It’s Sunday April 23, 2010, 10:23 pm. I’m in bed. I must be at work the next morning at 7am. The phone rings. My brother Doug is on the other end of the line. It’s unusual for him to call me so late. I’m not asleep. But a nightmare is about to begin . . .
Dougie telephoned me regularly. Over the years, he’s called every few weeks or months. I could pick-up on the different tones in his voice. I knew instinctively knew how he was doing.
This call though was different; I couldn’t figure it out. Dougie never sounded like that before. Even so, the call didn’t unsettle me. Our conversation consisted of a few short words:
“Hey, what are you doing?” Dougie asked,
“Nothing, just lying in bed. What are you doing?”
“Just driving around.”
“I just called to tell you I love you.”
“Well, I love you too.”
That was the call. We usually have more to say, but neither of us are particularly talkative on the phone. I turned to my wife and said “that was strange.”
Doug is my little brother, or more correctly, my younger brother. He’s six-foot tall and weighs about 210. We’ve always been close.
Every year after I graduated college, Dougie and I would go backpacking through Colorado or New Mexico. Back in 1990, we made a 21-hour trek from West Texas to Yellowstone. We backpacked in the Bridger Wilderness Area of the Wind River Range south-east of Yellowstone. The Wind River Range’s terrain is straight out of a science fiction movie.
My youngest daughter had just turned six; it was her first backpacking trip with Dad and Uncle Dougie. My grandson turned six this month. I hope we’ll be taking him on his first backpacking trip this summer. Then again, it may be a very long time before Dougie smells the air of freedom again.
The second call came at one AM. It was Mom. I instantly knew her world had changed.
Mom’s didn’t sound that stressed when she told me Dad was bleeding is his chest following heart surgery. Dad’s chest was opened up three times in 24 hours. The first two to perform the needed repairs and the second two to find the source of the bleeding. When the surgeons were done, they’d used 50 units of blood. That was in 1996 and Dad is still with us.
Unfortunately, Dad is living through a new kind of torment.
Mom, simply said: Ken, Doug has shot and killed two men. We don’t know what happened or why. He’s in his car driving around and calling people. We are very afraid of what he might do. He has called an attorney who is supposed to meet him this afternoon.”
And so the story begins. It’s not only Doug’s story. It’s the tale of a crushing blow delivered to our extended family.
My older brother was on an excursion with friends when he received his call. While he was many yards away from his friends, they heard his wailing and approached him thinking he had somehow mysteriously been hurt.
My older brother received a call and wailed. Doug was never successful in reaching my eldest brother. I think Mom called him.
Until you live through this kind of a nightmare, the reality of such a call cannot be fully comprehended. But that’s exactly what you have to do: make sense of the incredible. And so the journey began . . .
[This is the first of a three-part series. Click here to read part two.]