biography, Viking Funeral. I hope you’ve seen the posts online about it. The book is about the night of our Viking Funeral and about each person who spoke, how they were connected to Dave. I am sharing all the messages sent to us to read at the memorial and wanted to ask if I may share your private email pep talk to me?

Her response:

Of course, you may. Thank you for asking. To be honest, when I wrote that first email, I kept hoping that you would not think I was on the nutty side. Wasn’t sure how to mend a broken heart… but just tell you a little about how David saved me and helped my parents. Dad really did like him and kind of leaned on him for help.

Someday, I will have to tell you the story of when Dad and I took mom to Jane Brzezinski’s (Barbara’s mom. Mary Ann’s family lived directly across the street from Barbara’s family) funeral and how she kept asking repeatedly, “Is Jane going to be there?”

I immediately had to call Mary Ann to hear the story because someday was now, I could not resist. Her mom, Mildred, had Alzheimer’s or dementia which may be obvious from her previous comments about her mom not knowing her husband was the dead person inside the casket (box) above.

Mary Ann laughed all through explaining to me in a nutshell what it is like helping someone with this sort of disability move through the ordinary days of life, “All the way to the funeral mom kept asking, ‘Is Jane going to be there?’ Mary Ann initially looked to her dad for confirmation that he had explained where they were going to her mom, that Jane had died, that they were going to Jane’s funeral. Her dad affirmed that he had explained all this to his wife several times. They took turns reassuring her, ‘Jane will definitely be there.’

Once they got to the chapel, Mildred continued asking ‘Where is Jane?’ ‘She’ll be here.’ or ‘I don’t see Jane?’ ‘She’s here Mom.’ ‘Are you sure Jane is going to be here?’ The last time she asked if they were ‘SURE Jane is here?’ both Mary Ann and her dad responded at the same time ‘She’s in the box!’ at this, Mildred remained quiet until they got up to the altar for the viewing. Mildred took one look at Jane in her casket and said ‘Oh, That’s not Jane.’” Mary Ann and I laughed. I loved hearing this story and then had to ask if I could include THIS exchange in the book as well. Mary Ann and her dad handled their challenges with Mildred with a great sense of humor.

Our family learned a long time ago that you have to have a sense of humor to get through this life. These lovely people (you all know who you are) and these hilarious moments meant everything to me, us.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019

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