Saturday, September 27, 2008


Brian is my brother. For those who do not know me, I rarely make in-law distinctions but for the purist, technically he is my wife’s, sister’s, husband’s, older brother. To my children he is Uncle Brian and because he lives in California they do not know him very well, which is a pity, because he is worth knowing. This blog is really more for my children and grandchildren. I want them to know how much Brian has always meant to me and why. I met Brian through his brothers, Dale and Marty. We were often together. Dale and I raised a few birds together, Marty was one of the few people who came around me and my father to work at church or Youth For Christ. Someday I will tell you about amazing Marty. My kids know Uncle Dale pretty well so they know his stories. I did not know Brian very well before he went off to Viet Nam as an MP/foot soldier. He was a nice boy from a solid Christian home that was totally unprepared for the horrors of the front line. By the time he left the military he was severely injured, both physically and emotionally. To be honest, he was scary. When he got home no one knew how to help him transition back into normal civilian life. I was a youth pastor in our home town and had a totally useless degree in Psychology, but I wanted to help. I was spared the Viet Nam experience and I felt helping Brian transition would be one way I could contribute. Those first few months were to say the least interesting. Brian would call, usually about once a week, seeking help. Sometimes he had been drinking, sometimes he was just in some place, some state of mind, I had never been. I said he was scary. I never felt threatened but I understood why others might. In the middle of a seemingly normal conversation he would drift off and explain how he could cut your head off with one jerk of a piano wire around your neck or mock demonstrate how he could incapacitate you with a strategic blow from the cane that was, of necessity, always at his side. Many nights Brian slept on the front couch and Deanna made me slide the bed in front of the door so he could not get in. I quickly learned that I had no way of relating to Brian’s experiences that if the retelling was only 10% true, it would have been utterly terrifying. I had not seen what he saw or had to deal with what he dealt with. He hurt in ways that I did not know how to reach. I threw out my degree in Psychology and went straight to The Book. It usually took 2.5 hours and it always followed the same pattern. Brian would call and I would meet him or he would come over, usually between 11 and 12PM. Brian would tell me what was on his mind. It was always a blend of memory, confusion, frustration, depression and desperation. After he had gone through the story twice I would pick up my Bible and start reading passages to him that I thought would help. The first passage did not always or even often help. Somewhere between the first and Twelfth passage Brian would stop me with “that’s it, that’s what I need.” Rarely did I understand what it was about that particular passage but it was usually between 2 and 3 am so I didn’t really care, or dare ask. Brian would be off to sleep in a few minutes. That process continued for months and Brian ultimately made it all the way home mentally. Physically he still needs the cane, a part of his contribution to our freedom. As Brian improved I asked him to help me out with the youth group I was taking care of. We ran a Junior High group of up to 90 on Wednesday nights from 4 to 8 PM and a large High School group on the weekends. Very quickly Brian became indispensible to me. If I told of all the stories it would take hours, but for my Grandkids, I want to record a sample because once Brian risked his life for me…literally, and once a man’s life was spared because Brian was NOT there and more often than not, Brian could read my mind or anticipate where I would be and what I would need.
Story ONE: First you need to know that as youth pastor I had to drive the church bus. I don’t like to drive the church bus, as a matter of fact I hated the church bus! We were only 90 minutes out of Downtown LA and it was not unusual to run the kids to some event, ballgame, beach or whatever in LA. Brian and I usually made the trips alone with 40 or so kids. The bus was critically unreliable and Brian drove a cb radio equipped escort car. I was behind the wheel of the bus but Brian did the driving from the escort car. Before a trip to an unknown area Brian would plot out our course. As I would drive down the freeway Brian was better than any TOM TOM today. He would block the traffic behind me in the lane I needed to go to and I would hear my instructions on a TUBE STYLE CB radio. I didn’t even have to look in the mirror to see if the lane was empty. Of course I looked, but it was always empty. We were on a side street off Sunset Strip in Hollywood. The bus was packed and the breaks failed while coming down a hill into a blind intersection. I frantically told Brian of the problem. " No breaks, I’m gonna run the stop.!" Quick as a flash Brian passed the bus and shot straight into the intersection, stopped the station wagon in the middle, jumped out and stopped all the traffic as the brakeless bus full of teens ran the stop and through the intersection. Would we have wrecked? Maybe, I do not know. All I know is Brian, with no though for his personal safety brought a major street in Hollywood to a full stop seconds before I got there.

Story Two: On another weekend outing in San Diego I had to step between two gang members and another youth pastor who had caught them doing something they were not supposed to be doing. I don't remember waht. This youth pastor was also a school bus driver in LA where they are taught NEVER back down to a gang member. When I arrived all I saw was the gang member take a swing at the pastor, the pastor whack him up side the head with a big Bible…really and the second gang member behind the pastor draw back a metal skate board preparing to split his head open. I grabbed the skate board from the gang banger and now I was the center of attention. A knife came out quickly, then another weapon. I held them at bay for probably 10 minutes with their skate board. I prayed that Brian would not show up. There is no doubt in my mind that had he seen them threatening me, he would have used force, which given his training would likely have been deadly. I do not believe I could have stopped him, he is that loyal. He scarcely left my side the rest of the trip.

Story Three: On another trip to Lake Havasu I accidently broke my assistant, Chuck’s legs on the way out of town. How is another story. He had planned the trip, I was just along for the ride. We left Chuck in the hospital and Brian and I continued on the trip. When we arrived we used the first day to teach the kids how to operate a canoe on a short 6 mile trip down the river. Day two was a 20 mile canoe trip through Topoc Gorge, down Lake Havasu to the London bridge where we were to camp, somewhere. Before leaving, I told Brian to take the escort car around to London Bridge make whatever arrangements were needed then, and here is the fun part…find me where the river opens up into the lake and tell me where to go. After hours of paddling we finally cleared the river and we could see where Lake Havasu would be, but it was to far away to actually see. I did not know it at the time, but there are NO roads in that area. We paddled a ways and I saw a small peninsula sticking about 25 yards out into the lake. I had no idea were Brian might be but from the lake, it looked to be as good a spot as any. As the nose of my canoe touched the bank, Brian stepped out of the brush that lined every inch of the shoreline and handed me a fresh 44 oz Circle K coke. I still don’t know how he timed that or even found us, but that was typical for Brian. All the arrangements were made and the trip went perfectly...except for breaking Chucks legs...

Story Four: Another time one of the mothers in our church called me. It was early afternoon. She was at work as a nurse at the local hospital. She left her oldest child Skip, (I am not going to change the name to protect the innocent because Skip was NEVER innocent. He was the most lovable scoundrel I have ever known) home with his sick little sister who was to young to be alone. The call was void of much detail. Skip and a buddy had “borrowed” an neighbors dune buggy and rolled it. They were injured, but how much no one knew. Mom was not exactly sure where they were so sending an ambulance was out of the question. She asked me to go find them and do whatever needed doing. They were in Lucerne Valley, about 25 minutes from where I was…at normal driving speed. I made it a little faster. There is a huge dry lake in the area and miles of dirt roads in every direction. I drove straight to the place of the “borrowed” (as in they were not going to keep it, just drive it a while) rail and began my search. Skip liked speed so I looked for the straightest, longest road. Yep, their they were. Not to badly injured, but in need of medical attention. The same for the rail. One problem. I still have a sick child that cannot be left alone any longer. What to do? While pondering the problem Brian came driving up. He had no reason to be there, knew no one any where near there, did not know of the problem, but there he was. He drove up and all I said was Brian, Skip is hurt, I need to get him and his buddy to the hospital. Skip's sister is home alone, find her and stay with her until someone shows up. All Brian said was “Right Boss” (which is what he mostly said anyway) and drove off to care for the sick girl till mom got home. There is NO reason (save divine providence) for Brian to be where he was but this story is not the exception, it was the rule. Brian was always anticipating what I was going to need before I knew I needed it. He always had a willing heart and a good solution. He never let me down. How could anyone not love a man like that. That was over 30 years ago. What has Brian been doing since I moved? The same thing, just with other people, although I seriously doubt they have the bond or stories we do. Brian for me, is beyond special. I think some days he gave my guardian angels the day off. I started off trying to help Brian. I received far more that I ever gave. I wish everyone could have a Brian in their life. Some time I will tell you about Marty, Brian’s little brother. After I left Apple Valley, he did for my Dad what Brian did for me. I shouldn’t but I will probably tell you why I hate Dave, Becky's husband, sometimes too. Don’t be shocked, I have told him to his face but he keeps raising the bar so high it makes most of the rest of us men look bad. I must admit, I have been richly blessed by the men in my life. I hope I have given to them even a fraction of what they have given to me.


Jarrod Haggard said...

You think being Dave's friend is tough? Try being his son! Talk about tough shoes to fill. Between him and Poppy, I've never met more amazing men in my life.

Brian was great, the only exception being the six weeks he spent discussing (in graphic detail) the texts of Song Of Solomon for my 7th grade Sunday school class...yikes.

One time he gave me a ride from Yuma to Apple Valley and told me the story of his best friend who had a pet monkey in 'Nam, who sat on his shoulder while he drove a convoy. The monkey caught a bullet from a sniper rifle, and saved his friends life. I don't know if it was memory or fantasy, but it was a great memory for me!

I didn't know he was so involved with the youth group back then, thanks for writing these stories down, and keep 'em coming. Oral tradition is sadly lacking in our culture, and I know it means so much to all of us when you share, so, please continue.

Doni Brinkman said...

Jarrod I am cracking up - that is tooo funny! Dad - I love these stories too but you realize you are only validating my point about how dangerous it is to hang out with you. :)