The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time 1973

Excerpt from the upcoming biography, Viking Funeral. Thank you for all your comments and love. Scroll down to start from the beginning around March 13. Or click here to read about Dave

Right before high school graduation Brian and Dave were out in the world on a Saturday afternoon. They were down the street from our house when some friends drove by and asked them if they wanted to hop in their car to cruise E Street. Day or night E Street in San Bernardino was the place to connect with people.

Brian and Dave shrugged at each other with an unspoken why the hell not? and hopped in the back seat of the station wagon, joining their friends. The back seat floorboards were littered with empty beer cans level with the hump of the transmission that separated the two sides of the car. There was no room for their feet and no way to avoid the crinkle of the cans as they got in.

The car reeked of a range of beer fresh and stale. The two guys in the front seat had been playing softball all day and subsequently had been drinking all day, pitching the empties over their shoulder into the backseat spilling the dribbles of beer at the bottom of each can in the process. Dave and Brian had had nothing to drink so far, but it was early, and they JUST got in the car.

The guys headed for E Street and cruised up and down the crowded street, socializing loudly out the windows at people they knew and people they didn’t but maybe hoped to know. At some point, they were side-by-side with a car full of people they knew. They were shouting and laughing as they went. The question of beer came up as in, “Ya got any beer?” shouted to the guys in the station wagon. The guys in the station wagon did, in fact, have beer. They had loads of beer in the cargo area in the way back.

Dave decided to crawl back there, all 230 pounds of him over the back seat into the way back of the station wagon where the beer was in an ice chest. Ever friendly, helpful, considerate, and generous as he was, through the open back window of the station wagon, he proceeded to lean out of the moving car as far as he could to hand the requested beer to the passengers in the also moving car beside them in the next lane.

That is when they all heard the distinct sound of a siren make a single WOOOooooo. The car in the lane beside them took off. The guys in the station wagon were stuck and busted.

The two guys in the front seat threw their half-full open containers of beer into the back seat, pouring their contents all over Brian, who this early in the cruising process had had NOTHING to drink. Yet, he was now saturated in beer and worried. He was very worried.

The officer got out of his car and approached the station wagon from behind. Dave was the first one ordered to step out of the vehicle, which he obliged by awkwardly climbing, again, 230 pounds of bulky him out the window. He was directed to stand by the side of the road. “Yes sir, Officer.” Next, the three other passengers were ordered to get out. The driver and front passenger obliged quickly and moved beside Dave in line at the side of the road.

When Brian opened his door, empty beer cans unavoidably crinkled and fell out as he moved his feet to get out, he stopped, panicked at what this specific noise ‘looked like.’ He froze in place in the car as he made first completely sober eye contact with the young cop who was watching intently. The cop motioned impatiently for him to continue out of the vehicle. The empties crinkled and clanked as they uncontrollably fell out in the gutter with his every move. The noise that only an empty beer can make when hitting the ground echoed around them, and the stench of beer specifically exuding off Brian was stinky and heavy in the air. Things were looking really bad for Brian, the only sober one in the group. He moved to his obligatory place in line at the side of the road with the other guys, practically regretting the day he was born.

The officer gave the field sobriety test to the driver. The other boys stood in a line waiting for their fate, whatever that was. There was only one officer, and there were four of them.

Brian’s thoughts began racing. ‘I wasn’t driving. I haven’t even had ONE beer. There is only ONE cop I can probably make it through the field on foot, and he probably wouldn’t be able to catch me.’ He was torn away from his thoughts by reality and the handcuffs being slapped on his wrists.

Back-up officers arrived. All four boys were arrested. The driver and passenger were legally drunk, had open containers in the car as well as illegal possession of alcohol. Dave was hanging out the rear window of a moving vehicle with an open container of alcohol. Brian, the self-described innocent lamb on this day of days, was charged with illegal possession of alcohol. He was totally in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was so unfair.

Brian and Dave had the same date for their court appearances for their violations and planned to go together. Brian got dressed in his suit at our house and had my dad help him tie his tie. My dad was the kind of dad who would help you tie your tie if you needed it.

Sidebar: Brian had my dad tie his tie for many years. It was very sweet. They both enjoyed the special connection between found dad and found son. I didn’t realize this was a thing until years later, Brian was walking through the house with a necktie, tied properly but on a hanger that he carried in front of him on his way out the door as he said “Bye” to my mom and me. He closed the door and left. I looked at my mom, pointed his general direction, and inquired “What was that?” My mom said, “What?” “The tie?” “Oh, your father ties his ties for him as needed.” “Brian can tie a tie can’t he?” “Pretty sure he can, but he likes to ask your father to do it, and your father likes to do it.” Brian was a little older than mid-twenties, but then again he didn’t wear a tie very often as a fireman. I thought it was the sweetest thing that showed the nature of his relationship with my dad with our family. His tie on a hanger was a physical representation of that relationship, I loved it and giggled.

Back to court: The boys were assigned different courtrooms. Understandably they were both very nervous. They were less than a month away from graduating High School, their whole lives stretched out ahead of them. This day felt ominous. They each went to their assigned courts. Dave awaited his fate meeting his ‘judge and jury’ which was actually just a judge. He received a simple fine. An 18-year-old, hanging out of the rear window of a moving vehicle passing alcohol to another moving vehicle. He got a $50 fine. Dave paid his fine and left the courtroom, feeling very relieved. He waited in the hall for Brian to finish.

Brian came out looking defeated. He asked Dave how it went. Dave told him he had to pay a fine. Brian was stunned, “You ONLY paid a fine?” “Ya, $50 bucks!” “Fifty Bucks? I had to pay a $75 fine, AND I got six months’ probation!” It was so unjust! He reminded Dave and anyone who would listen to this day of this travesty of justice, “And I didn’t even have one beer!”

When the boys returned home, they dragged themselves pitifully through the door, heads hung low with long pathetic faces. My mom took one look at them and just knew something was terribly wrong and asked, “How did it go?” In concert, the boys sputtered “TERRIBLE. (Pause here for dramatic effect…emphasis on dramatic) The judge sentenced us to jail!” My mom went into panic mode at this TERRIBLE information. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVE TO GO TO JAIL? TO JAIL? JAIL??? WHAT ABOUT GRADUATION?” Her voice climbing in tember with each mounting question. “Did you tell him you are two weeks away from graduation?” Boys both nod without looking up, still with the long faces. “He said it doesn’t matter; we have to report to jail right away!” “Right away? What does right away mean?” “Today! We just came home to change clothes, and then we are off to jail. (pause again) Today.” My mom began to really panic at this point, so the boys finally burst out with a JUST KIDDING!!!

“OH MY GOD, DAMN IT, YOU TWO!!!”

Brian then had to tell her about his travesty of justice compared to Dave’s sentence for the very first time. It was the equivalent of being a five-year-old telling his mom about his skinned knee that he got at school at the end of the school day and animatedly reliving the pain all over again.

A few years later, Brian was a young Fireman on duty and ran into THE arresting officer. The officer remembered him clearly. They laughed about it at that point. If Brian had made a run for it at that moment he had fantasized about doing so; he probably would not be where he was, a fireman, the job, and career of his dreams. Good thing he only got probation.

Linda Spoke…

Unedited excerpts from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Thank you for reading any or all of this blog. Scroll down to read chapters in order. XO M

The backyard of my parents’ house besides being the location of many parties over the years was also a very lovely, lush private space with roses and other flowering plants, secluded from the world just beyond the property line by tall thick bushes and shaded by urban old-growth trees.

Linda had been in the backyard where she is frequently working on any given day as is her passion and talent, but definitely among the beauty of the garden in the days before the memorial. She described feeling words come to her that were meant for specific people in Dave’s life and she shared them at our party of a lifetime.

Brian-you were the best friend I could ever imagine. Thank you.

Barbara- you were my soul mate.

Sharon, if Brian hadn’t married you, I would have tried to steal you away!

Scott, I wish I had spent more time with you.

As she spoke each person’s name, they perked up wherever they were and nodded in agreement with the words meant for them. As in ‘that makes perfect sense.’

She then asked Brian to come up to speak…

Context, Contact, Announcements in the Background

Unedited excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Thank you for reading this far, for all your encouragement, comments, love! Scroll down to read previous chapters. Catching up today for four weeks of hiatus. XO M

If real estate has the mantra of Location, Location, Location, I am going to theorize that a biography and all the moving parts, have to be placed in context, context, context. As previously stated, when we get to know someone we don’t learn about their life story in tidy chronological order. We never know every minute of anyone’s life, even those closest to us. We can’t possibly remember every minute of our own lives either. I am sharing why this or that particular part of an entire lifetime of his roughly 39 million minutes was chosen to be important enough to write down to be shared with the world.

I wish to state that this is not a story about me. However, so many people I have interviewed have forgotten almost all the details that I have asked about for clarity or to fill in any gaps in my understanding. They are left with the essence of Dave, how they felt spending time with him but not that many story quality details. Many repeated similar adjectives though, “such a great guy,” “what a tough guy,” “so kind,” “Never forget that laugh,” The fine details have fallen to me to shape his life with the context of what I experienced, my perceptions and with the few fragments I pieced together from his friends.

I wrestled with different aspects of the story and spoke with my friend and editor who reminded me that Dave did not live in isolation. That we all live in context with those around us. Dave was not here to dictate what he thought were his best moments, his favorite moments, or the best moments the world should or would want to hear. So it is partially his failed autobiography and partially my unvarnished memories of him which are shaping up to be the clearest blended with the arc of the story of how his Viking funeral unfolded, the people who spoke and why they were important to the story of who he was and his life.

Contact

I hadn’t thought about this until forty-something thousand words into this bio. I was repeating a Dave story or thought I was repeating a Dave story (see ALL the stories I have heard over and over above) to my sister Anne over dinner recently. She hadn’t heard the story before. It felt like such an old and well-worn story but still worth repeating and laughing at again. I was surprised and intrigued that she hadn’t heard the story.

The process of writing a biography without the star of the biography available to ask questions is a bit of a conundrum. I think I know about my brother and I assume that everyone in his life, especially his siblings, know all the same stories or at least most of the same stories. The experience at that dinner changed my thought process to consider what I thought I knew or don’t know. Can we even know what we don’t know? and all that sort of other circular enigmas began churning around in my mental front-load washing machine.

I began thinking about who lived at home and when, when Dave was hurt and when he returned home from the hospital.

Linda was 17+ when Dave was hurt. In her words, she “got the hell outta Dodge” not long after graduating early that school year as was her plan all along. She moved out of the house and out of town to start her adult life elsewhere.

Scott was 15+ initially then 18 when Dave came home 18 months later. He was going to school and working and then working full time when Dave returned home. He moved out of the house when he married at age 20. So not that much contact after returning home.

Anne was 12 going on MOM when Dave was hurt. She grew up overnight and became the mother of our house. She took on cooking and cleaning. She was always the tidy one anyway, but in her manner of processing, she went all out keeping the house going while our parents were trying their best not to crumble before our eyes nor Dave’s as they kept long hours vigil at his side in the hospital. She was 14 when Dave returned home. She married the love of her life and moved out her senior year of high school basically, a year before Scott moved out.

I was 7 when Dave was hurt. During that year plus I spent time: 1. tagging along with my mom to the hospital. 2. remaining home being supervised in the loosest terms of how well older teenage siblings (boss around) supervise anyone. 3. Going to pick-up or return Dave to Rancho Los Amigos hospital in Downey, California after he started coming home on the weekend for training runs, getting everyone (my parents and Dave) ready for him to be home. 4. With my darling Aunt Francie, my mom’s sister (weekends mostly). The latter was definitely my preference as her own lovely children had grown and moved out or were almost off to college, in other words, busy chasing their dreams, creating their lives. She enjoyed my company and I enjoyed hers. We were a great fit.

Dave didn’t return home permanently from Rancho Los Amigos until about 18 months later when I was 9. There was not that much crossover time for Scott or Anne living with him as their lives were developing and full on their own as they should have been. Anne was in high school and busy growing her budding relationship with her now-husband of like a hundred years already. Whatever that math is, that long. Scott had graduated high school and was focused on making a career for himself. Linda was already long gone. That left me the youngest at 9 and Dave the oldest, 20, at home basically, full time.

I lived at home another roughly 20 years at least with him. I never thought about how much more contact I had with Dave after his accident than my siblings. I am not bragging, nor am I suggesting that Dave was closest to me because we were in closer physical contact than any of our other siblings after his accident. I cannot suggest that at all. I can’t even theorize if Dave was closer to any one of us because he never for one moment shared a vibe to hint one way or another. When in his presence, he had that ability to make you feel like you were the most important person in the world to him, exactly who he wanted to be hanging out with. And I don’t mean that he turned the charm on or off. I mean he exuded such warmth at all times that he was magnetic and a pleasure to hang out with. I think secretly each of us assumes WE were his closest sibling because at that moment it was true. Dave lived that strongly in the moment of the here and now to be all in with you.

I know without a doubt that I nagged him to write his autobiography more than my siblings. I have felt like I have this particular role in finishing writing what he barely started because of my background, or because I was actually meeting with him regularly to help him in his process, or because I have time to do so. The more I researched, met with his friends and asked family members questions, I kept experiencing giving more information away than receiving anything new. Turns out that I am the keeper of my brother’s stories.

I have sat on this story for some times. Yes, times. Many individual minutes, hours, days, years, in fact. Much times. When it was first apparent that I was going to be writing this story after all, basically on the drive to my mom’s house minutes after I got that call of bad fucking news, after laughing at the irony and how I knew he was laughing at me from somewhere, I sat down and started writing right away. Then I hit a wall.

I didn’t really cry all that much initially when he left the building. I have revealed everything I felt early in the book, so I am not going to repeat any of that. Pretty sure I was in shock for quite some time. But as I thought about, wrote and viscerally relived each story through the process of forcibly hacking them out on my laptop, I would get sniffly. I thought about silly things like how he always said ‘Yo-GURT’ like he was barfing. He detested yogurt. It is a stupid thing, but it grossed me out and made me laugh every time he said it. There isn’t really a story that revolves around him saying ‘Yo-GURT’ per se, he just said it to be silly. I can hear him barfing it out every time I open a container of “Yo-GURT,” and it still makes me smile.

The more I wrote, the more I began to experience something new, unfamiliar, and very unpleasant. Oh, THIS is grief. By grief, wait, to be more accurate, I should say I cried. I probably really should say I wept, typing away through my blinding tears rolling down, WAIT, a deluge is moving more in the right direction describing the uncontrollable tears that fell as I unzipped these memories and everything just poured the fuck out. I was always happy to have finished one essay, not just for the fact of completing something but for living the beauty of whatever moment I thought was worthwhile enough to take the time to write down. But it was exhausting at the same time. So I stopped. I needed a fucking breather. Whew.

Then time passed, and I thought I might forget this or that story. The challenge of writing from memory is you may not remember what you are leaving out even if you think you remember everything, and I began to worry. The worry led me to freeze into that no man’s land of writer’s block. In a way, this biography should write itself. It’s not like it takes any real creativity to document what you witness. I am not making this shit up. It all happened. I thought maybe I should wait for ALL the memories to be remembered. That sounds pretty stupid in retrospect to me too. I am going to retroactively blame it again on shock, retroactive shock. It’s not like we arrive on the planet knowing how to write a biography that we never intended to write in the first place. That works, doesn’t it?

My grieving process could only be handled in small doses. One story was enough to wring me out with both laughter and more flash floods of tears likely to the point of extreme dehydration. Then I would feel physically horrible after crying so much, which made me avoid thinking about or doing anything to move things forward. So everything came to a halt again.

I have no idea what stage of the five stages of grief I would be adjudicated to at this point, of the grief process, but it’s all really bullshit anyway right? The idea being that if there is a finite number assigned to grief that we will someday reach the end of it and be done. In truth, there is no end to grief, I am happy to say that it can change, or at least my grief has, a little. Of course, every situation surrounding every experience of grief is unique and follows no predictable path or timetable. I am going to go ahead and just knock this shit out, try to maintain my hydration, a stash of kleenex, eyedrops, Advil and be done with it. And then I’ll be done grieving for sure. LOL… out loud.

There are plenty of people who in death become memorialized in a saintly manner that is so much more flattering than the reality they lived. In between outlining the stories of each person who spoke at our Viking Funeral and their beautiful connections to Dave, I am going to share short story character insights that will each in nuance help paint the portrait of Dave as best as I can. The details will hopefully provide clarity of his hilarious humor; general bravery; grace; sense of honor; adventurous game for anything spirit; generosity; zest for life; calm nature; love for spicy and sweet food-or FOOD; Music; Movies; and sage listening and advice he gave. Everything that I can think of which will no doubt still be incomplete, but may help you draw your own conclusions of who Dave was.

I reviewed my entire life and never had an encounter with Dave that could be defined as an argument, he never raised his voice to me. He was never a pill or grouchy in my presence. I mentioned that I was trying to make sure that I painted a clear image of Dave and honestly, I could bitch about anything if I let myself, but I couldn’t think of any actual character flaws.

I called Anne and explained, “I am trying to be very honest and not ridiculous in my comments about what a lovely human Dave was. The only thing I came up with that wasn’t perfect is that he was terrible with money.” He hadn’t matured in that aspect of adulthood because he really didn’t have to. My parents were the custodian of his finances. When he started working, he spent his money freely on the latest cool unnecessary gadget like most children. She laughed and agreed and added, “He WAS terrible with money! But he was just…such a good person.” Ok, so It’s not me, and I am not exaggerating. In ongoing conversations, while writing this book, Anne and I have both realized how we NEVER spoke of that time in our family back then or of Dave in depth before this time. It has been an interesting examination of our family dynamic and of life and grieving for certain.

After writing for several years, like everyone handling the grief of others with kid gloves, I finally told my mom that I was working on this book. For the first time in my life, I asked her questions about everything I thought I needed to know, unpleasant questions about her experience at that time.

Her first response was that after she got everyone out of the house for the day, to school or to work, she cried all the hours she was alone in between spending time with Dave, taking him his breakfast, lunch, and dinner of course. She said she cried every day he was in the hospital.

She described praying for a miracle for Dave for years before she realized that she had her miracle all along, having such an amazing person in her life, witnessing his life in tandem with her own and all the kindness of humanity, his friends, her friends and family surrounding her. Her prayers were answered all along, and she was so grateful. I could only nod in agreement with her between my validly breaking heart for her experience and joy at her recognition of what grew to be an amazing life experience for both her and my brother. She was by far his closest friend on this planet. She saw and knew all. I had felt bad for my mom and dad all those years but felt something different finally, relief, retroactive relief that she recognized the beauty in the most difficult days of her life. I was so happy I was brave enough to ask her questions. The answers were so much better than expected!

From feeling a proud connectedness to him when the announcements at football games said our shared name out loud when I was a toddler, maybe the real purpose and believe me I have questioned why on earth I was ‘stuck’ with this ridiculous extreme memory feature is to compile every snippet of every memory of him. He was such an unbelievable role model, this really lovely soul whom I was lucky enough to have watched, walked beside, learned from, laughed with, now documented. We need more stories like his to inspire us mere mortals!

Rancho Los Amigos 1974-75

Unedited excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down for previous chapters. Thank you all for reading this far, for all your comments, and for letting me drop all these words on the world of you. XO M

At some point about a year after being in the hospital, Dave had made as much of a recovery as he was going to. Staying in the hospital was not what he needed. It was decided that he would go to another facility for disabled individuals, Rancho Los Amigos, in Downey, California. He was there for rehab, to learn how to live the rest of his life as a quadriplegic, a “quad,” a completely paralyzed man. It was at this place that he was fitted for his first electric wheelchair and learned to use it with his mouth operated controls. This facility supports those with life-changing disabilities, so I am sure they serve people beyond spinal injuries, but I don’t recall anyone walking around.

He was there for months and eventually began coming home on the weekends. I am sure these weekends were preparing my parents to care for him more than anything. I rode with my parents to pick him up for the weekend. There was what felt like to my 8-year-old self at that time, a lot of intense energy in this place, especially compared to the oppressive silence of Wing 700 at SBCH. You had to pay attention to what could have been a freight train of mass flying one way or the other, paraplegics who could use their arms, were racing each other in traditional wheelchairs down long hallways, shouting competitive jabs at each other laughing as they wheeled themselves down the hall neck-and-neck at breakneck speeds if I dare say. Who would have thought those words would be put to use in this way before…but I witnessed it, and it was fine. It felt like a frat house, minus the booze and chicks. No one chose to be a member, but the spirit of the place was pretty pleasantly wild.

He eventually transitioned to being at home full time with my parents caring for his every physical need. Of course, everyone else, family or friend(s) helped out with simple things like feeding him, filling his water thermos, holding the phone to his ear while he talked, scratching an itch, wiping his eyes with a cloth, turning on the radio, putting on a record, or changing the channel on the TV way before the days of remote controls. We didn’t usually bathe him, dress him, or put him in his wheelchair, but on rare occasions we did. Our parents carried out that more personal care. He didn’t get up in his wheelchair every day, but he had a sponge bath and a change of sheets on his bed every day. My parent’s personal care for him kept him bedsore free for the entire time they cared for him, which was more than 35 years. For those who understand the nature of bedsores and paralyzed people, this is a big deal…no bedsores, 35 years. By comparison, Christopher Reeves reportedly suffered with bedsores in his brief life following his accident… plenty of money, just not the right care. That is how well cared for Dave was. When Dave heard about “Superman” having bedsores, he tried to figure out how to get in touch with him or his people to shed some light on how to avoid bedsores but didn’t get through. By the way, the secret is understanding moisture and friction are what cause bedsores. My parents used a combination of lambs wool and lots of baby powder to wick away moisture from his body.

His friends continued to visit him daily when he returned home. Our house swelled on the weekends into THE party house. There was always beer and music. There were usually 20-30 people every Friday and Saturday night. Romances budded. Poker games were hosted. There was so much beer and always great music.

I loved hearing the guys sing the lyrics to Shattered by the Rolling Stones… they mumbled through most of the complicated early rap-like verses but always managed to shout ‘and sex and sex and sex and sex and look at me….I’m in tatters! Shadobee, I’m shattered, what ya say? Shadobee, I’m shattered.” Or another favorite of theirs (and mine) lyrics from Miss You, also by the Stones. The Imaginary Band as they, his friends referred to themselves, belted out the chorus “Who who ooo ooo oo oo, who ooo ooo oo oooo oo oo, Lord I miss you!!” In sloppy drunken harmony.

Saturday mornings, it was my job to empty the trash. I mentioned previously my five-minute job that I managed to take all day to complete, was to empty all the trash cans in the house. Sunday I also emptied his trash can again. He had a large metal trashcan that was designed to look like a Coors Beer Can. It is a good thing it was metal, and it was a good thing it didn’t leak. His trash can was always very heavy with stinky, leaking the dregs of those beer bottles. It was an expected outcome of so much fun. Our house was healing. I was so happy to once again live in a house full of laughter, actually, more laughter than ever.

Annie Stubbs came by my parents’ house to visit with Dave too, she called to check-in on him every now and then. She sent him a card on his birthday with $5, forever. They had such a sweet appreciation for each other, it was lovely to witness. I would sometimes answer the phone to Annie asking to speak to David. In the early years, I would hold the phone up to Dave’s ear while he spoke to her. His excited to hear from her side of the conversation would sound something like this, “I’m just FIIIIINE Annie! How are YOU? Oh, ya, I can’t complain either. I’m just layin’ around (giggles at his joke about himself) watchin’ the boob tube. What’s new with YOOOU? That sounds nice. (PAUSE) Oh, that is so very kind of you to check on me, thank you so much, Annie, Ok, thank you again, Byyyyye.” You could hear the smile and appreciation in his tone as he spoke to her. I just loved hearing my brother talking to this sweet little old lady.

My parents had a den upstairs where they retired after dinner to watch television. When Dave first came home, they, my dad, had to go downstairs to answer the door every evening to let the first person who arrived in. From that point on, whoever was in Dave’s room would answer the door for the rest of the evening.

Over a very short period, my parents had extra keys made so they would not have to go all the way downstairs to answer. I have no idea how many keys floated out and about among his friends. I had no idea of this brilliant tactic until many years later when Brian let himself in the front door ahead of me with a key from his key ring as we were both heading in the door. I remarked, “Oh, you have a key? ” He said with an obvious tone that conveyed, Of course, I’ve got a key when he said: “Uh, I’ve had it for… decades.” I loved finding that out. I told Dave about it later, and he had the same tone of duh, “Many keys have been handed out.” Made sense. My parents really were smart. This was the extra sandwiches make life easier logic in full force…but morphed into house keys.

After Dave left the building, it was suggested that my mom really consider changing the locks and she did so making all those keys obsolete. Brian was given a new key. My son has a key. I don’t think I have a key.

1973-74 Wing 700

Raw, unedited excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to read previous chapters. Thank you all for your love and support. I love and adore you all. XO M

Back at the hospital, After Dave was stabilized, he was moved from the Intensive Care Unit to Wing 700. He was the shining star of the hospital. Everyone loved him because he was pret-TEE lovable. He had a great attitude and faced every day the best he could. He didn’t bitch about anything. He had so many friends come to visit him every day that even in the days of stupid and strict Visitor Rules, the staff moved his room closest to the entrance in the wing. They advised his friends to just tap their keys on the glass doors so they would be heard…someone would let them in whatever time they came.

And they came. Every day, every evening, someone or more than one person was visiting with Dave. On the weekends thirty or more people would be in his room with the door closed and his brand-new swank stereo system cranking some classic Rock. They pulled pranks on the staff with fake spilled beer cans and fake barf or fake dog poop here and there. None of the staff ever complained. They seemed to appreciate the dedicated friendship they witnessed in that room for that lovely young man. They knew he was special, that his circumstance sucked and they took good care of him. He met people in the hospital both staff and patients who became part of his life forever.

One patient, Vince who had ended up partially paralyzed due to a suicide attempt was so despondent from surviving his suicide attempt, then waking up paralyzed on top of whatever drove him to try to take his life in the first place, I can’t even imagine the pain of all of this. The staff thought they should connect him somehow with Dave. They asked Dave if he would share a room for a brief period with Vince to help him come around. Dave agreed.

They shared a room, and Vince benefitted from Dave’s amazing spirit and all the kind young people who came to visit who completely brought Vince into the fold of their collective friendship. There were whoopee cushions, fake turds placed tastefully here and there, fun artwork taped to the walls, along with Dave, his people, and the music and laughter. I remember coming across a photo of the two of them in their room showing off wildly colorful (hideous) silly socks with individual toes that my mom’s sister, my Aunt Francie had bought for them, they were both utterly and completely cracking up. I loved seeing their laughter immortalized on film. Vince had a great experience being with Dave, and he did find his way out of his depression. They were friends from that point on which is how every friendship with Dave came about, introduction, lifelong connection. Vince had full use of his hands. Years later, he would stop by my parent’s house to visit with Dave. He drove with a specially designed van which I thought was the coolest thing…way cooler than any James Bond gadget at that time. I just loved to hear them laugh. Vince was Dave’s first official foray into talking someone off the ledge, professional counseling…he just didn’t recognize it as his life’s calling at the time.

The hospital staff bonded with Dave. He was such a gracious and beautiful being exuding such humanity, to begin with, but was so appreciative and respectful to them for their care.

One nurse must have spoken about Dave to a family member who thought he sounded so interesting that she wanted to meet him. That is how Annie Stubbs met Dave. She was an older African-American woman who would bake something for him and come to visit him in her Sunday best, just to check on him. It was so touching that this older woman was compelled to connect to this random paralyzed 18-year-old kid in the hospital and for the rest of his life. She was as beautiful a human as he was so it really makes perfect sense when you understand the birds of a feather principle retroactively and can clearly identify all the birds and feathers that surrounded, and filled his entire life.

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.

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.