April 26, 2010

Dave And Hawks

Dave always had a thing about hawks. It began when he was very young and our family would take long driving trips on vacation or to visit relatives. While his older brother sat in the backseat next to him reading a book or listening to music, Dave would scan the farm fields, the trees and the fence posts that rushed by his window, his private cavalcade of nature. Sometimes his gaze would be rewarded with a glimpse of a deer or a ground hog and occasionally a wild turkey. But he had a special affinity for spotting hawks. Sometimes he would see one on the wing as it swam effortlessly through the currents of the sky rising and falling with the warm thermals that rose from the earth. Other times he would spy one as it sat serenely and majestically in a tall tree quietly surveying the wide fields of its territory that opened before it. Often he would call out when one came into view so that we both could share in his discovery and other times he would sit quietly keeping his observation to himself, reveling in it silently as if there was a special bond between him and this bird of prey. Hawks were indeed his special bird and he never tired of searching the sides of the road and the sky above for them.

The day after Dave died from abusing a computer duster inhalant his 4th grade teacher visited our home to share our grief. Diane had lost her son suddenly three years before in a car accident. Her words of comfort and advice helped us immeasurably as we slept waked through those first unspeakable days. Among her gems of wisdom born from her own painful loss, was the suggestion that we select and adopt a symbol for Dave, something that every time we would encounter it would bring and hold his spirit close to us. His mother and brother and I considered many symbols that afternoon but decided to not be hasty in our choice lest another come to us later on that we might deem more meaningful.

Late that same day the three of us drove to the church to meet with the priest and plan the services that we wanted to celebrate our son and brother’s life. As we topped a slight rise and descended into a shallow valley a red tailed hawk, chasing a starling, swooped down from my left and over the front of the car not 10 feet from us. I turned to my wife who was conversing with my son in the back seat and excitedly exclaimed “Did you see that….did you see that?” But no….they had not, and I thought silently to myself, “If David were here he wouldn’t have missed it.”

The next day I had decided to go to the fire station that housed the ambulance crew that responded to the 911 call. They had come quickly and worked feverishly to revive Dave and then transported him to the emergency room of a nearby hospital where he died. I wanted to thank the men and women of Fire Station 4 for all that they did in trying to save my 16 year old son. As I approached the turn into the fire station parking lot another red tailed dove in front of my car and then sailed off over the station and into the trees behind. As I sat quietly in the parking lot of the Firehouse summoning the courage and the words I would use to thank the paramedics who had been with my son as his life ebbed away…I whispered softly to myself, “I hear you Dave, I know what my symbol must be now, thank you my precious son, thank you for giving it to me.”

In the months that have followed we have experienced many special moments with hawks. One of the more remarkable incidents occurred over Labor Day weekend that same year. That Sunday morning as my wife and I awoke and lay beside one another trying to clear the sleep from our eyes, she began to cry softly. I held her in my arms for a while and then, knowing that these things must run their course in their own time and in their own way, I left her to make some coffee, telling her to join me when she felt up to it.

It was a beautiful September morning and I decided we would sit out on the deck and enjoy the warmth of the sun, the wind in the trees and the songs of the birds. Stepping out to put up the deck umbrella, I was greeted by a chorus of crows cawing angrily as they swirled about the largest tree in our back yard. Near the top of the tree sitting quietly and unconcerned was a small hawk not much larger than the crows that were circling it menacingly. I called to my wife who rushed to join me and for the next half an hour we sat mesmerized by the interplay of these two very different birds. The crows wheeling and diving at the hawk to drive it away, and the hawk with an air of distain for its protagonists perched confidently and aloof somehow rising above the din. Occasionally, the hawk would leave it comfortable roost and take the offensive in an attempt to end the annoyance, always returning to his branch where he sat serene and confident. After some time, as we marveled at the choreography of this aerial ballet unfolding before us, the hawk abruptly left the trees and plunged head long for the ground and then pulling up sharply, lightly landed near the deck of the house next door not thirty five feet away from where we stood. The hawk then spent the next few minutes scampering around the base of the deck, it’s intentions entirely unknown to us and yet we were enthralled. After some minutes, the hawk took wing and disappeared much to the relief of the crows and other small animals that had cowered and hidden when the alarm has been sounded.

After the hawks departure my wife and I held each other closely knowing we had just experience an extraordinary event and acknowledging that our wonderful son had heard our cries of despair and had dispatched a winged surrogate to come to our aid. Some quick research in our bird book determined that we had been visited by a Cooper’s Hawk, a some what diminutive member of the hawk family compared to our beloved Red Tailed, that was at home in densely forested areas and yet more recently had been making regular appearances in suburban areas. And yet for us, we cared not what habitat was usual and customary for this spirit that had blessed us with its presence. For a couple of months he appeared every morning and every evening about two hours before sunset sometimes alighting on the railing of our deck, at one point as I sat there not 10 feet away. And then as quickly as he appeared he was gone, leaving us with warm memories as the cold winds of November blew the leaves from the branches of the trees he had made his own.

A year later he returned again around the 1st of September and this time he was not alone. Our Coopers Hawk was accompanied by a slightly larger version; his mate. And now we look forward to new adventures with our hawks.

Dave always had a thing for Hawks, be it Red Tailed, Red Shouldered, or Cooper’s, he loved to see them swim through the currents of the sky or sit majestically at the highest point of a large oak.

And now we have a thing for Hawks.

April 26, 2010 at 10:22 AM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 07, 2006

The Drawer

The drawer in the old desk was filled with memories.  The desk found its way into a number of different rooms over the years...in the four homes we have lived in these past twenty some years.  I am not sure when I began to keep them but at some point when the kids were very small I began to collect ticket stubs from the zoos, movies, concerts, amusement parks and sporting events we attended.  I never have an exact plan on how I would eventually organize and display them but I knew that it would be a unique chronology of their youth for my boys when they were adults, something they could share with their own children when the time came.

David’s death from huffing changed all that.  At first it was pictures of him that I was unable to look at, that was followed by the childhood videos I could not watch, and then there was that “drawer.”  For a long time I stayed out of the room where the desk was and if I were forced to enter I averted my eyes from the corner that it occupied. 

Five years later I still can’t watch the family videos but I have come to terms with photos.  And the drawer…it’s empty now.  Sometime that first year after losing Dave, when the grief gripped my heart and blinded my eyes, I took the memories out and threw them all away…because I knew, that whatever happened, they would always be too painful for my heart

May 7, 2006 at 11:57 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 03, 2006

Len Bias' Mother to Join Us For Vigil

Len Bias' Mother Will Join Other Parents In a Candlelight Vigil

April 24, (Washington, D.C): Dr. Lonise Bias will join other parents in sharing her story, twenty years after the cocaine-related death of her son, Len, at the first annual national vigil remembering those lost to drugs. In a presentation focusing on "Life After Death...Hope is Not Extinct," Dr. Bias will present the message and that people are living in denial.  It's time to wake up.

Len Bias, a Maryland basketball player, died in 1986 just two days after being the second overall selection in the NBA draft.  Parents, siblings and friends of young people who lost their lives will gather at DEA Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia on the evening of June 8, 2006 to heed that wake up call.

The vigil is being planned by eight families who lost a young person to drugs, and is being supported by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the Partnership for a Drug Free America, National Families in Action and the Drug-Free Kids organization. 

"Every 20 minutes, drugs take another life in this country. Every 20 minutes, the dreams, promise, and talent of another American is snuffed out-leaving families and friends to suffer the darkness of grief," said DEA Administrator Karen Tandy. "In honor of those lost and in support of those left behind, DEA illuminates the harsh reality of drugs and their tragic consequences. This vigil gives hope for an America without drugs." The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will include remarks from Dr. Lonise Bias, parents and siblings, Administrator Tandy, NIDA Director Nora Volkow and Deputy Drug Czar Mary Ann Solberg. A candlelight vigil will follow, during which the photographs of those who lost their lives to drugs will be displayed.

"Every life, especially a young life, extinguished or derailed by substance abuse, is a tragic loss of promise and potential that we as individuals, community members, and a society cannot afford," said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health.  "We must therefore strengthen efforts to educate our families and communities about the lessons we've learned from drug abuse prevention and treatment research-including the special dangers faced by adolescents.  The Vigil for Lost Promise will help call attention to this need and stem the tide of suffering and loss that substance abuse extends to us all."

The eight families touched by the loss of a child or sibling to drugs came together to plan the vigil with the goal of putting a human face on the tragedy caused by drug abuse. In "An Open Letter to Families Everywhere" the families write "We belong to a club that none of us ever wanted to join. We are the parents and siblings of young people who died too soon because of drugs. Their promise was extinguished long before it could be shared with the world. We are ordinary people who are your neighbors, your co-workers and members of your house of worship. We love our children and tried to be the best parents we could be. But drugs took them from us. Some days the grief is still unbearable."

The letter is authored by Francine Haight (California) who lost her son Ryan to prescription drugs ordered over the Internet; Don and Gwen Hooton (Texas) whose son Taylor committed suicide after steroid use; Kim and Marissa Manlove (Indiana) who lost their son David to inhalant abuse; Kate Patton (Illinois) whose daughter Kelley died from an Ecstasy overdose; David Pease (Connecticut) the father of Dave who was lost to heroin and Casey who died in an alcohol-related accident; Imelda Perez, sister of Irma who died from Ecstasy at age 14; and Linda Surks, whose son Jason ordered prescription drugs over the Internet and died as a result of an overdose.   “We hope that by sharing our family’s story and David’s struggle with substance abuse, we can put a real face on the issue, and begin to break down the denial and stigma that has too often accompanied the disease of addiction” said the Manloves.

Additional information on the vigil, and the entire text of "An Open Letter to Families Everywhere" can be found at www.nationalparentvigil.com

May 3, 2006 at 02:26 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 30, 2006

An Open Letter to Families Everywhere please click on the letter to open it up full sized


April 30, 2006 at 02:02 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 23, 2006

Lost Treasure

The video camera bag had sat undisturbed in the corner of our bedroom closet for longer than either of us could remember. The dust had collected in such a thick layer that it seemed to permanently discolor the top of the black canvas bag turning it into a dirty gray. The camera had once belonged to Marissa’s father who had passed away about eighteen months before Dave’s untimely death from substance abuse, and since that time the bag had been shuffled from room to room until it was pushed to the back of our closet. I had some vague notion that the camera no longer worked properly which was the primary reason it had lain untouched and unopened for so long.

But fate intervened tonight when Marissa decided to move the bag so she could clean and I decided it was time to remove it from our closet and dispose of it once and for all. Before doing so I opened it up to remove anything that might be useful, but instead of useful I found a treasure tucked under the worn and battered camera. There in the bottom of the bag lay a video cassette that said “Dave, Lawrence Central High School Baseball.”

I picked it up gently, almost gingerly at first; afraid it might disintegrate at the touch of my fingers. I turned it slowly in my hand knowing I was holding a gift from the past. I called for Marissa to join me; put the cassette into the player and suddenly we were transported back in time. There was David standing at the plate in a game from some six years ago at a ball park we’d long forgotten, swinging his bat to loosen up as only he could, tapping the corners of home plate for luck like he always did and settling into his “perfect” stance to await the pitchers next fast ball. Marissa and I watched transfixed as one “at bat” blended into another until after twenty minutes or so he disappeared from our view as the screen turned to black and white snow.

Shortly after Dave died we gathered our family movies together and had them all transferred to DVD to protect and preserve them. We had been exhaustive in our search and Marissa had spent hour upon hour watching them and putting them in chronological order. Something I was incapable of at the time and still would not be able to do today. And so it was particularly powerful for us to discover a memory we had missed, a treasure in time that had been lost for a while…

and for just a little while we saw our son again for the first time in many years doing the thing that he loved and the two of us loving him the way we did and still do without pain; only joy.

April 23, 2006 at 10:49 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 22, 2006


Dave loved fireworks.  The fascination began early with sparklers and smoke bombs and grew steadily as he grew.  The last few years of his life his love for fireworks bordered on an obsession and reminded me of my own “compulsion” to use them when I was his age. So like any “good” father (a part of which remains a boy all his life) I eagerly bought them for him and we used them together.  The fourth of July those last two years I really went overboard and between my boys and me we staged an aerial display that was the envy of the neighborhood, the dismay of local law enforcement and the extreme irritation of every dog in the neighborhood. 

After Dave died from huffing computer duster the leftover fireworks from our last celebration were set in a box, put away in his closet, placed on the highest shelf and remained there for many months with other objects of memory that were simply too painful for me.  They stayed there until one day, on a whim; I got the box down to take with us on our weekly visit to the cemetery.  As I mentioned in an earlier, post the cemetery where David is buried, posed a number of difficult and painful conundrums for me, the earliest being a compelling need to be there every week and yet once there, being overcome again with that visceral feeling of grief and despair, which stayed with me long after I left.

But on this day I took down the box from its hiding place away from my view and put it into the back seat of the car.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the fireworks but at least I knew they would be with me when I decided.  It was a beautiful fall day, there was crispness in the air and the leaves in the trees had turned golden and red. 

After kneeing for a while next to his marker I went back to the car and brought the box to the graveside.  I took out a pack of Black Cat firecrackers, lit them and carelessly tossed them away from me.  Their loud sharp staccato bursts echoed across the empty expanse of the graveyard.  Surprisingly with each explosion my spirits raised a little bit until when the last firecracker had cracked I felt as if I had my Dave at my side whispering in my ear “Yeah Dad, do some more please”.  I returned to the box and this time took out of packet of bottle rockets and one by one sent them soaring above us their journey ending at its peak with a load retort!  And as I turned to walk back to the car my heart was lifted as it had never been since that June day when we had to leave his body there and begin our life without him.

Today I never visit the cemetery without our bottle rockets and my spirits never fail to soar as one by one they rush from the ground into the sky above his resting place.

April 22, 2006 at 05:02 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 15, 2006

Jails, Institutions and Death

Like most adolescents David was seduced by the false promises of substance abuse.  In the beginning he thought that drinking and using drugs would make him more popular and that they were key to unlock success in any social situation.  The seduction continued with the thrill of risk taking behavior that accompanies drug use…the feeling that he was living on the edge and in doing so was somehow more attractive to others.  And, as his use escalated, drugs promised him that they would help him cope better with life, that they would provide him a sense of security, empowerment and control he could not get anywhere else.

But of course the real promises of substance abuse where always there, patiently waiting for David,  just as they wait for all who continue down the path of addiction.  The promise that if left untreated substance abuse leads inevitably to three things, jails, institutions and death.  David’s journey was just shorter than most.

David experienced all three in just eleven months.

April 15, 2006 at 11:01 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2006


When I was young I only made occasional visits to cemeteries.  My parents were both the youngest children in their families which meant that by the time I was five years old all my grandparents had passed on.  My mother was estranged from her siblings and my fathers three brothers were dead before I turned eleven so most of the "family" funerals were out of the way before I hit puberty.  In fact by the time I went away to college the majority of my "pilgrimages" to various final resting places were more of the tourist variety during family vacations. 

But since David's death from "huffing" almost 5 years ago hardly a week goes by that we don't visit his grave at the cemetery.  It was impossible at first...but getting up every morning the first year was impossible.  But gradually, over time, doing impossible things became a daily occurrence. 

I found myself hating my familiarity with the cemetery.  I knew all the names on the graves that surround David's, I notice when new flowers or personal mementos appear on the markers from those that have been left behind.  And most of all I notice the new arrivals.  The disturbed earth which seems rudely thrust up and turned over.  The floral arrangement from the graveside service casually heaped upon the turned earth, their blossoms and petals in various stages of decay. 

And if the wind is right I can still hear the sighs and feel the tears on my face and in an instant the impossible returns.

April 6, 2006 at 11:21 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 22, 2006

Good Morning America Segment on Computer Dusting Abuse

ABC News


Drug High From 'Dusting' is Fatal for One Teen

Kids Inhale Gas From Cans of Computer Dusting Spray to Get High

March 22, 2006 — - David Manlove was everything a parent could wish for -- a happy, healthy boy who loved his family and excelled in sports.

"He was just a great kid," said his father, Kim Manlove. "Warmly affectionate and loved to hug."

But as he got older, the Indianapolis teen began experimenting with drugs and alcohol. His drug use eventually got to a point that his brother, Josh, grew concerned.

"I said to my parents, 'OK, look, you need to do something about this.This is something that goes outside the normal high school experimentation kind of thing,'" Josh told "Good Morning America."

David's parents got David into treatment, and he seemed to respond well -- or so they thought. But David had started "dusting," a drug trend that proved fatal for him.

What Is Dusting?

Dusting is inhaling, or "huffing," pressurized gas from a can of computer dusting spray to get high. Experts say it has grown more popular because it's cheap and readily available.

Kids put the straw from the can into their mouth and inhale as they spray the contents. That spray contains freon, which pushes oxygen out of the lungs and can cause a mini stroke or heart attack.

One in five teens say they have used inhalants by eighth grade. Using inhalants to get high goes by the names of "huffing," "sniffing" or "dusting," depending on what's being used. Common inhalants include glue, correction fluid, paint, shoe polish and gasoline or aerosols sprayed on a cloth.

Dusting, like other inhalant abuse, can be extremely dangerous. When a high-speed car wreck killed three teenage boys in Sacramento, Calif., a dusting can was found in the vehicle.

In Ohio a desperate mother called 911 after she found her son passed out after dusting: "This an emergency. My son has a can of, I don't know what it is. He's blue and he's discolored."

David Manlove's mother, Marissa, said David had probably started using dusters as early as a month after he started treatment for drug abuse.

David was hanging out at a friend's house last summer when Marissa got a frantic phone call.

"Josh and I rushed over to the house," she said. "They were wheeling him on a gurney. They were coming down the driveway, and I noticed that his feet were blue."

David had been dusting and jumped into the swimming pool, trying to intensify the high, but something went terribly wrong. David's body went into cardiac arrest. His first reaction was to inhale, but he took in water instead, said his family.

He was rushed to the hospital, but he couldn't be resuscitated.

"I was trying to think how in the world am I going to tell my husband what just happened?" Marissa said. "You know, it's a blur and yet there are moments forever etched in my memory."

David was gone at only 16, but the Manloves are determined to see that he didn't die in vain. They want to educate other families about the dangers of dusting and, they hope, save lives.

"If this can happen to us, it can happen to you," Marissa said. "It can happen to anyone."

Tips for Parents

March 19 - 25 is National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week.

Recognizing Dusting

  • A swollen tongue that almost looks like frostbite. Some kids complain of numbness to their tongue or vocal chords.
  • Blood-shot eyes, looking dazed or disorganized.
  • Kids looking for empty cans, or you may notice cans missing.

How to Confront Your Kids

  • Three main motivators for kids to use drugs: boredom, peer pressure and to escape confrontation.
  • He said you need to figure out and fix the motivating factors.
  • Set limits and enforce them. If your kids are using drugs, you can't leave them alone in the house.
  • Be aware of what's going on, and get support from other parents.
  • Tell kids they can die the first time they try dusting.

For more information, visit the National Inhalants Prevention Coalition 

March 22, 2006 at 11:55 AM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2006

A Random Act Of Courage

She came into the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting from the back door, slid quietly into a chair at the far end of the room with her head slumped deep between her shoulders.  Her long brown hair flowed down her back from under a sweat stained baseball cap, her demin jacket and blue jeans sagging to match the emotions as if she carried the weight of the world.  She was all of 18 or 19, her name was Rachelle and before she spoke a word everyone knew she was back to begin again, an addict who had spent some more time out in her own heart of darkness. 

As a recovering alcoholic I have never cared much for the phrase “starting over “ when one relapses, believing instead that you actually pick up where you left off; and that all the tools of recovery you gained in previous treatment programs are not only still valid but still knocking around somewhere in the dark recesses of your mind. The topic was the 12th Step and when it came time for Rachel to share she passed as everyone had expected.  But as the sharing went on each person in the room had a least a few words of encouragement or humor for her.  Eventually her shoulders relaxed and at one point I actually saw the hint of a smile move fleetingly across her lips.

By the time the meeting was over the warmth that flowed from the sharing of each circle member had melted the icy fear that had frozen her when she first arrived.  Rachel emerged as the most important person in the room that night, not because she had relapsed and was beginning again but because of the simple brave act of coming back.  An act of humility, an act of selflessness but not of kindness, a reminder to us all that we are only one drink or drug away...a random act of courage.   

March 20, 2006 at 03:16 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack