Happy Halloween!

I don't know about you, but I feel great this morning and I am planning a fun day.

I'm going to go running down to the beautiful waterfall along the Minnehaha Creek first thing when I finish this blog post for you.

Then I'm going to come back home and carve the three pumpkins i have sitting out on Rob's front porch. I have candles to put inside them too.

Then I'm going to practice my songs the rest of the afternoon for my new setlist that begins tonight 5-6:30pm at the Underground Music Cafe where I play every Wednesday, but this just happens to be Halloween night so I want to be extra spoooooky.

Also, I'm going to be bringing my wonderful set of light up skulls to my next few shows, so today I have to make sure they're all working well and ready to go.

And I want to get some new fresh flowers for my top hat so I can be a pirate.

Love to you all.

In sickness and in health, 'til death do we part,

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

No rest for the wicked, you can sleep when you're dead.

Halloween comes but once a year.

Summon the souls we've lost and give them a night to remember.

All Hallows' Eve.

I drink to my brother tonight!

Life Is Too Short To Be Little

Life is too short to be little. That's what my grandfather wrote on our fireplace mantel.

I am not going to be mad at my mother.

I'm going to go back to my attitude of gratitude.

My brother's death brought out a lot of anger and a lot of regret, a lot of remorse in me.

What more could I have done? What should my mother have done?

Well, it went the way it went.

It is a tragedy that my brother couldn't have become stable and happy.

Last night I was invited to an award ceremony for an organization called MARRCH. They deal in the world of addiction and recovery mostly, but there is certainly a mental illness component to what they encounter with clients as well.

They were honoring some pretty terrific people, two of whom I know personally, one of those being the very moderate Republican senior Congressman Jim Ramstad from Minnesota. 

Jim Ramstad was good friends with a great Democrat from Minnesota named Paul Wellstone.

In Jim's award acceptance speech last night he talked a lot about how many issues in the world are non-partisan and how he and Paul Wellstone would spend hours talking about what should be done about addiction and mental illness type issues. 

He did say though, in his speech, that Mister Wellstone would often say to him, "Jim, I love you like a brother, but sometimes I wonder how you can be so wrong." Haha, true that.

Well, I noticed in all the speeches and discussions last night that these very concerned and educated and experienced people in the field weren't really talking about people like my brother.

My brother was drastically paranoid and psychotic. He had hallucinations and he didn't trust anyone.

He wasn't a drug user at all. He was an alcoholic probably, but the people I spoke with who cared for him said that he didn't have access to alcohol and didn't have alcohol in his bloodstream when he came to them.

I was thinking about how there was a time in America when there were state run insane asylums or whatever they called them.

I think there were stories a while back about how they decided to empty the asylums and put those people back out in the world.

Some lived with relatives and some joined the ranks of the homeless.

In Jane Eyre, the great British Gothic novel by Charlotte Brontë, there is a mad woman who is chained in the attic. She is truly insane and a danger to herself and to others. She eventually gets loose and sets the house on fire.

When my brother lived with my mother for a period of time when he was in his early forties and his many other options had been exhausted, he often threatened to kill her and I was often receiving desperate calls from them both.

At that time we had my brother admitted to the Chicago Read Mental Health Facility, but they quickly discharged him saying that he was not a threat to himself or others so they couldn't keep him there long term. I discussed his situation with the directors there at the time and they told me that unless he had actually tried to kill himself, his mother, or someone else, that he wasn't considered a threat.

Well, the good news is he didn't kill anyone, he didn't try to kill our mother, he didn't even kill himself, although the condition he was in at the age of sixty when he died would be arguably a form of suicide, like a person who did not take care of his body or his mind, as if he didn't value his life.

My brother was miserable and he didn't value his life, even though he never tried to kill himself.

So, these are the thoughts I'm grappling with now.

The AA people and the addiction centers don't seem, from what was being said at the event last night, to have a component that works for the seriously delusional. 

All the stories were more typical AA type stories, like they sobered up and they got straightened out, and they went on to be great people.

That was never going to happen for my brother.

He was put on many anti-psychotic drugs during the time that I was able to be involved in his life, but he hated all the medicines.

Once a guy like him is out on the streets, they get withdrawn, they talk crazy, they don't trust anyone, they run away from anyone trying to help them.

My mother did everything she could to try to bring my brother back home to her once he decided to leave the program he was in and stop taking his medications and get away from his mother.

She found him through the police once. He was begging on street corners in Denver.

The Denver police helped her go to him and try to get him to come home with her.

She was standing out in the street with the police officer next to her and she was calling out to him, "Bradley, Bradley, it's me, it's your mother."

My brother, and you have to remember we never really liked our mom all that much, my brother took one look, picked up his knapsack and started running as fast as he could in the opposite direction.

At the time, when I was calloused and foolish and heartless and young, I said to our mom, "Well Mom, if he knew it was you and he ran, then at least we know he's not that crazy!"

I thought it was funny that my brother ran instead of dropping to his knees and crying in gratitude that our mother had come to save him.

But now I don't think that's so funny.

He may have been so delusional that he didn't know what was good for him.

My brother may never have known what was good for him.

I think I should have tried harder to do for him what he couldn't seem to do for himself.

But I was raising three children in a difficult marriage and I was afraid of my crazy brother.

I loved him but we had already been through so much with our parents that I just wanted to live a peaceful beautiful life.

I didn't want my family's craziness to follow me.

I didn't want it to rub off on my sweet little kids.

I didn't want to be crazy myself.

So I let my brother run off when he said he wanted to go be a wandering homeless guy. He said he didn't want to take medications and live with his mom or in an institution.

He said he didn't want us to try to find him.

So, he had some years maybe of freedom, but within twenty years he would be so physically deteriorated and so mentally disoriented that he would finally die in a hospice center for indigent patients in California.

Move on Courtney.

Take what you can gather from this and move on.

Your brother, in his glory, was a magnificent child of God.

That spirit of his best self is with you now for your journey.

Move forward Courtney.

And love your broken mother who could not save her son, and can't save you either.

 

 

 

fresh air

Yesterday was a great day in Minneapolis, clean and crisp, not windy, and I rode my bicycle for many miles. I also walked the Mississippi River Trail with Rob and my little dog Aidan. I also had time to read the Sunday New York Times which is my religion.

I also met a great brilliant friend for a drink and talked about the psychological discoveries I have been having in the aftermath of learning of my brother's terrible demise. Probably you'll hear more about this later.

The last awesome thing I did yesterday was I went to the album release show of a young female musician in Minneapolis. She's from Cincinnati and her Cincinnati parents were there. I spoke with them and they were very happy to hear that after eight albums I was (okay barely but whatever) surviving as a full time artist. The fun part of that conversation is that they thought I had made these eight albums and done all this touring as a girl their daughter's age and that I was now probably in my thirties...haha...I always love that...so when I told them that I was their age they were freaked out and that was fun too. Also, the dad bought me a free drink. And I got on the VIP guest list and didn't have to pay the $15 entrance fee. All good here since I had never heard her music before and was attending with my great brilliant friend who had just interviewed the young artist for MPR radio. So, maybe there will be a show or some shows or a series of touring dates with this younger artist and myself on the bill. This was brought up as a potential development in 2019. 

This blog post is all to say, my brother has died and I am feeling that his death is a signal to live my life to the fullest now. I owe it to him. He was the one who wanted to be Jack Kerouac. 

Also, my brother was my very first promoter. I don't remember my parents paying any attention to this, but when I was really little, three, four, and five, I learned to sing a bunch of radio songs by heart. At this time, my two parents, my big brother, and my little self, were living in a third floor walk up apartment in Chicago. My dad was never home, working constantly at the Stock Exchange as a broker. Our mother worked at the public library. If she only had to work for a few hours, she would either take us with her and we would read all the books and I would play with the collection of hand puppets, or if it was in the evening or a longer shift, she would leave us home alone. My brother being four years older than me would have been ages seven, eight, nine. Our mother always told us that the old lady who lived below us could be called upon in an emergency. I literally had never seen that woman, had no idea what she looked like even, and lived in dread of us ever having to call her, so I was always good. My brother was always good too.

We listened to the radio a lot when we were home alone. We didn't own a television set.

I learned all these cool songs.

My brother did not sing or participate in the making of music with me, but what he did do was actually the beginning of my singing career, I see now. He was my first encourager, my first promoter.

He would dial the kitchen telephone that had a very long curling cord, and he would get one of the very few people we knew, by dialing one of the few telephone numbers we knew, and he would tell the person on the other end of the line that I was going to sing for them. Then he would be smiling from ear to ear and he would hold the phone receiver out in front of me like a microphone and I would sing one of my favorites like Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking". When I finished my performance he would get back on the phone with the person and talk about me like I was a true marvel. "Isn't that great? Isn't she good?" he'd say laughing with the person on the other end of the phone. These people, I never spoke to them, but it was either our Aunt Evelyn, or his best friend from down the alley, or one of our cousins who lived a few miles away. I didn't care who I was singing to. I loved it. I loved singing. And I loved my big brother. And he was the only person who took any notice of me that way.

So, today, every day, I will honor his talents that went ravaged by mental illness. He was supposed to be the great writer, the famous cool guy. He was supposed to be the special one. But now I am remembering more and more that he thought I was special too.

the indictment

My brother is dead and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

My mother knew of his circumstances for two weeks before she told me.

Thanks Mom.

Good old Mom.

There's a reason, a lot of pretty good reasons, why my brother didn't want to be found for twenty years.

My Dad didn't want to be found for twenty years either.

Disappearing and cutting yourself off from your family does not "run in our family".

No one on either side of my family ever disappeared except my brother and my dad.

What did those two men have most in common that they were steering clear of?

My Mom.

Neither of them had a problem with their little daughter/little sister Courtney.

They didn't love me enough to come see me and run the risk of seeing her though.

No, they didn't.

Do you remember that I ran away and lived in a cabin alone at seventeen?

At that time, my other choice was to live with my mother alone in Chicago and finish at my same high school, but I didn't want to be around her either.

So I tried to get away from her too, but I am so much more soft hearted than they were about it.

When first my father and then many years later my brother told her that they were leaving and she'd never see them again, they meant it.

When my mother decided to come to Minneapolis to live closer to me and her grandchildren, I made a joke about how, "when you run away, the people you ran away from are not allowed to follow you".

But she did follow me.

And I have gone to church with her, I've made Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas dinners, Easter brunches.....

...every time swallowing my bitterness as she criticizes my body, my hair, my cooking, my "music career" which she always says with her sarcastic mocking laugh.

Okay, sorry but it's my blog and I'll cry if I want to.

Maybe if I had seen it all differently, if as a young girl I could have understood that she broke my father's heart by cheating on him with his best friend, bailing on him when he needed her most, if I could have stopped believing her and believed him instead, maybe I would have been able to save my brother.

My brother could have trusted me because as it was I was being loyal to her, thinking our dad was bad, and my brother was saying, "oh my God don't you see that she drove him to this?"

But no, I didn't see.

So when my brother came around, I tried to "put him in a program" for "people like him".

What the fuck was I thinking?

My husband was a doctor and we had access to all these "great programs" for "people like him".

He went to one near our mother's apartment in Chicago when he was forty and had exhausted all his other options.

I went to see him there.

Well, wait, now I'm telling you what my Sidney book three is about, so never mind.

Anyway, I probably ruined my brother's life by siding with our mother.

We were in agreement from way back in our childhood that she was mean, but I loved her and I saw her as the victim of everything that had happened in our family, I felt sorry for her, I was protective of her, and she liked it that I saw it that way.

But I was wrong and my brother was right all along.

I was loyal to my mother at my brother's expense and that has proven to be a tragic error in judgement.

My Dad and my brother are both dead and it took them dying for me to see the light.

Fuck.

All there is to do about it now is to keep writing my Sidney stories.

And keep being me.

And keep being kind to everyone, even Mom.

Rest in peace and please forgive me Bradley John Dundon.

You were right all along.

my brother

I just found out that my big brother died October 9th.

A lady in California who works for some kind of hospice place called my mom today.

It took her this long to find out who, if anyone, to call.

My brother was at the hospice place in California for three months she said.

He did not reveal any family ties whatsoever she said.

He died of COPD.

That's some kind of smoking related thing maybe.

He was mentally ill for a long time..maybe almost his whole life.

But he was also smart and funny and accomplished.

So it has been hard to accept him being a wandering homeless person, paranoid and schizophrenic, for the past twenty years.

I've written several songs about him.

I've dedicated other peoples' songs to him.

You've probably heard me talk about him on stage.

Well, now he's dead and I don't know what that will mean as the world moves forward into another brand new day.

Bradley John Dundon.

I knew him, but I didn't know him well.

He was ruined by his parents or maybe it was that his parents couldn't save him.

He is Preston Duncan in my stories.

He was Preston Duncan in his own writings too, so I respectfully picked up where his own writings left off.

But maybe he wrote more. I don't know. Maybe we'll find out there is a manuscript or two or five somewhere.

I hope so.

I hope he left us something of his brilliant self, but if not, I have memories and I have stories and I will continue to share them with you any way I can.

Brother B, where ever you are tonight, I hope there's peace and love and fun for you finally.

I love my Brother. Forever.

There are people down here who wish they could have known you better, including me.

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