Brian Spoke Next

Chapter essay from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to March 13 for the first post to read in order. XO M

Brian stood comfortably at the podium. The bonfire was roaring at this point. He started by outlining Dave’s many accomplishments much like a coach would give a motivational speech. “Dave was an amazing athlete. He wrestled, played water polo, participated in track, and he played the position of center on the football team. Not very many freshmen are starting players on the Varsity Football team at a big high school, and San Bernardino High School probably had 3000 students at that time. It was a big deal that he started as a Freshman. He was chosen as an All-City, All-Star Player every year of high school. Do you know what that means? He was a very good player.”

I thought giving this eulogy would be hard on Brian. He is a lovely tender-hearted man. I knew he was hurting and I was worried about him, nervous for him. I am certain most people attending knew without a doubt the loss of his best friend was hurting him. They were the shadow of each other forever. Where would one be without the shadow of the other?

Brian is a great storyteller. This talent transferred seamlessly to public speaking…even thankfully, at a funeral. He had so much composure and warmth in his presence that the fear of the crowd, the fear of watching him struggle in this potentially emotional moment was calmed as he proceeded to crack us up conveying one of my very favorite stories in my life, the day he and Dave met.

“We both arrived at Arrowview Junior High School, 12 yeas old. Dave and I had independently joined a group of familiar guys that had gathered before school. The blend of several feeder elementary schools created a student body where many people knew someone but no one knew everyone the first morning of the school year. We stood around looking at each other and making very small talk before the bell rang when we headed to class.”

It was officially dark at this point. I wasn’t really looking at Brian but at the wild patterns the bonfire light was casting on the dark wall of hedges behind him. I was listening, enjoying his voice, knowing where his story was going from here. I could listen to him tell this story a dozen more times and still love it.

“The end of the school day arrived, and a similar group of guys had gathered after school like kids everywhere gather for the after school social scene. There was some discussion among the group of tryouts for the wrestling team.”

The crowd was rapt with Brian’s storytelling manner and felt the growing anticipation of certain drama headed our way fast…

“I was sizing up Dave, the biggest guy in the group and said, ‘So, I hear you’re tough?’

Dave coolly reacted, ‘What? I don’t know, I guess so.’ He was always modest, more of a put up or shut up kind of person.

‘Ya? Well, prove it!’

‘WhaT?’ (emphasis on hard ending with that T)

‘PROOOOVE IT! Right here. Right now, tough guy!’

Dave, as you can imagine, could not and would not turn away from a challenge to fight on the first day of school. That would be social suicide, a Junior High School career-ending move and on the first day.”

Heads were nodding, smiles were on faces, people were cracking up envisioning these two. I was so happy he was telling this story, the tears were rolling down my face as I was cracking up.

“We both threw down our stuff dramatically and grabbed each other in a wrestling clinch. The kids standing around us were surprised at how fast things were moving and went wild as kids do when a fight breaks out with chants of ‘FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!’ Other kids on campus heard the call of the wild, instinctively gathered in a growing circle around us, to witness us Duke it out.”

I loved looking around at the more than a hundred faces glowing in the bonfire light, their eyes as excited as those kids waiting for the two seventh-graders… “duking it out” so to speak.

Brian continued with the right amount of breathing space where people would laugh, and nod, he created comedic tension perfectly. “It wasn’t a bloody fight. I mean, we weren’t throwing blows, we were wrestling. It wasn’t long before we were both on the ground. We went and rolled around in circles on the grass one way, then the other, basically running in circles on our sides back and forth. We were pretty well matched.”

The surprising thing about these “kids” is that they were, in fact, full-grown by the age of 12. Brian was 6’2” 185 pounds and Dave was 5’11”more than 200 pounds of solid bulky muscle.

“We went around in circles for so long on that hot afternoon on the playfields of Arrowhead View Junior High that due to the lack of any blood, or clear progress between us, the crowd grew bored and slowly shrank to a smaller and smaller group until it was just me and Dave left. We both tried to gain advantage over the other unsuccessfully yet neither of us would give in. We had managed to work our way into a mutual Scissor Hold with each having our legs wrapped around the other with our feet crossed at the ankles, locked in place.”

I was uncontrollably, joyfully, bawling at this point, picturing those two wearing out a circle in the grass. I was taking in the magic of the moment in the looks of engagement on the faces of everyone in the flickering red-orange glow…feeling everyone enjoy this funny account of THE day these two met, shifting between complete silence waiting for the next detail from Brian and cracking up as he delivered each visual detail of the two of them as 12-year-olds.

“While being inextricably locked together in our mutual scissor hold, we managed to hold a conversation that de-escalated from jabs like ‘What are you going to do tough guy?’ ‘Oh, you’re going down!’ to periods of silence that turned into ice breaker type of questions and answers. ‘So, where do you live?’ We would attempt to overthrow the other briefly between breaths. ‘I live on Arrowhead. Where do you live?’ A couple more moves to attempt freedom or a pin. ‘I live on 17th Street.’ In between these attempted unsuccessful wrestling moves that extended for hours we exchanged the details of an entire personal history of the world in the life of two 12-year-olds, on that itchy grassy playfield that afternoon.”

I didn’t know for sure I was going to be writing a book about this night, this particular moment years later but everything about it was and is burned into the deepest places in my memory. I didn’t watch Brian, I watched the beautiful movie of firelight play over the crowd of faces with Brian narrating, relieving all of us from our grief for a time as the story I am sure became one of their favorites too. It was perfect.

“We wrestled so long that the street lights started to come on. As soon as they did Dave immediately shifted gears and exclaimed in a voice that conveyed something almost like panic, ‘I have to get home because my mom will get mad if I’m not there by the time the street lights come on!’ At this I busted out laughing at the tough guy whose mommy was going to get mad at him because he was home after the street lights came on. We agreed to a stalemate and let each other go.”

In early September in Southern California, the street lights, the silent detached curfew notification of our era would not have come on until dusk around 7:00 p.m. They wrestled from roughly the time school got out until the street lights came on. Talk about an ice breaker.

The time Brian spoke was short compared to their decades of time spent together, but it was the best story of the day their life together started. “Dave was a good listener. We could talk about anything. He helped me through some difficult times. People always say I am such a good friend to Dave, but they don’t realize that HE was such a good friend to me.” He finished by saying he was “gladly entangled from that day forward with that knuckle-head Dave.”


Thank you for reading this blog post. I have found it so very helpful in my grieving process to write and share about my brother. If you have a story of your loved one you would like to share with me, I would love to hear every word! Together we can move through the fire of grief. XO M

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.


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.


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 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!