Thursday, October 01, 2015

Farewell, David

David was always pushing it.  He drove too fast, partied too hard, and to borrow a phrase from Dad, he let his mouth write too many checks that his ass couldn't cash.  His life was wild, a controlled chaos, but when his first wife died, young and unexpectedly, control began to slip away and only the chaos remained.  He began to unravel.  Sometimes, when life gives you lemons, it's damn near impossible to make lemonade.  Such was the case for David, and he would spend nearly a decade battling addiction and depression, trying to reconcile the loss of his wife and that which remained in the world of the living.

During the years of struggle, there was always some new calamity lurking.  Between the vehicle accidents, medical scares, and other mishaps, David faced grim odds more than once, and time and time again, he managed to prevail like some cat with nine lives.  In late September when he suffered a heart attack and fell into a coma, I was told that he was in bad shape, that this time was different, that death was near.  I was also told there was a slim chance he'd pull through.  The doctors didn't put a number on it like you see on TV, but even if the odds of survival were a mere one percent, I fully expected David to take that and run.  Surely he had one more ace up his sleeve.

His coma had its ups and downs, and every time I received a positive report, no matter how small, I knew it was only a matter of time before he opened his eyes.

It wasn't meant to be.

Once the neurologist confirmed that David had no brain activity, he was disconnected from the machines that kept him alive.  He didn't die right away, though.  He slumbered on twenty-one hours more before he breathed his last dramatic breath, surrounded by family.


I obviously knew David my entire life, but my strongest memories come from childhood.

Oddly enough, I don't actually remember some of my "memories".  Rather, I've heard them second-hand, woven into the family mythology by my parents.  Probably the earliest story of this variety happened when I was still shy of my first birthday.  I was attempting to take my first step, and David famously knocked me down.  I guess he preferred me as a crawler.

About a year later, we had another run-in.  We both had plenty of things to call our own, but David had something special.  Roughly one square meter of soft cotton, his blanket featured puppies on a yellow checkerboard background, and he loved it.  I loved it too, perhaps because it was so treasured, perhaps because that's what babies do.  We fought over that blanket off and on until one day Dad took a very Solomonic approach and ripped it down the center.  I went from having no share of the blanket to owning half, and I was elated.  David was devastated.

Over the course of the rest of our childhoods, he would exact his revenge.  Compared to David, I was a runt, and he rarely passed up an opportunity to dispense a noogie, Indian burn, or headlock, or to practice his favorite move, fart torture.  I, in turn, became a world-class cry-baby and tattle-tale.

There were good times too, of course.  Like many kids of our generation, we'd wake up early for Saturday morning cartoons.  The networks didn't broadcast 24 hours a day back then, so we'd often switch the TV on when it was only static.  This was no problem because with our blankets and sleeping bags, we came prepared to wait.  Eventually the Star-Spangled Banner would play and a flag would wave on the screen, signaling the start of the broadcast day.  While Mom and Dad took the opportunity to sleep a little later, we kids would sit in front of the TV for hours, proudly sporting our Underoos.  Rachel wore Wonder Woman; David, Superman; I was always Spiderman, and eventually Ben would join us as Batman.

I remember the electric fence experiments we conducted in rural Virginia while visiting relatives.  We'd join hands and the person on the end would grab the electrified fence.  We'd all feel the buzz.  Then we'd try other variations, with the last person touching the fence with different things like a broom handle or a clump of straw.  Fun like that ranked up there with playing in the creek!

Then there was the pizza problem.  For some reason, David would often get sick as a child when he'd eat pizza.  A related mystery was why my parents continued to let him eat it, but I suppose they were waiting for him to outgrow his reaction.  David and I slept on bunk beds, and he had the top one.  On pizza nights, he'd get sick in the middle of the night and puke off the side of his bed.  From my prime location, I could watch the vomit ooze down the wall and drip off his sheets.  And nine times out of ten, David would continue sleeping, seemingly unaware that he'd just turned our room into a bio-hazard contamination zone.  Struggling not to vomit myself, I'd have to fetch Dad to clean up the place.  No matter how hard we scrubbed, though, there was a red burst on our otherwise blue bedroom wall that never came out.

I remember camping with David, and the "Lord of the Flies" element he'd bring to the party.  Maybe he'd drop a bottle rocket in the campfire or maybe he'd push someone through a spiderweb.  In any case, he always brought some excitement.

In his teens, David caused a stir by becoming a cheerleader.  At the time, and maybe still to this day, the notion of a male middle-school cheerleader was unheard of in our small Tennessee town.  David did it to meet chicks, and it seemed to work.

I remember riding with him in his beloved Nissan 300ZX, and in particular the time he wedged the gas pedal with a stick, stood up through the t-top, and screamed at the top of his lungs while we careened down the highway at 50 miles per hour with no one at the wheel.  I played that off like it was no big deal, but of course it was terrifying.

I think back on the small things too - his smile, his drawl, his flair, his sentimentality.  We have a family joke that when three or more Calls get together, there will be tears before the night is over.  David was as sappy as anyone, and he would often be the one turning on the waterworks.  He could be a knuckle head at times, but he was our knuckle head.  He loved us, even though he didn't always show it.


Dreamer, schemer, charmer, snake-oil salesman.

Friend, lover, manipulator, good ole Southern boy.

Boy Scout, gear head, story-teller, addict.

Daredevil, romantic, body-builder, joker.

Son, brother, father of six, grandfather twice over.

David Allan Call

July 23, 1974 - October 1, 2015

Miss you.  Love you... and sorry about the blanket.

Rest in Peace.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Chris! Lovely tribute!!!

Loveya, Dad

Anonymous said...

So well written Chris. I read it twice. Our condolences. Take care.

Don and Todd.

Sharon said...

Oh dear... Well, we had plenty of opportunity to electrify ourselves between the fences at our farm, Uncle Skinny's and Uncle Bob's! I love these memories of David. Wish I could see you more often. If you ever find yourself scheduling a trip to St. Louis, you guys always have a place to stay here :)

Anonymous said...

Oh I'm so sorry

Ollie and Floyd said...

Hi Chris -
I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I hope that you and your family can find comfort with each other and in memories of your brother. There was a death in my family not too long ago and though the sadness can be overwhelming, I do believe that when this life is over we will once again see those we've loved and lost. I hope you can feel that assurance. May God bless you and your family.

Unknown said...

Dearest Chris
As always your words are beautiful . I have tears in my eyes . The story is lovely . I can see that you miss him .May God grant him the highest place in Heaven .
Please convey my condolences to your mom .
It must be a huge loss for her .
Hugs ,Anj

Eleanor White said...

Chris, what a beautiful memorial to David. So sorry for your loss. Eleanor White

Lynda said...

I'm sooo sorry to hear of your brother's passing. My deepest condolences, along w/ my prayers & hugs for you & your family.
What a wonderful tribute to him! It also brought back fond memories of my own childhood--Saturday morning cartoons. ��
Take care, my friend. ~ Lynda

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your loss Chris. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Dear Chris,

I always read your posts but don't respond. Today I just wanted to tell you this tribute to your brother is beautifully written.

Having lost a younger sibling in the prime of her life, I can feel your sadness. We are left with special memories and they don't dim with age. They become treasures.


Anonymous said...

This was one of the sweetest tributes I have ever read. I am so sorry that you lost your brother.

My very best regards to you and your family,

Mary Ann Durham
Foreign Service colleague (retired)

Anonymous said...


What a beautiful tribute! I was moved by this.

My deepest condolences to you and your family. May you find peace and comfort in each other and knowing that your brother now rests in peace.

Joyce Mokis (Papua New Guinea)

Anonymous said...


I lost an older brother to cancer in 1992 and I know your pain. At my brother's funeral our Rabbi said that when someone old dies, you mourn the past. When someone young dies you mourn the future. Rest in peace David.

Oh, and by the way. I want you to write my obit.

Ray Pitesky

Aldo and Laura said...


We are very sorry for your loss, but you have made us feel as though we knew your brother too with your warm tribute to him. Our condolences. Laura and Aldo

Janelle said...

So very sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...


My deepest sadness over the loss of your brother. My heartfelt sympathies go out to you and your family.

I sincerely hope that you will find the strength to move ahead.

Li-Elina Solomon

Lindy Ransom said...


A heartbreaking and lovely tribute to your dear brother. I share your sadness, having lost my spouse and soul mate. At times it seemed impossible to overcome the grief, but given time it becomes more bearable. We'll never forget our loved ones. But we'll forever be thankful for having had them in our lives. Take care of yourself. Reach out if you need a shoulder or an ear. And you know your brother was thankful and grateful to have had you in his life.

With heartfelt condolences,

Patrick C. said...

Taking a look back and read this over again. Very touching, Chris. Love you and this collection of memories.