ADWH

Raw, unedited excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Sorry for the hiatus, life, business, painting, celebrating family in town, hosting birthday bashes, you know how it is. I will post four posts to get back on track. Love all your comments, love all of you. XO M

After Dave Was Hurt, initially, our house was a somber museum of antiquities compared to its former joyful bustling home loaded with kids and gameboards. I am sure this is not surprising to anyone. Our house became a different kind of busy. Someone was constantly at the door: dropping off food, offering a kind word or inquiring if there was any good news or anything they could do to help.

People spoke in hushed tones as if the bad news were any easier to digest when whispered. Occasionally when enough adults were present concurrently, they sat around our dining room table drinking percolated coffee and got updates of Dave’s condition that was unchanging, still as bad as could be. Sitting under this table eavesdropping while the adults talked is how I gained most of my intel about Dave’s injury. When you are paralyzed like that you don’t recover. It takes time for that reality to settle into our understanding since most injuries heal, and people get “better.” This was not most injuries. There was no “better” to look forward to.

We no longer had a house teeming with friends and laughter or fun. Dinner was quiet, Dave’s chair was empty initially, but never moved away from the table. Forks barely made noise on our plates, no one chatted about their day. A sadness hung in the air and sound may have released it, so we just kept quiet as mice.

My mom was not always with us at the table in those early days. Sometimes my dad was not with us as he may have gone from work directly to the hospital skipping dinner in the middle.

My sister Anne who was 12 matured unnaturally rapidly, took over maintenance of the house, cooking and cleaning up after everyone, living with headphones on in her room when not doing everything else.

Linda and Scott, who were very busy teenagers before Dave was hurt, remained so. They had social lives to live, were of driving age or had friends of driving age, and not unlike teenagers everywhere, they were out anywhere else with their friends.

Dave was in the hospital for more than a year and never ate hospital food because our mom took breakfast, lunch, and dinner to him. I am going to stop for a moment so that can sink in…he NEVER ate shitty hospital food. My mom made a ton of food TOGO, like over a thousand meals… TOGO… throughout that time. There were no more sporting events to attend, no more social calendar existed. There were no more family vacations. No more extra sandwiches.

My parents were with Dave almost 24/7, emotionally, physically, and didn’t have a day off until their 25th wedding anniversary, one of two mini weekend vacation getaways throughout the rest of their lives. The house no longer seemed like a strong imposing beautiful concrete structure but that of cards where we all held our breath so as not to bring it all down.

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Genetics (About My Mom) Part 3

Excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down for previous chapters.

My mom was the youngest of nine children. Unlike my dad, she came from a house of plenty. Plenty of food and even more joking and laughter. She grew up eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with sterling silverware on fine china with tablecloths and linen napkins. Her china and silver patterns were picked out for her when she was born. Her family had a live-in cook, maid, and nanny.

Marrying my dad, she left all that pampering behind, rolled up her sleeves and learned to do all things domestic: cook, clean, care for children, referee, separate the proverbial dog and catfights, feed the actual dog and cat, discipline, shuttle, shop, pay bills, maintain a full house as detailed further below.

She ran our house like a military ship. You have to be efficient when you have a big family, or you might die under an enormous pile of dirty clothes, trash or worse, dog doo. We had a predictable, jam-packed life with the many moving parts that come with five kids, 15 first cousins (just on my mom’s side), ailing grandparents, their large group of friends from high school and their growing families, lots of friends from school and our neighborhood: baseball, basketball, football and volleyball games, paying the bills, “put the cat out,” Cub Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, softball, Church and Sunday dinners with extended family, guitar lessons, gymnastics, family (including cousins) vacations, “Boys! get off the roof,” “Boys! keep your hands to yourself,” piano lessons, “Boys! don’t throw things in the house,” Holidays, “Damn It Boys! I told you a window would get broken!” hosting slumber parties for wild screaming middle school girls, “Boys! keep your hands off the walls,” birthday celebrations (roughly every two weeks someone in our extended family had a birthday that we celebrated), “Boys! I said keep your hands to yourself,” laundry, grocery shopping, making lunches, friends over for dinner, “Keep your swimsuit top ON,” baseball in the street, a family member here and there living with us, “Did anyone let the cat in?” broken window repairs, “Take it upstairs with you” stitches and broken bones, parties sanctioned and secret while they were out of town, dentist appointments for five, pets and vets, orthodontist, parent-teacher conferences, dusting and vacuuming and mountains of dishes and everything in between that is not directly outlined above.

There was always enough mayonnaise, Roman Meal bread, margarine (didn’t everyone eat margarine back then?), Skippy Peanut Butter (Chunky), toilet paper, soap, towels and clean clothes. It takes a LOT of organization and effort to keep everything in stock and running smoothly. So yes, my dad worked long hard hours in retail management but look at my mom’s work life seven days a week and she had to deal with all of us too! Lucky him!

When I say our house was like a military ship, I mean it was efficient. It was always tidy. You would never know how many people lived in their house because my mom never allowed us to drop our junk by the front door. We were not allowed to slow down until we dumped our stuff upstairs in our rooms. And if there was anything sitting on the stairs like clean towels or toilet paper we had to take that up with us because we were “going that way anyway.” The house was always clean because she wanted it that way and for a brief window of time, she had an army of five children to dust, vacuum and clean every Saturday. She also cleaned the two bathrooms EVERY day. You HAVE to do so when you have 3-5 males on the premises.

Our mom figured out how to run this organization very efficiently, and she, well they both had expectations. My mom tried to raise us to be proper and fancy, we all know how to set a table and what fork and spoon to use but have you heard my language? For the record, I did not learn my varsity level cursing habits at home. The general house rules were nothing unrealistic. “Pick up after yourself. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Those kind of things. Pretty simple rules really. The things you need to be able to relate to people in the real world.

Like all of America at that time we too had to be home by the universal time that the street lights come on. We were expected to be present at dinner. General good hygiene was also expected, “Wash your hands before dinner.” As previously mentioned, Strict rules were imposed at the dinner table including properly asking for things to be passed to you at the table “Please pass the (fill in the blank)?” And “Thank you.” So while all the rules and maintenance of life stuff sounds stiff and uninteresting, for clarification she was consistent, you have to be with this sort of job but always quick to laugh.

My mom was the infrastructure of everything related to general house operations. Her supportive planning and steady execution of everything in every area of our lives gave all of us the platform to succeed at home and out in the world. I forgot to mention picking up dry cleaning above, my dad’s professional wardrobe was meticulously cared for.

My mom made everything about dinner happen as was common back in time. After my dad’s last story, my mom coordinated having us clear the dishes away. One of the older kids had an assigned night to do the dishes. This is when the majority of any bitching by the children about anything in our house began…regarding whose night it was to do the dishes, followed by trade negotiations. “If you do the dishes tonight, I will do them tomorrow.” I was too young when the house was so full to ever be in the dishwashing bitching, negotiation and rotation schedule. I just remember the arguments that my parents let resolve themselves about whose night it was. Someone WAS going to do those dishes.

I know I used the word military previously, but our home, the home my mom created was not militant. It was a vibrant, loving home with plenty of giggling and running around happening as well. The very beautiful 1920s vintage historic Spanish style home was constantly teeming with children. People were always curious about what the house looked like inside. Once inside they wanted to stay not because it was beautiful, but it was a fun place to be.

Any day of the week there was always at least one extra kid in the house, either a friend or a cousin or two or all the above. It was not uncommon to have a friend join us for dinner on a school night, Brian comes to mind, or anyone else who happened to stop by close to dinner time. Our dining room table when expanded could seat 18 but also converted to a card or ping pong table with the addition of a net attached to the table in the center with the turn of a wingnut screw. There was always room for an extra person or ping pong around the world silliness.

Someone was frequently hitting a tennis ball up against the garage. The boys (and cousins) played catch across the street, not by playing on the other side of the street, by standing one on either side of the street, throwing the ball across the street and over cars as they drove by. When someone missed their catch on our side, the baseball hit the garage door with a loud bang. My mom rolled with all of it.

On occasion, our house was a haven for a runaway child who was at odds with their parents for a day or two. Slumber parties were wild but rare and usually saved for two special occasions a year, birthday parties for the older girls. Our parents’ friends often visited. Usually with their children which meant all sorts of wild play, games, hide-and-seek both inside and outside of the house. My mom was perpetually putting a pot of coffee on because there were always people stopping by. But given everything she had to accomplish in a day she had to have needed that coffee too. I remember she drank coffee up until maybe 8 o’clock at night. Now she has one cup in the morning, that is it.

Our parents were booster club members for everything. But really, mom’s ARE the booster club, working all those volunteer hours in the snack bar or hosting the fundraiser du jour. We attended all the many sporting events by loading up our wood-paneled station wagon, the woody with ice chests, bleacher pads, and blankets. You need a large vehicle when you are a family of seven.

We were always attending some sporting event somewhere. The boys and our cousins played Little League on city teams like boys all across America, and we all played sports organized by our Catholic school too. Three of my siblings were in high school at the same time. Dave was a senior, Linda a Junior and Scott a freshman. Each played a sport or two. Dave’s football activities in high school were the most storied because an entire community comes out to watch football and his sport was by far the most talked about in our house. Boys sports overshadowed girls sports by far back then.

His storied time on the field was not exaggerated. He played center. He was wide and solid from the shoulders down. He was the perfect wall of muscle to put in front of a quarterback. He made the varsity team his sophomore year, was named the All-star athlete for the region that year and was team captain his senior year. No one sacked the San Bernardino High School quarterback, and subsequently, the team always did very well. He also played Baseball, Water Polo, Wrestled and was on the Track team (shot put). There was a snack bar at the football games and our mom, ever carrying out her momly duties definitely had her time in the snack bar pit.

I was very little and bored to death at most events, but I liked going to high school football games because they were at night and I got to stay up later than normal. I would have been between 2-6 and remember climbing the underside of the bleachers like a jungle gym, parents allowed us to be out of their site back then. I could hear my mom’s familiar cute outbursts of laughter rise above the mixed noise of the crowd now and then and stopped momentarily when I heard announcements over the PA. “And Linane sacked the quarterback.” “And Linane blocks the kick.” And Linane-(fill in the blank).” It felt so official because the announcer sounded like someone from T.V. I was less than five…don’t judge. All I could tell is that it sounded like my brother was all over the field saving the day again like last week and the week before that. That was my first awareness of feeling pride, I was proud to hear his name, our shared imprinted name over and over.

Some of my mom’s more brilliant moves:

Our house was large with five bedrooms and all the other typical rooms you expect in a house, living room, dining room, but we also had a breakfast nook and a loft area that was a den. I know it sounds fancy but we just happened to live in an older home that had such rooms.

Every Saturday, my mom employed her army of five to clean the house from top to bottom, and we did. The older kids vacuumed, moved furniture around, mopped. I had the pint-sized task of dusting a certain room usually mine because there wasn’t much I could break or if I did break something it would be my own. When I was older, I emptied the trash throughout the house. The army helped keep the house clean and taught us all how to care for our things and ultimately, a home.

My job of trash lady, of course, took me ALL day Saturday. A job that probably should have taken about 10 minutes tops. I fully employed whatever that law is, now I have to look it up, Parkinson’s law (I swear it is a thing) states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. I wasn’t wise enough yet to have figured out that if I did my job quickly I would be given another task, I simply was pouting about what I deemed as an awful task that a princess such as myself should not have to do and I just procrastinated all day rather than just be done with it. No one told me I was a princess, trust me, I was more likely referred to as a pill because of my incessant inquisitive nature. I just deduced I was from all the princess books I had read and because we lived in a beautiful home that looked a little bit like a castle. I know, I’m ridiculous. My mom and husband both gave me the same book one year, the Princess and the Pea, my favorite from childhood and somewhat autobiographical. Ok, maybe I still refer to myself as the princess and the pea when it comes to the desire for creature comforts.

With a live-in grandparent or aged uncle here and there from my mom’s side of the family, yes, she cared for her mother and a few siblings too. So, yes with the influx of ailing adults the kids had to share a room. My mom had us change rooms every six months.

All rooms were not created equal which meant one, two or three people to a room or the very lusted after commodity among children…the one small room in the house, a room of one’s own. My mom’s plan of everyone changing rooms every six months meant no one had to endure an unpleasant dreaded paring with a sibling that long and someone would get the coveted room of their own, at least for six months. In this transition, we had to move all of our furniture out of our room, go through all of our clothes and toys and get rid of things we no longer used. It was brilliant, for deep cleaning, pairing down like you need to do to maintain control of the volume of crap five children can amass and keep the kids from complaining about the unfairness of life with “fill in the blank” having the best room to themselves.

Our vacations were typically a week beach house rental in Newport Beach in Southern California. Not a long drive, not an extravagant expense and cheap entertainment with the ocean keeping us busy and wearing us out all day. My favorite bit of brilliance, we were allowed to bring a friend on vacation with us. That friend was almost always a cousin of similar age. The woody somehow fit loads of people, before seatbelts of course. In retrospect, after having my one and only child, I asked my mom what in the hell she was thinking taking 10 children on vacation. She responded, “Oh honey, it was so much easier to make 10 sandwiches than it was to listen to five children bitch about being bored.” Seriously, brilliant!

Genetics… (About My Dad) Part 2

Excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to read previous chapters.

Our dad by definition was an athlete. He remained ripped his entire life without working at it. He was a rare super-human which is what science knows about world-class athletes-they are physically different from the rest of us mere mortals. He had a doctor tell him when he was having a physical in high school that his heart was enormous and that he may have a doctor in the future become alarmed that his heart was enlarged but it was not, he simply had a heart that was almost double in size. He always assumed that this physical characteristic is what gave him his unique endurance. Super-human, yes, but his beginning was anything but super and barely humane.

His childhood was marred by witnessing volatile fights between his parents with many thrown objects, yelling and physical abuse. His mother and pre-teen older brother were the objects of abuse by his raging alcoholic father who would unexpectedly disappear for weeks at a time with his paycheck, having left to “get a pack of cigarettes” from the store or some such bullshit. Their dad left for good when my uncle at 12 protected my then five-year-old dad from his first beat down. My uncle grew up fast and was not going to be beaten again nor watch his mother or little brother be hurt either.

They lived for a short period of time with their mother’s parents until their grandfather suffered a grave injury and other plans had to be made for their care. The boys were placed in an orphanage off and on throughout his young life while his dad continued smoking those cigarettes he went out for somewhere on the California coast and separately his mom struggled to survive.

She didn’t have any formal post high school education. She didn’t come from money. There was no such thing as child or spousal support back then. Women dropped their kids off at orphanages while they went about their attempt to survive, to recreate a home, a life. Mothers came and visited and may have left their children for months at a time like a very, very extended childcare service. She remarried a military man who was shortly thereafter stationed at Norton AFB in San Bernardino not far from Redlands, CA where they as a newly minted family landed in 1946.

The marriage did not last a year. Redlands did not have an orphanage, but they did have what was new to my dad, Foster Care. My uncle was a mid-teenager by then, wild, not having any part of anyone else being in control of him and was a man unto himself.

My dad was placed with his first and only, amazing, loving, foster family, The Osdicks who had room and kindness to share. What one would hope the Foster care system would provide. The family had two children of their own. They all adored my dad because he had that sort of lovely magnetism about him, he was very personable, genuine, quick to smile, funny, kind, appreciative and gentle. Dave was so very much like him. He learned about sitting around a kitchen table and enjoying dinner. No one got drunk, threw anything, nor yelled or harmed anyone. Everyone talked to each other and seemed to enjoy doing so.

Moving to Redlands began our dad’s sports life, the time when he learned his impeccable work ethic, first experienced success, self-confidence and well-earned moments of all things…pride. From these successes, he applied these hard work ethics that served him well and ultimately branched into every aspect of his life.

Our dad learned to swim that year when he was 12 at his local (Redlands) YMCA and began competitions soon after in both swimming and diving. He immediately began winning local, regional and state titles in both swimming and diving events. By the time he was 14 he had to choose one event, so he chose swimming, representing Redlands High School.

He was dedicated to his sport. He would arrive an hour before practice and swim many, many miles before anyone else arrived and then practice with the team. His team won national championships with his individual times being the fastest. His amazing work ethic made him like a machine in the pool, and later in life, constantly working, moving forward. At the age of 15 he was ranked 9th in the nation and 11th in the world after learning to swim just three years earlier.

He decided he wanted to focus on football because it was a much sexier sport. Crowds watch football games not swim meets. He played both running and quarterback. The team made it to the playoffs every year, and they won the Citrus Belt League division his senior year. Maybe that is a common scenario. Plenty of people are great at their sport. But wait.

He attended a basketball game back in the days when there was ONE coach at the school who was in charge of everything. So his coach, currently the Basketball coach was down a player. The coach saw my dad in the stands before the game and asked him to fill in for the team. He told my dad to “just be tall. Stick your hands in the air and don’t let anything get past you.” He was 6’2” so he had a decent wingspan. Apparently, the league rules were very fast and loose in the late 40s for eligibility where putting random players in midway through the season was concerned.

My dad was blind as a bat without his glasses. When he played football, he could make out his teammates on the field and get the ball to them or catch it with some sort of athletic radar, but that basket was a much smaller target. My dad, regardless of what the coach told him, shared his thoughts at the time, “I knew to win, you had to put the ball in the basket. That is the REAL object of this game.” And he did. Over and over.

The team won. He scored the most points in the game. He also had the highest individual score in a single game for a player that season. Without glasses. Without playing ever before. With grace and a huge smile. The next year he was recruited for the team. In recent years he was recognized for his athletic abilities by the high school and put in their hall of fame.

He was in and out of foster care like he was in the orphanage previously, but always with the same family, the Osdicks until he was an adult. His mom needed him to work and help her pay the rent, and he did so throughout high school by working in the orange groves filling smudge pots with fuel through the night and bussing tables in the evenings at La Posada restaurant after his sports activities. I have no idea when he slept. All part of the unique stamina of world-class athletes.

Regardless of where he was living, the Osdicks maintained continuity with him and attended all of his sporting events like family. He remained very close to them throughout his life. He adored them for their kindness but even more for teaching him about a different way of life and making him part of an emotionally healthy family.

Our gangly, sickly, tiny dad grew to be a strapping, handsome man. He was a clothes model and for a brief period of time wanted to be a professional actor. He spent the better part of a year living in Hollywood going to studios daily trying to land parts in television or the movies. He lived with his good friend from San Bernardino Valley College and fellow thespian, Geoffrey Lewis, who remained in Hollywood until he was famous, starring in more than 50 films and television productions many alongside Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford, as well as having 10 children one of them being Juliette Lewis. My dad was happy for Geoff and cheered anytime we saw him on screen. He was that way, happy when people achieved their dreams.

I was pulling oatmeal cookies out of the oven as a young adult and asked him if he wanted one when he came in the kitchen. He declined which shocked me because “Who doesn’t love an oatmeal cookie?” That was when he explained to me, “I never eat oatmeal, not even a cookie because it was all I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner for years when I lived in the orphanage.” I freaked out at this news because our family had always seemed so…so…normal…ORPHANAGE?

He had shielded us for the most part from his mother who I can count on one hand how many times I saw her and he rarely spoke of his childhood. So by way of oatmeal cookies, I gleaned my first look into my dad’s distressing childhood and the way orphanages operated, as long term drop-offs for the children of struggling families. I didn’t know I knew a truly struggling family when my own father came from such a harsh existence. It made me realize anything really is possible for anyone to accomplish.

It wasn’t until way after the oatmeal revelation that I heard that my dad was in high school when he learned of his estranged father’s death in his early 40s, from liver failure. He said very few words about his dad, ever, and my dad was a man of many words. That intended deafening silence spoke volumes for itself. I didn’t ask any questions and I was a very, VERY inquisitive child, teen, young adult and adult who asked questions ad nauseum, that is how strong that smoke signal was.

In conversations here and there my dad attributed moving to Redlands, learning to swim at the Y and living with the Osdicks as saving his life. He learned that a place you live can be beautiful if you make it so, that one success can build on another and how to live through his time living with the Osdicks. “Living with them…” took years to percolate and form the puzzle of how they really came to be such an important part of his young life. They had a front lawn, well manicured. He took good care of our lawn. They took care of their things. We took care of our things.

Our dad knew he wanted to have a set dinner time for his family and defended the sanctity of his dinner table very strictly. The rules were simple, but anyone grossly out of line was sent away. It didn’t happen often, but witnessing the disappointment of my dad one time was enough for me to learn from the missteps of the older kids that I never wanted to be sent from the table and I behaved as expected. Mostly no elbows on the table and no lip, simple. The eruptions that took place at our table were those of laughter. My dad loved to laugh and loved to tell a story at the dinner table. I credit him for my mad storytelling skills. All the above was the model he learned from the Osdicks that he decided to follow in the family he created deliberately, breaking the horrible cycle of alcoholism, violence and poverty he grew up with.

From the Osdicks he also learned to choose joy, a long-standing directive he would repeat over and over in my life, when tucking me in bed or whenever I was upset about anything. “You have a choice every day, choose joy.” This was not what I wanted to hear as a kid, “You know I am 5 right?” “I do, but I wish someone had told me this when I was your age. I didn’t understand how important this was until I was in my thirties.” I heard these words impatiently forever until I was maybe 25+ when it finally clicked. I stopped rolling my eyes and thought, “OH. Now I get it. Thanks Dad.”

My dad attended a corporate golf event for the company Long’s Drug Store, where he worked as an assistant store manager. He was in his late 30s and had never played golf. He was paired up with a group from his region (Southern California) and won the tournament as a first-time golfer. The owners of the company golfed religiously as people who identify as ‘golfers’ do. The owner (Joe Long) fully expected to win the tournament because he WAS a good golfer. He was shocked that my dad, a first-time golfer kicked his and everybody else’ asses out there. It had to be a fluke. My all-time favorite photo of my dad is from this day, of him holding his trophy grinning ear-to-ear next to Joe Long who looks very unhappy relinquishing the trophy.

The next year my dad attended the annual golf tournament to play the second round of golf he had ever played and won again. This time he doesn’t look overjoyed. He looks worried as he is now old enough to understand that perhaps he should have let the old guy, the president of the company with the obvious fragile ego win. The trophy was smaller, and Joe Long has the most pissed off look on his face. The following year, the trophy was tiny, four or five inches tall and no photo was taken. It was hilarious to see the trophies lined up on a shelf: huge, smaller, peewee, next to the photo of one pissed off Joe Long. Soon Long’s Drugs stopped having corporate golf tournaments.

Not long after that tournament I was with my dad at his mother’s house, I was about 8. We rarely saw her because she was a problematic and emotionally unhealthy creature-see previously mentioned volatile fights, orphanage and foster care references. She probably called my dad to come and help her with something. Whatever the reason, we were in her back yard, I was disconnected from the conversation as it was not remotely interesting to me because there remained the coolest 1800s vintage adobe style jailhouse the size of a garage, my grandmother called it the hoosgado across the alley from my grandmother’s back yard that demanded my investigation.

My dad without effort or notice put his hand on the top of the wall and swung his legs over the six-foot wall in a single motion, just WHOOSH up and over. I finally knew what was meant by “a single bound.” I had not heard ALL the stories of my dad’s athletic past at that point. I am sure I had some vague memory of hearing stories of swimming…and maybe some football thing that was a big part of his younger life, but that was forever ago. I raised my eyebrows surprised at how easily he hopped over that wall that was almost as tall as he was. I mean he seemed Soooo old at all of probably 40. I was used to seeing him in a suit or with mowing the lawn type dad moves. My grandmother responded to my look and giggled a; “What?” at me. I said something like, “I can’t believe he did that, he is so old.” As I pointed to the wall incredulous. My grandmother, cigarette in hand, laughed the hardest chain smoker half cough-half laugh I had ever witnessed cough out of her.

When my dad popped back over the top of the wall gracefully landing lightly on his feet in front of us I was still incredulous from the first hop, my grandmother choking out another laugh, and told him what I had said; “I didn’t know he could do that at his age.” And began laughing all over again, that gross flem-y-throaty-disgusting smokers hack. My dad joined her with his charming and easy laugh, a modest twinkle in his eye and a wink at me that conveyed there were things I clearly did not know about my dad.

I knew he had two golf trophies at home but learned of the stories of his impressive sports prowess over time. I grew up like my siblings to be competitively coordinated. I never attempted to scale a wall like that in a single bound, but there was an occasion when I could not get myself out of the side of a three-foot-deep pool when I was five months pregnant. It was hilarious as I tried to first just hop out but failed, then tried to just get a leg, one leg, either leg, any leg up and out to at least roll myself out of the pool but I couldn’t because of my belly. I had to trudge my way over to the steps-the long way out of the pool. I laughed so hard at the contrast of my pathetic failed attempt to hop out of the shallow end of the pool to that time my dad hopped over that six-foot wall and back like a fucking gazelle. I was pathetic, and it was hilarious.

When my dad was in his mid-forties racquetball was all the rage. My brother’s friends who were in their mid-twenties by that time were regularly playing racquetball, then stopping by our house after to hang out with Dave. Their excitement for playing was contagious to my dad, and he asked if he might play with them sometime. Sometime arrived and my dad joined two other players. These guys were young bucks who played hard. When they returned to our house after the game, the guys had long faces because apparently my dad simply asked the rules of the game, nodded in understanding and proceeded to kick their asses all over the court. That was the first and last time he played racquetball.

I laughed retroactively at the juxtaposition of these young studs flat out panting on the couch and my dad outside in his hideous green plaid Bermuda shorts, socks with sandals, calmly pulling the starter cord on the mower, heartbeat barely above 55. He was never boastful. He was a gracious winner. He was so comfortable in his statuesque chiseled body. He simply moved through the world a little more effortlessly than the rest of us.

My dad took up golf regularly sometime in his forties. Every Monday and consistently enjoyed this game against himself. He remained very physically strong and played into his 70s. He deadlifted Dave to put him in his wheelchair almost every day. Dave outweighed my dad by maybe 25-35 pounds depending on both of their fluctuating weight over the years. Both of my parents were involved in the process of getting Dave in and out of bed but my Dad as one might expect was the bulk of the muscle.

Both of our parents had amazing immune systems in that they NEVER got sick. They NEVER had the flu or a cold. NEVER. They were focused and worked hard at everything they attempted, and they were good at what they did, they didn’t make it look hard, but it was hard. Especially caring for my brother. As I mentioned Dave was never sick, these three were superhumans as far as their immune systems were concerned.

When our dad passed away, I sent the local Redlands paper a bio by email. His high school days five decades behind him of course. I expected that no one at the paper was familiar with him fifty years out of high school. I got a return phone call from the reporter who said their archives had more articles featuring my dad than any other individual in town, athletes and others combined. That was a fun moment. I wish he had known that. Maybe he did. We had copies of all the newspaper clippings, and it seemed like a lot to me, but what did I know? The paper is not a huge publication. They ran a three-page story which was basically my bio cut and pasted and several photos from their archive. A friend commented that my dad got more ink than when the publisher died which of course I thought was funny. And that was just covering his sports life, they could have written more about his work ethic, lifelong friendships, his marriage, the way he cared for his family, his storytelling abilities, my brother.

I worked for Redlands Unified School District at that time. There was a lovely older African-American gentleman named Ed who was a custodian in the district. He used to stop by my office every afternoon to pick up my recycling. He was always professional, polite. Over time as I slowly got to know him over short conversations here and there as he picked up my bin and emptied it I came to learn that he had a side business washing cars at the office. I began supporting his business in a win-win situation. I needed my car washed, he needed the money.

After my dad died and it was all over the paper and people in my life were generally aware that my dad had died, when I returned to work, Ed came to my door and asked if I was Tom Linane’s daughter. “I am.” He explained that “I thought you might be related to my friend from Redlands High School. I kept looking at your name on the door and wondered. He explained how they “played basketball together fifty years ago and that your dad would stop by the house every now and again to share a beer. I felt real bad when your brother got hurt. Such a shame. How’s he doin?” “He is great, really. Other than…you know…our Dad dying.” “Your dad was real kind to me when our daughter died. She was killed in a car accident not that long ago, died of a torn heart artery like Lady Diana.” Hearing of his daughter and talk of this unbeknownst to me friend of my dad that had been in my daily life for a few years made me tear up. I would have loved to have told my dad a funniest thing type story about this guy at work named Ed and he would have loved hearing all about it. I hugged Ed. We both sniffled our tears at each other and he went on his way.

I think my dad being raised in an orphanage made him understand and connect with all humans on a genuine level. He and Dave were so much alike that way. They were open to people, all people, they were respectful. They didn’t brag about how they helped people out or who they were friends with to appear magnanimous. They were simply people who were magnets and were connected to people for life.

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.”

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.