A Time and Day I Wish I Could Change

Written by Tom Ludwick

On the evening of February 2, 1992, around 11:20 pm, my younger brother Dave lost his ability to walk. He was in a terrible car accident, which changed his life forever. He became a paraplegic.

Dave was in an ongoing affair with some woman who was using him, which he did not realize. People who knew both of us were sending up red flags all over the place. One person even asked me what I was going to do with Dave. They reminded me that my brother was living recklessly and suggested I needed to talk to him. I replied I had tried several times, but he always dismissed me and my helpful advice. 

In hindsight, maybe I should have tried a little harder than I did. I don’t know. My wife and daughters always thought Dave was down on me. Sometimes I felt that I might have let him down. When I left for the Army and went to Vietnam, a few people consistently picked on him. They were four years older than him, which was my age. Frank was one of them, another named Tom, and also Clifford. Eventually, Tom and Clifford tried to set Dave on fire in a phone booth. They were arrested, went to court, and were only sentenced to probation.  When I returned home from Vietnam, I was told about the incident.

Even though it was several years later, it still bothered me a lot what they did to my brother because both Tom and Clifford knew me. One evening my brother and I went into Bob Lifelong’s bar called Lancelot’s. Tom was at the other end of the bar drinking a draft out of a glass beer mug. I walked over to him and slammed his head into the cold beer mug. I said I guessed you were one of those who thought I would have gotten killed and never return. Lucky for Tom, the mug did not break, but it indeed had to hurt.

People said Cliff went into the Army, and some said it was because of what I did to Tom that night at Lancelot’s. The woman who owned the bar told me to leave. I went to the other end of the bar closest to the door where my brother was standing.  There was this guy standing by my brother who stood up on the footstep with both feet. He acted aggressively towards me, and I asked, who the hell are you? He laughed and said his name was Bill Rose. Dave said, “You shouldn’t have done that, Tom, because Dad and I went to court over happened.” I told Dave that I felt Cliff and Tom disrespected me before I went to Vietnam because they knew I could easily kick their asses.

When I was discharged from the Army in October 1970, I lived at home with my parents and younger brother. My brother quit school in his junior year. He was only working a part-time job and sleeping half the day away and partying at night. My Dad was hurt on the railroad and was on disability, and my mother had many medical problems. You could say our household was in a bit of turmoil.

My father was getting on my brother about his actions and behavior. Dave and I got into it. I smacked him around and told him what a jerk he was being. I also told him that I realized that he lost his girlfriend, Jasmine, to his best friend, Rick. Rick and Jasmine both finished high school. Rick’s Dad had connections to a labor union, which got Rick a job as a carpenter. I told Dave to go back and finish high school and if he made the honor roll, that would even be better. I also told him that it was the only way he could get back at people like them.

I did not believe it, but Dave went back to school and made honor roll after getting into OWE.  At the same time, he met Connie at Providence Hospital, where she was a nurse. She and Dave lived together about seven months before they got married.

On the fateful night, Dave was hurt; I was upset about the way he always treated me about life. In anger, I said, “Damn it, David,” and slammed my fist on the table. We parted ways, not realizing that our lives would soon be changed forever.

At 3:40 am, the phone rang, and it was Dave’s wife Connie telling us about the accident. She said that she did not expect Dave to walk again.

My brother’s life-changing accident and the events leading up to it is the one incident in my life that I wish I could turn back the hands of time and change that day in some way.

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