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MENTAL PICTURES

5 February 2002

I have been dating these journal entries screwy--but you knew that. I date for the day it will be read, so an entry dated February 5, to be read on February 5 is really about February 4. I suppose I should take a day off and let the dates catch up, but I've been doing it this way for nearly 2 years now, so why switch.

But this entry is being written on the evening of February 4, so it is about February 4, even though it's dated the 5th. It's an important fact to get straight today.

I've had this mental image flitting in and out of my brain all day.

In the picture, I'm sitting on the edge of the front lawn in our house in Oakland. We lived there until we moved here in 1973. In the days when we were living in Oakland, it was still safe enough to let the kids play in front of the house with minimal supervision. There were lots of kids in the neighborhood and all of us moms kind of kept half an eye on all of them. The older kids took care of the younger ones.

My favorite memory of those days takes me back to the edge of that lawn, looking down the slight incline at this tiny figure with outstretched arms toddling in my direction at top speed. David, with a huge grin on his face, coming up to me and throwing his arms around me in a big bear hug.

He was 18 months when we moved here, so he must have been about 15 months old when he used to do this. I love thinking about those days. And about the big hug and the huge smile.

David gave good hugs and had a terrific smile. I've said before that I still hold the mental picture of the last time I saw him, standing in the hallway in his leather jacket, holding his arms out just like he did as a toddler, with a big smile on his face as he closed me in a bear hug and told me he'd see us when we returned from our trip to New York.

I'm sure there were people--somewhere--who perhaps didn't like David. But I never met one. He charmed everybody. He was everybody's best friend. And I learned after his death that he was everybody's confidante.

I wasn't happy when I discovered David was expected. Jeri, Ned and Paul had all breastfed for a year or less and I'd always wanted to nurse longer. Tom did. He and I had this very special relationship that I was thoroughly enjoying, and I was unhappy to learn that there would be a little interloper in a few months. I remember the day I realized I was pregnant, sinking to my knees and crying because I wasn't ready for a fifth child.

I also remember some months after David was born (and of course I loved him when he came, even though he did kind of end the special part of my relationship with Tom, who very definitely felt replaced--I've always regretted that). On this day, David was in his "jolly jumper" bouncing up and down with this huge grin on his face. Grins from David in those years were very special because he had these huge brown eyes and looked at the world very seriously, as if he was trying to figure it all out and wasn't going to commit himself to a smile until he really wanted to. But on this day he was just lovin' being able to jump up and down. I looked over at him and my heart just melted. I had always loved him, but I'd finally fallen under the spell of this tiny creature.

When he was about a year old, Walt was working in the back yard and David and I were sitting on the bed in the boys' room, looking out the open window and talking to Daddy. David laughed and leaned too far out the open window. I couldn't catch him and he fell right on the top of his head onto the concrete. We rushed him off the Kaiser and they could find nothing wrong with him, except that he was a little dazed. Recent studies connected with shaken baby syndrome have shown what long-term damage head trauma can do, things that weren't known back in 1972. I've had to accept that possibly a lot of David's problems growing up dated back to that fall on his head.

He was terribly bright, but had a difficult time finding his niche in school. He had lots of friends and did more partying than anything else, as he got older. I remember the morning of high school graduation. He looked at me with this blank stare and said, in some shock, "what now?" It just hit him that he'd blown his school years and did not have the grades for college, or any skills for a job.

Fortunately, though he didn't have the grades, he had a good enough SAT score that he was able to get into Chico State and started there, but he couldn't find a direction and he had a sort of nervous breakdown. I remember coming home one night and finding David and Jeri in a totally dark house. They had started talking and Jeri didn't feel she could break away to turn the lights on. She looked relieved when I came home to take over.    David and I sat up talking for hours. He cried and cried and told me that his "brain wasn't right." He didn't know what was wrong with his brain but something about it wasn't right. We had no clue he felt that way. No clue at all.

We got him into therapy and he was started on Paxil, a drug he carefully researched at the UCD Medical Library before starting it. He was extremely reluctant to put any drug in his body (ironic, since we later learned he'd been drinking for years by that time). But he did agree to start the drug. Within a week or two, he came to me with that big grin on his face and told me that his brain was "right" for the first time in his life.

I've thought about that a lot since he died and always go back to that one horrible moment when he slipped out of my hands and landed on the concrete.

He told me on that awful night when he confessed his brain wasn't right that he knew he wasn't going to live a long life. Perhaps that's why he had problems settling down, why he never had a serious girlfriend, why he never made long-range plans. Somehow he knew.

I'm thinking a lot about David today because it would have been his 30th birthday. Hard to imagine David at 30.

I'm feeling bad because it was such a busy day that I didn't get flowers out to the cemetery today.

I suppose it's really OK. Tomorrow will do just as well. He's not going anywhere. Ever again.

Davepainting.jpg (14765 bytes)
This painting was done by artist
Phoebe Storey, whose son Jeff
was David's best friend

 

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Created 2/04/02