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.

1970 Practical Jokers  

This chapter essay is from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down in the blog to read in the chapters in order beginning March 13. XO M

Speaking of streetlight rules, my older siblings were allowed to trick or treat on their own. I am not sure what age they reached when they were allowed to do so, but they did their own thing. Five children of varying ages never, EVER, want to do anything in sync. This includes not wanting to eat the same things, or hang out with a particular group of people, namely, younger siblings. They definitely have their own ideas about how they want to spend their Halloween.

This is the first Halloween on record that I remember. I was probably 4. In descending order, my siblings were: Ok, I really have no idea where Dave was, but he was definitely with Brian, see previously mentioned scissor hold. Also, no idea of the whereabouts of my oldest sister Linda either. Scott was with my cousin John and another friend Mike. I was to be partnered up with my older sister Anne who was about 9 and two of her friends. We trounced around a few streets near our home saying the magic “Trick or Treat” words and collecting candy in pillowcases on what was proving to be a dark and magical night.

This was my shaping up to be my favorite day (night) ever. I was beside myself with growing excitement as I came to know what is what on the neighborhood Halloween circuit. What is not to love? It is a holiday that revolves around candy. I got to stay up later than usual. I got to dress up, albeit in a cheaply made store-bought witch costume.

Most children in America wore costumes that showed up on drugstore shelves in October, the kind that came in a box with a clear plastic window.  The hard plastic mask peered out through the window. The costume was made of some wretched synthetic material that was terribly unfriendly to my skin. The mask was held in place by a piece of elastic that pulled at my hair and made my face hot and sweaty from breathing. I would have worn that awful getup the next day and every day thereafter if I could continue the momentum of collecting candy from strangers by simply shouting “Trick or Treat!” Halloween remains my favorite holiday to this day! Again, candy.

The only rule of Halloween other than saying the magic words was that we were not allowed to eat any candy until we got home (period). No exceptions (period). Easy enough. There may have been another rule I was unaware of like you can only go X far or be home by X time, but that was not for me to know at that point in time. Just don’t eat anything until we get home.

My cousin John (belonging to my aunt Francie who was passing out candy with my mom), my other brother Scott and their friend Michael from their class at our neighborhood Catholic school were roughly middle school age. Boys that age do not want anything to do with being slowed down with the boat anchor that is a pre-school age “baby” wearing a witch costume or nine-year-old children wearing whatever they were wearing either. They had serious business to conduct. They had many miles to cover in our greater neighborhood, casting a much wider net dredging up the serious candy.

When our little group returned home, I learned about the standard Halloween protocol. We dumped our cache of candy on the living room carpet so that our mom and aunt could inspect our candy for; 1) anything suspicious that may harm us which was never the case and 2) their specific favorite chocolate bars that were picked out of our haul and eaten by the two of them simply because it was…tradition. Who was I to question? When I read this essay out loud to my mom, she laughed and laughed at her strategic, self-sweet-tooth-serving rule.

There we were sprawled out on the 70s avacado green carpet of the living room floor adding far too much sugar to my existent buzz from the magical thrill of my first big girl’s Halloween when suddenly… the house went dark! “Oh!!” We all shouted in reflex at being startled.

A moment later, Dave and Brian loudly entered the house from the garage, attempting to scare us further. I definitely was scared. It was dark after all. Our fuse box was in the garage, and Dave and Brian thought it would be HILARIOUS to try to scare us by shutting off the power to the house for a moment on this Halloween night.

My mom and aunt squealed with relief and giggled at the boys with very little annoyance. Knowing my mom as I do now, I am pretty sure she quickly weighed the moment of surprise against having to figure out how to make the lights come back on and decided she was fine with a little prank rather than having to go into the garage and figure that mess out with the fuse box in the dark and all. My first Halloween and my first big kid prank, not hers, though.

Having five children will teach you to prepare for the unexpected and remain calm when such mischiefs are carried out. Pranks were just an ordinary day-in-the-life occurrence for my mom, especially with these two knuckle-heads. Our kitchen window was close to the street. When the kitchen lights were on at night, it was hard to see outside much past a few feet. It was not uncommon for either Dave or Brian to come up close to the window, and quietly wait in an attempt to startle her while she was doing dishes. Every time she would initially scream, then one second later shout out the name of whichever boy whose face was closest to the window either, “BRIAAAAN!!” or “DAVIIIID!!”

It was also not uncommon to be startled by either one of these two in the dark, where they would wait to startle innocent passersby anywhere in the house with a “BOO!!” followed by a scream from the innocent passerby and then usually a pathetic swipe of an air-slug at the lying-in-wait offender. Why do boys, in particular, think this is funny?

Halloween was winding down, all the tricks or treats, pranks or other mayhem window was coming to its expected close. On the heels of the prank, as the crescendo of laughter tapered off, my brother Scott and cousin John rushed into the house like a mini running of two bulls in Pamplona. An entirely different kind of energy entered with them. They were wound up. Something had happened, something scary. I noticed I was holding my breath.

We had to wait as they caught their breath for the dramatic details to unfold. Scott explained between breaths that the three of them, he, my cousin John and Mike, were making a killing with their Trick or Treating enterprise, not business, an enterprise. They had strategically covered many, many blocks, rung many doorbells, fulfilled their side of the “Trick-or-Treat” contract by saying those magic words, and collected their earned salary of candy.

They were not far from home when some older boys jumped out from behind some bushes and surrounded them. The older boys snatched their pillowcases of candy before the boys really knew what was happening. The three boys stood there surrounded by, for lack of better words, these older teen thugs. The interrogation began, starting with my brother Scott.

The guy holding Scott’s bag of candy sneered; “What’s your name?”

Frightened, he answered; “Scott.”

“Scott, what?”

“What?”

“What is your last name?”

“Linane.”

“What’d you say?” Sounding a little surprised.

“Scott Linane.”

A momentary pause in the Halloween candy grift occurs…

“Are you Dave Linane’s brother?”

“Y-Yesss.”

To that information, the older boys looked nervously at each other, without discussion between them, they quickly shoved the pillowcases of candy back at the younger trick or treater boys and split.

Shaken by their almost near-death candy theft experience, the young boys bolted the short distance directly home. It took a breath for the discomfort of the scary encounter to leave them as the realization hit them that they were lucky to fall under the safety umbrella of a gentle giant, whose reputation for being feared was far greater than needed. Until that moment no one knew the existence or extent of the shadow of Dave’s protection.

My mom, well, all of us were horrified as one might imagine a little kid being “jumped” for Halloween candy. We all were relieved that the boys escaped unscathed, that mere mention of Dave’s name had saved the day for Scott, John and their friend.  We all ended up laughing at Scott acting out how the thug reacted and shoved the candy back at him, practically patting him on the head with a “no harm, no foul” sort of behavior.

Dave had played every sport in Junion High and citywide baseball. As mention by Brian in his eulogy, he was a Freshman in High School playing on the Varsity Football team at that point. This was also back in time when sporting events filled the newspaper more than bad news, so he had had a bit of press by that time. He obviously already had a reputation that proceeded him. Dave stood there taking in the story without revealing much more than a mild grin of interest.

I recall very few occasions that Dave was home that Brian was not right there beside him, either at the dinner table, on his Schwinn bike with the crazy tall handlebars, or when he was the first to get his driver license in the entire group of friends and had a car, a Chevelle. He was always ready for another prank, defend the universe with a ride or die verve with Dave, whatever, he was all in. This was just the first big prank I was on the receiving end of. There were plenty more.

Thank you for reading the stories of this blog that are the life of my late brother Dave Linane. I so appreciate your comments and stories of your lost loved ones. Please consider sharing with anyone who might benefit from this story of triumph over life and grief! XO M

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.

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.