Two Hospitals Is Two Too Many

Raw unedited excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral, about the unauthorized untimely death of Dave Linane. As always I appreciate your comments and shared stories of your loved ones lost.  If you are new to this blog consider clicking on the link About Dave above to figure out what in the hell is going on. We are 20 something chapters into the book at this point. Scroll down to the beginning or to catch up. XO M

It was early December in 2004, my husband appeared in the restaurant where I was having lunch with a friend. He was so darling. He did such things like magically ‘ran into me’ at the grocery store when I was shopping because he knew I was there on my way home from work. Only this time, he looked different. As he approached our table he said, “We need to go, your dad is in the hospital.” My family had called me but the restaurant was so loud that I hadn’t heard my phone ring in my bag way down on the floor between my feet. My husband knew where I was meeting my friend, left work, drove 20 miles to retrieve me. I looked at my friend, as surprised by his announcement as I. She took care of the bill and I grabbed my purse. My husband drove the two of us to the hospital as I listened to all the missed messages on my phone.

My dad had had a stroke. He was sitting on the bed in the E.R. and seemed fine by the time we got there. He was being kept for observation. He had apparently experienced a stroke upon lifting Dave that morning when he put him in his wheelchair. My dad basically deadlifted 220 pounds every time he put Dave in his chair. On this day my dad was in his 71st year of life, again, deadlifting 220 pounds, he stood up picking Dave up under his arms from his bed to an almost standing position. For a fluid moment, Dave was face-to-face with my dad before being placed in his wheelchair. This time, he placed Dave in his wheelchair, squatted down to make an adjustment to Dave’s catheter tube and keeled over. For reference, Dave’s friend Jim Downs helped put Dave back in bed once, a much easier task than putting him in his wheelchair by the way. Jim described it has the hardest physical thing he had ever done. And Jim was not a small guy and twenty years younger than my dad. It was a physically demanding task.

My dad returned home at almost 99% of normal operating capacity. I felt so grateful, relieved to have him at my house enjoying brunch on Christmas with our extended family. He seemed so healthy. Really, almost as good as new. He obviously had cheated death with this first shot across the bow of his mortality. He, the larger than life statuesque icon of male physicality of our lives. The healthiest man any of us has ever known could not possibly be on a path to decline. But he was. A very short path. Long walk off a short pier comes to mind when I think of how little time he had left. It’s funny if you knew that he used to jump off the Newport Beach pier all the time when he was younger. Probably the most illegal thing he had ever repeatedly done other than maybe speeding just a little back when the speed limit was 55.

In January he had another stroke. This time his speech was affected. He was in the hospital a few days and returned home with his physical abilities but could not pronounce all words correctly and in some cases could not find the words to bring to his lips at all. He was frustrated because he so loved to talk. I made big flashcards with funny words on them. He would mouth the words softly, some of the sounds were wrong but I knew he understood by the way he acknowledged each flashcard by acting out gestures. I showed him a card that said ‘SEXY’ he smiled coyly and batted his eyelashes on his brilliant light blue eyes. I laughed. He laughed. I was relieved. He would be fine. Fine except for some weird little things like attempting to brush his teeth… with a comb. He was in the right room, in front of the mirror over the sink, just not the right tools. So close. He refused help when my mom tried to stop him. So other than peculiar things like that, he was mostly fine.

His blood was clotting. He had Multiple Myeloma. He had known for a while but didn’t tell my mom, couldn’t tell my mom, it’s like me worrying about worrying her by coming home with a skinned knee or bleeding head wound but way worse on every level. I understood his logic. A few weeks later he was scheduled for a procedure to place a mesh device in his lungs to keep blood clots from entering them. He remained in the hospital from late January until mid-April the day that proved nothing was certain except death and taxes.

In the meantime at home, my mom was dealing with another challenge, figuring out where to start with regard to hiring people for the first time to help her care for Dave. His daily care, bathing him, changing his sheets, dressing him, getting him into his wheelchair required at least two people. You have to be diligent when you care for paralyzed people because they can get bed sores if you are not careful with everything concerning their skin, their clothing, bedding, a fold can rub their skin the wrong way and tear them up in no time. Paralyzed people also, in Dave’s case use a catheter to eliminate urine. Catheters are a terrible source of infection and injury and ultimately caused my father’s mortal sepsis. A catheter injury occurred when the new people who were hired to help Dave were transferring him from his wheelchair to his bed and oddly enough Dave’s catheter temporarily landed him in the hospital at the same time as my dad that January. Due to different insurance policies, they were inconveniently treated in different hospitals.

My dad was in Kaiser Hospital Fontana and Dave was in Saint Bernadine’s in San Bernardino. When you factor in traffic and parking, room to room, the two were about an hour apart. My dad had declined to a state where he was unable to feed himself so my sister Anne took him breakfast, Linda or my niece Jaclyn drove my mom to feed him lunch and after work, I took him dinner. In the meantime, Dave was in the other hospital and still paralyzed…also unable to feed himself. Besides my mom having to show the staff certain caregiving tactics that they were unaware of with regard to paralyzed individuals; Dave simply could not eat the crappy hospital food. He is not that picky of a guy, it is just that hospital food is THAT bad. Everyone knows that, right? We coordinated efforts to figure out who could get Dave his favorite burrito and at what time. Everyone pitched in. Brian, his wife Sharon, Linda had come from Idaho, Scott from Arizona, my mom, Anne, and probably other friends, or I picked up his favorite take-out Mexican food, fed and visited with him over the course of the days that he spent in the hospital.

Sleep apnea and other sleep disturbances run in our family. I have had a sleep disturbance from birth and had read everything sleep-related I could get my hands on at that time. A lifetime of sleep deprivation will make an avid researcher out of you. I recognized the signs of sleep apnea in Dave long ago. Based on the time his lights were turned off at night and when he woke, he should have had enough sleep. Yet, he dozed off and on during the day when home in bed and sometimes in his wheelchair when outside. His breathing would be quiet for an uncomfortably long period of time and woke often with a loud snort or a gasping breath. All common signs of apnea. I talked to him about it many times over the years but his response was always emphatically against the idea of having to wear a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) mask what he described as having that creature from Alien on his face implanting an alien baby in his chest while he slept, no thank you. He thought he would feel suffocated. Obviously, he would not be able to remove it himself. I understood.

When he was in the hospital he was hooked up to all the monitors you would expect, blood pressure cuff, a heart rate, and oxygen monitor. The first night the monitors kept alerting the staff with loud beeping that he was not breathing, that his heart had stopped. This is what happens when you have apnea. When your breathing stops more than 30 times an hour, your heart may stop and then start again when your body takes another breath. However, this was in the early days of sleep apnea awareness and instead of considering a simple sleep study, a cardiologist was brought in STAT.

The cardiologist took one look at the data from the machine and stated that Dave needed an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD), a small medical device inserted underneath the muscles of his chest with a wire leading through his ribs to his heart which would basically shock his heart if ever it stopped. Dave asked us to hear the doctor explain what was going on and help him with making the decision about his care. Us, meaning Brian and Sharon, Anne and I were there. I immediately began raising questions about sleep apnea. The Dr. made ZERO eye contact with me. I was the only person in the room asking questions. The doctor completely ignored me, only keeping eye contact with Dave.

The Dr. had a print out that showed how many times an hour Dave’s heart was stopping. I knew that when respiration stopped enough times your heart would stop too. My husband had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and used a CPAP. I had had a sleep study myself. I could not believe this doctor was so unaware of sleep apnea and unwilling to at least let Dave try a CPAP to see if it helped him. The Dr. was completely dismissive of my suggestion of a sleep study and strangely determined to install this new medical device regardless of my questions. I may as well have been invisible.

I asked, “How long will the device last.” The doctor said, “It will keep his heart going forever.” I couldn’t help but question “Well, forever? I mean what about when his heart naturally is ready to not keep going?” The Doctor said, “We will deal with that when the time comes.”  I was so mad. I knew he didn’t need this stupid device implanted in his chest. I had more questions but realized my concerns were pointless. Didn’t it make sense to simply keep him breathing? How does one actually rest when being continually shocked all night compared to just being force-fed a steady stream of air? Shock therapy Vs blow-dried claustrophobia, tough choice.

After the Dr. left the room, the discussion began. Everyone else heard the words “his heart stopped” and wanted to, “Just do what the Doctor advised.” and have the device implanted. The consensus of everyone but me in the room was that he should have the surgery.

I remained after everyone else left. Dave gently conveyed that he really appreciated my input but was consistent in his feelings about the idea of having the mask on his face. I didn’t argue because I knew how he had felt about the movie Alien and a CPAP for a long time and he had made up his mind.

Within a month after Dave had his device implanted there was an expose on 60 Minutes about Doctor’s implanting these devices unnecessarily in patients in trade for significant kickbacks from the manufacturer of the device for doing so. Drs. were basically scaring patients into having surgery for their own personal benefit. I was shouting at the TV like an old man with my trousers pulled all the way up to my ribs, completely convinced this is why my questions were so rudely dismissed. I never said anything to Dave about it because there was nothing to be done. Of course, my feelings were then and are still nothing more than anecdotal conjecture.

Weird small world conjecture coincidence, A few years after Dave was gone, we had unpleasant encountered with who I am pretty sure was the widow of that Doctor, (who ironically died about the same time as Dave). Her awful, off-leash dog, rudely tried to eat our five-year-old grandson while we were out for a walk. From fragments of details I learned through the proverbial grapevine after Dave’s death I connected the dots. I may be wrong but here are the dots: 1) Dave is dead, 2) the defibrillator did not in my interpretation keep his heart quote beating forever unquote and 3) that dog was awful. Dots connected.

From that hospital stay forward, the ICD would be monitored magically by phone and only Dave’s regular doctor would change his internal catheter. Dave returned home within a few days having recovered from both the renal infection and whatnot from the bullshit device jammed into his chest. Our dad never returned home.

Package Deal

Raw unedited excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral, the biography-by-fire of the life of Dave Linane. Thank you for all your comments and for sharing your stories of your loved ones! XO M 

As the time unfolded, the year-plus in the hospital, those early days and wild nights at our parents’ house and out on the town, everyone’s lives were simultaneously naturally moving ever forward. Brian met his first wife at the hospital. She worked in or on Wing 700; however, you say that correctly. You get the idea; she worked in the part of the hospital that Dave was living in for that first year following his accident. Dave was the catalyst for Brian and her meeting. Dave was half of the real and original dumb and dumber pastel tuxedo brothers. He was half of the inseparable fraternal twins conjoined somewhere deeper than flesh. He was an understood part of the life-of-Brian-ever-after package deal contract.

Brian bought a house for them, his future family on the not too distant horizon, three and a half blocks west of my parents. If 25th were a strait street, we could have seen his house from ours less than a quarter-mile away, but it jogged south with the few cross streets in between. His career as a Fireman for the City of San Bernardino began at the Fire Station located between his house and ours, two blocks west from us, one and a half blocks east of their place. It was a pretty sweet commute for Brian and lucky as hell for Dave to have his best buddy literally minutes away at all times.  As mentioned in earlier chapters, Dave drove himself around in his electric wheelchair, everywhere. Brian’s house was not surprisingly the first place Dave wheeled himself after receiving that first electric wheelchair and the sense of limited independence that came with it.

Brian worked on any number of house maintenance or repair related projects as everyone does. He washed their cars, mowed the lawn, painted, changed his oil, played with his boys, you name it, Dave was sitting nearby in the yard. When the end of the day came, he might BBQ something in the back. It was rare that Dave went into the house because he so enjoyed being outside as much as possible. In between and along with working on his honey-do list, Brian would take breaks, sat on the porch and chatted with him, fed him, and then continued about his work while they also listened to music. On occasion, they would get the giggles when his wife got mad at him or both of them with their teasing about whatever fill in the blank. I witnessed her slam and lock the front door once, and didn’t know what to think. The tense moment was broken by those two instantaneously bursting into laughter as soon as the door locked, cracking up at how mad they made her, leaving them outside where they wanted to be anyway.

Brian’s brood grew to three boys who climbed all over Dave like a jungle-gym and had wheelchair rides up and down the street with Uncle Knuckled Head Dave either on his lap or riding on the back. Dave was the voice-over actor starring as Santa Claus on speed dial at Christmastime. The boys’ mom would use the “I am going to call Santa!” threat as a form of leverage during the holidays when Brian was at work. She would pick up the phone, call Dave, have an introductory conversation with “Santa” and hand the phone to the offending wild child of the moment. Dave would use his best radio kind Santa voice to encourage them to remember to be good so that they would get toys for Christmas.

Dave and Brian spent some part of the day together on most holidays either at our house with our big extended family or at Brian’s home, including his older brother (also named Dave) and his extended family. One of the earlier Christmases Dave found the perfect gift for their oldest and only child, who was a little over two. He was at that point of the keen childhood awareness that Christmas is mainly about a guy who gives out toys and candy by way of the chimney, somehow flying deer are involved and was unquestioningly excited as hell about it. The previous year Dave had given him a battery-operated ladder truck with an operating siren with flashing lights. Not long after, the gift wore out his parents’ patience, and the batteries were permanently removed. This second Christmas, Dave bought a bright red fireman’s helmet with a battery-operated circling red light on the top with a deafeningly piercing siren. Dave had my dad install the batteries and glue the battery door closed so the siren could not be turned off. Well, like any two-year-old hopped up on Christmas, he was thrilled with his authentic-looking Fireman gear strapped on his little head as he ran laps around the many possible circular loops in the layout of our parents’ house. Those loops included Dave’s with doors on opposite sides of his room. Dave could not stop laughing at the entirety of the moment, the joy of that cute kid getting more wound up by the minute by his very loud gift running in and out of his room contrasted with the defeated look on the faces of his young and likely exhausted parents sitting on the couch across from Dave, beat from the craziness of the holidays. They could not help but give in and laugh at the hilarity of the entire scene. Their very smart little kid also learned all about batteries, that parents put them in or take them out to make things stop making noise, so he was not to be fooled by that tactic ever again. If anyone were keeping score, Dave definitely won Christmas that year by a landslide!

Brian is one who loves driving, exploring, the open road, a road trip, camping, trips in general. He is really good at researching details of how to get somewhere and what one might see along the way. This time period was WAY before the internet. He and his wife, at the time, had created two of their three children. They left their baby with my sister Anne to care for and took their toddler along with Uncle Knucklehead on a road trip to Sequoia National Park. My parents’ friends Billie (creator of the sophisticated crowd planning math introduced in our funeral planning earlier) and Jim Daniel loaned them a motorhome for the trip. Dave could be placed in a made-up bed near the front, enjoy the scenery on the road, and be moved to his wheelchair to cruise around the paths of the forest floor during the day.

I took a road trip caravan with Brian in the lead vehicle (truck) that I followed decades after that Sequoia trip. It was just the two of us adults, and my elementary age son Sven with me in my car. Brian was escorting me to Colorado to meet my son’s father, Brian’s former fire captain, from many years ago in our theoretical backyard Station 4. He handed me a walkie-talkie, also a bit before cell phones. At least once an hour, he would tell me an interesting detail about something. Once it was about the vast desert aquafer we were driving over at that moment, the one that serves the Mojave desert. Another time he explained the composition of those mountains that way were off in the distance that looked like dinosaur turds. Each random fact sparked a bit of Q & A back and forth. It made our long day trip between Southern California and Colorado go by pret-ty fast.

Every time the walkie-talkie crackled with info, I couldn’t help but laugh at Brian’s use of ultra-professional radio etiquette on our silly road trip. When I advised him, “Hey, I need to pee!” There was radio silence until I said, “O.H.! Y.A.! OVERRR!!!” His immediate response, “Copy that.” Of course, as the drive continued, I could not resist formulating lame phrases in my own Hollywood fantasy rando radio code-mixing old T.V show call signs. I blurted out, “one-Adam-twelve…did you see that Chupacabra back there?” or “Rampart this is squad 51…” followed by telling him something Sven wanted me to say over the walkie-talkie that was also silly and ridiculous. I repeatedly forgot to add the I am done talking signal, “Over.” He would respond to my silly statements with, “uhhhhh (sounding like an airplane pilot) that’s not a thing. Over.” I knew he was rolling his eyes at me and that if I worked for a Fire Department, I would be banned from the airwaves. I could see him shaking his head at my pathetic failed attempts at humorous radio speak, watching me cracking up at myself via his rear-view mirror. Ever the professional that guy.

That entire drive, I couldn’t help but extrapolate as to what that trip to Sequoia with Dave must have been like way back then. Of course, they were all in the same vehicle, so minus the radio chatter. Brian, would have been pointing things out along the way, making sure everyone saw everything there was to see, definitely making it fun and exciting. I am sure they had good music playing on the eight-track tape player. It is an unwritten, well-known, rule-of-law that they had to have rollin’ down the road music playing.

I have no doubt that it was physically HARD work getting Dave: in and out of bed, in and out of the R.V. with its narrow door and corridor, especially considering the combined weight of Dave and his wheelchair.  Dave had the time of his life in the gorgeous setting of the Sequoia. I can only theorize about how freeing it must have felt for him to be away from his bedroom for a few days. A beautiful profile photo was taken on that trip that hung in our den. Dave was looking up, the dappled light in the green of the trees is a blurred backdrop. That photo was so revealing. With less than half his face showing, it captured the general wonder and amazement of him taking in everything of this beautiful forest.

I called Brian for the details of how in thee hell they got Dave in and out of the motorhome. I remember that the door opening was only 22. I clearly remember people in our driveway the day before they left, Dave in his wheelchair, my mom and dad, Bille and Jim Daniel, and Brian with his measuring tape open across the doorway from jamb to narrow jamb. All the men were theorizing as to how things were going to work. Dave’s wheelchair was wider than the doorway. They left early the next morning, so I didn’t see anything in action. I wondered if they picked Dave up out of his wheelchair to move him in and later out of the motorhome, placing him in his wheelchair outside the motorhome or what. Brian breathed in a long breath of remembrance, just thinking about it. “No. We put him in his chair while inside the motorhome and then had to use a pulley system wrapped around the chair to close it in on itself a few inches, making it narrow enough to fit through the door. The ropes of the pulley system went around Dave too, so he was part of the being sucked in part—and he would make that sound like ‘HUUH’ like we were squeezing the air out of him when we cinched it down tight.” We both cracked up hearing the sound we both had filed away in our separate memories collection. I breathed in a deep breath, just thinking about how hard all of it had to be, lifting him, getting him in and out of that motorhome, no wheelchair lift, more than 300 combined pounds of deadweight every day for a few days. The Dumb and Dumber Pastel Tuxedo Brothers Life Package deal in action for sure.

That maiden voyage paved the way for a series of annual overnight Las Vegas runs in that same motor home with a handful of guys who found themselves itching to gamble, go to dirt-cheap buffets, and strip-clubs, all the stuff that Las Vegas was famous for leaving. More chat about Las Vegas stories later.

When Brian was at work, if Dave was up in his wheelchair that day, he might stop by to visit him in the evenings (usually in the summertime because it was still light out) after chow time. Food is not food in a firehouse; it is chow FYI. Firefighters have training, inspections, equipment maintenance, or other duties to carry out during the day in between the priority of responding to emergency calls. Their evenings, again, in between responding to emergency calls are flexible in how they spend their time.

The guys on Brian’s or almost any fire crew ate together. Sometimes they played sports after chow time when the weather was right. They had a backboard and hoop on the back wall of the station and hybrid half-basketball-volleyball court lines painted in the parking lot back there. They also watched sports on T.V. or just did what guys do…sat around joking and shooting the shit about typical life matters du jour.

The station on E street in San B was a very busy place with nearly 20 or more calls a day on average. That is a lot for those of you who are not familiar with how active a fire station might be. Dave’s visits were not usually very long. The guys would almost always get a call, and Dave would head home. Different guys substituted into the rotation covering vacation or sick days, plus Dave knew a handful of other guys from high school, as I mentioned in an earlier chapter that he visited at different stations as they moved around any of the ten stations. The city employed just over a hundred guys, and they wanted to work the busy stations for exposure to a wide range of experiences at some point in their career, so he met a lot of guys over the years at our neighborhood station.

When Dave was out and about in the mean streets of San Bernardino world cruising in his wheelchair, if a firetruck passed him, they would almost always give him two short blasts from the air horn in recognition. Dave would give them the nod-the one part of his body he could pretty fully control, his head. When Brian was on duty and driving the rig in the earlier days of his career, he always blasted the airhorn twice when the crew happened to return from a call by way of our corner heading back to the barn. Whether anyone of us was at the kitchen window or not, we would wave. He knew Dave heard him and that the rest of us were waving from the couch.

When my mom’s house was in escrow, Brian had been retired a few years; Dave had been retired from this life more than a few years, she and I were packing up her kitchen when a fire truck rounded the corner of 25th street on it’s way back to the station. The driver gave out two quick airhorn blasts, my mom instinctively smiled and waved through her big kitchen window over her sink that faced the street. I looked up to only see a blur of headphones with curly wires hanging off them and hands waving back at her from the cab of the enormous beast of the red ladder truck as they roared past. I was surprised at the unexpected honk and pointed the direction of the now back of the truck with my thumb with questioning raised eyebrows. She said, “Oh, Edward, (Brian’s stepson) is stationed at fours.” For whatever weird reason, each fire station in S.B. is shortened to its station number, and the number is pluralized. It makes no sense grammatically or numerically, but it is a thing.

My mom, being in the know referred to it as fours instead of just Station 4 like I do based on the sign in front of it and a general understanding of grammatic and numeric rules. Maybe it’s radio lingo? It is easier than saying all those syllables Sta-Tion-FOUR. I’ll have to ask Brian. My mind went to wondering if any members of that crew that just flew by were among those who responded the day none of us could keep Dave on this planet. Then I realized it was impossible. The city, if you can believe it, is so terrible with money management that it had lost its entire fire department since Brian retired, the county had taken over. It was a complete fluke that his stepson Edward, who worked for the county, a huge organization, had ended up randomly being assigned to that station. I hugged her and said, “That’s really sweet that they still honk at you, mom.” She said, “I know, and Edward stops by on his way home if he sees my trashcans out and offers to help me bring them in.” For guys, the fire department is like a cross between a fraternity, summer camp, and a really organized military sports team that helps people. For Dave, a total man’s man, a team player through and through, he always appreciated the nature of their hard work, helping people, their brotherhood, chili, and horn blasts. Small nods of connectedness like that can mean a great deal in a mad, mad world.  Brian was the catalyst to all that connectedness.

 

The Crowd of Everyone

Raw and unedited excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. If you are new to this blog consider clicking on the About Dave link above. Thank you for all of your kind words and shared stories of the adventures of your loved ones. XO M

The crowd of everyone… and Jake.

There were so many people in Dave’s village that the parties at our house every Friday AND Saturday were always big. I certainly had a different perspective, having lived above them upstairs for years and, of course, emptying the trashcan overloaded with empty beer bottles the next day. We, usually my parents and I loved the energy in the house from the parties and people who attended even when we had to turn the T.V. up to rise above the pulsing bass. We shut the door to the den when the singing of the imitation band down there got too loud as they belted them out one after another, plenty of Stones, but I always laughed hearing: RubberbisCUIT!! Bow wow-wow a la The Blues Brothers. Brian was on lead vocals as Jake at the pretend fixed microphone that was part of the metal trapeze bars that hung above Dave’s power-bed. It made for a perfect mic like the type that hangs from above in a recording studio. We just smiled to ourselves, hearing all those people downstairs laughing, living in the moment lifting the rafters and Dave with them all the way.

Those people downstairs were not oblivious to us upstairs, either. On occasion someone, usually, you know who… yes, Brian would sneak upstairs to try to startle us. On one such occasion, our parents were out to dinner, and Anne and I were watching The Exorcist. I was 9 or 10, and Anne was 14-15. It was showing on HBO all weekend on promotion so we could watch it upstairs which if any of you remember not all T.V.’s in a house had all the best channels in the early days of cable. This was a rare occasion; the scariest uncut rated R horror movie of probably the century was on TV, AND our parents were not home to keep us from watching it! Brian timed slamming the door to the den with THE most frightening scene of the door slamming shut and cracking from top to bottom in its jam during the building tension of the actual exorcism! Anne and I shrieked as apparently everyone in the house expected we would! Brian was laughing on the other side of the slammed door. His laughter was backed-up by more laughter coming from the chorus downstairs, including Dave’s asthmatic barking seal of a laugh. Anne had joined the laughter and could appreciate the humor at the moment much more quickly than I at that time. “You guys aren’t funny!” is the best comeback I could hurl at them in those innocent elementary school-age years before I fully adopted cursing a blue streak as my go-to reaction.

Brian was always at the forefront of Dave’s friends who were there to make the fun parts more fun but also offered whatever help possible, learning alongside and stepping up with our parents supporting Dave in the many ways he needed help, which was ALL the ways one might need help. Among common and easier things he needed help with; holding his poker cards and tossing in his chips, feeding him the edible kind of chips, holding a beer bottle just right for him to get a swig, or holding “the bucket” while he peed after having too much beer, scratching an itch.

Before Dave had an electric wheelchair, or even a wheelchair, a wheelchair ramp out of our house or a lift, my parents along with the crowd of everyone would help get Dave in and out of bed, out of the house, and in and out of his van, on a gurney. This was not a collapsible ambulance type gurney either; it was more like a very narrow crude flat padded cart with wheels. From the vantage point of those cheap folding BYO folding aluminum lawn chairs I already told you about, the guys hopped in and helped hold Dave in place in the back of that first crappy Chevy van. Again, with no safety ties in sight on Dave OR on the gurney. Big questions about this glaringly obvious oversight abound, but that was still in the days that most cars didn’t have seatbelts. No one has an answer for me, so I am theorizing an unreasonably steep learning curve; general overwhelm, and exhaustion had to be part of that oversight. The guys threw their weight across Dave’s torso, so he didn’t roll off of or tip the entire gurney over and get hurt OR land on the gross gold shag carpet in the van when they rounded corners on the way to their destination the latter probably being worse. My dad would drive and make the announcement, “Hold on to him!” as he was approaching a corner, they all worked as a team, did as instructed, and held on to him.

Being paralyzed is so completely foreign for all the rest of us able-bodied people to fathom until you witness even a brief moment in the life of someone like Dave and I don’t mean when they are lying still in bed, I mean when people are lifting, dressing, physically placing them on a device with wheels. Trying to accomplish something, anything, eating, reading, making a phone call, going to a movie, going to dinner, have something in their eye. You have no idea how many devices are needed to help a person who is paralyzed navigate safely through the world, or simply be comfortable. Dave continually laughed through all of it as one buddy or another caught him right before he either almost tipped over, nearly flew off his gurney, or rolled down a flight of stairs or when they jumped up to quickly get that “bucket” in place before he peed. The jokes about “having to tap” were never-ending. In retrospect, Dave laughed as though he was observing his life from some other perspective comfortably a bit above it. Repeating what is a pretty applicable phrase that has become my mantra that works for almost anything, “It’ll be fine!”

Brian included Dave in just about any outing he planned. Among their group of friends, someone had a speed boat, and they decided to take Dave out on Lake Perris, which is about an hour from our parents’ house. It sounded like a great idea at the time, but boats, especially speed boats, are not known for their smooth ride. The group managed to get Dave in the boat, leaving his wheelchair on the beach, a bunch of guys lifted him and walked down into the water and placed him in the low-profile boat. Brain hopped in and sat next to Dave with his arm around him to help stabilize him, hold him in place somewhat, and off they went. He laughed; they all laughed at Brian, putting his arm around him. The unforgiving, pounding, exhilarating trip was rough for Dave. Still, he was one to love being in the sun, the wind in his face from the speed, being a guy who also loved badass cars and motors and such, I am sure he loved the deep roar of the “jet” engine that was so loud you could feel it in your bones too. He could feel that sort of thing in between the ever-present intense full-body muscle spasms. He didn’t go for another ride on any speed boat, but I know he was glad to have gone because he was open to trying things like that, you know, cheating death and all.