Transcription: Thanks, Alan. Hi, this is David Brower with Your 20 Minute Podcast and our special guest today is Carl David. The writer, author of Bader Field: How My Family Survived Suicide. A suicide can tear a family apart as a lot of us know. Art dealer, Carl David, fourth in a line of a four-generation family, owned an art gallery and in the book, you recount the death of your father, Sam and the suicide of your brother, Bruce in Bader Field. Welcome, Carl. How are you?
Carl David: I’m well. How are you? Thank you for having me on your show today.
David Brower: You are very welcome. Before we get into the meat of the book, tell me about Bader Field. Where does that title come from?
Carl David: Well, Bader Field was a small airfield outside of Atlantic City and my dad, who was also a pilot as well as an avid art dealer, had his own airplane. We use to fly in and out of there all the time and that was actually the last place I saw him, so it felt appropriate at that point to name to book Bader Field. Not that anybody who’s not from the area would know specifically what that was unless you knew because they would think that oh, could be airfield, baseball field, what is it?
David Brower: Well, in and of itself it’s an intriguing title and it makes you want to pick up the book and go, “What is that about?”
Carl David: Oh, thank you.
David Brower: Yeah. It’s very good. So when you wrote this book it started as a memoir, an homage to your dad, and then it became a much more important work, right?
Carl David: That’s correct. I did want to memorialize my dad. My kids weren’t born yet and I needed to let them know that he was my hero and how incredible a human being he was. He was my mentor and he was pretty much everything and it was a terrible loss. I was 23. He was only 58 and it rocked my world, again.
David Brower: Yeah, absolutely. And the other huge of this book, of course, is your brother.
Carl David: Right. Yeah, I lost Bruce to a suicide when I was 16. He was 22 and just that also just altered my existence very rapidly and for a long, long time.
David Brower: That’s two huge, giant, not to minimize it, but it is two huge, giant losses in what, a seven year period?
Carl David: Yeah, pretty much. I think my dad lived eight years after my brother took his life.
David Brower: Yeah. My gosh. And suicide it seems, at least in my part of the world in Colorado, it seems to be getting more and more attention as people talk more and more about prevention and talk about ways to be alert to different signs and those kinds of things. Have you found that as you’ve promoted your book around the country, that it’s becoming a higher awareness?
Carl David: Yes, I have. And when this happened in 1965 people didn’t talk about it. It was an act that had this negative stigma about it that everyone who did something like that was judged and you can’t do that. You can’t judge someone for doing something like that. It’s an act of desperation and over the years it’s become more and more out there in the daylight and thank god people are talking about it because the only way to thwart this thing is to raise awareness to it and then hopefully you save a life. You’ve given the inspiration of someone to choose to live instead of dying because they know they’re not alone and that there’s help for them.
David Brower: No question about it. No question about it. My wife deals with a lot of new moms and newborn babies on Medicaid. She goes door to door and takes care of them and checks them and resources for them and all that kind of stuff. So she has a score book, if you will, to where when she checks in with those moms to kind of evaluate where they might be on a potential of suicide. It’s become quite scientific in some ways, I guess, to help detect that kind of thing.
Carl David: It has. I mean there are benchmark signs that are obvious, and others that are not, that have been quantified and are paid more attention to today. I mean even something as subtle as someone just kind of dropping out of society and becoming reclusive. You know with babies, when a woman has a baby, sometimes they go through post-partum depression and there’s all these other factors that come into play that in the old days, decades ago, people really if they recognized it, didn’t know what to do.
David Brower: That’s right. There was no awareness. There was no education. There was you’re being selfish, those kinds of very detrimental comments to people that would even put other people farther back in the room from letting things out, right?
Carl David: Right.
David Brower: Tell me about your … Did your family have any kind of clue about your brother’s state of emotional torment? I mean it was back in the day when it wasn’t that aware. What kind of things did you find out before or after his death?
Carl David: Literally nothing. There was no sign, no foretelling, of this coming in any way, shape, or form. Afterwards, I mean there was no note. We were just completely blindsided and it’s been a question mark ever since and even if we knew the answer it wouldn’t bring him back, but had we been able to see something unusual or out of character, beforehand. We were a pretty open family and we talked about a lot of things, but obviously, there was something that was within him that he couldn’t share, or didn’t want to share or just was in so much psychological pain for whatever reason, that he kept it inside.
David Brower: Yeah. Absolutely.
Carl David: So we saw nothing.
David Brower: Wow. Goodness, that just leaves you speechless. You know sometimes people think back when they deal with suicide and it’s would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. But then when you have no clue at all, you’re just kind of left out there, aren’t you?
Carl David: You really are. You’re left dangling in space and I am certain that my father bore responsibility for not seeing something, even though there was nothing to see, and I think that’s what killed him eight years later. He just couldn’t really survive it and ultimately succumbed to it. I mean he did get back to life and eventually the smiles came back and there was some semblance of the old days, but it’s just the damage was done.
David Brower: Yeah. So your dad, he died of a heart attack?
Carl David: Yes.
David Brower: Okay.
Carl David: Yes. He had a massive coronary over in England on a business trip.
David Brower: Wow. So how did the rest of your family … Do you have siblings, your mom?
Carl David: Yes. My mom was still alive after that. She lived to be 94, thank God, and I have an older brother, Alan, who’s nine years my senior, and we just kind of all pulled together as best we could. I mean this was uncharted territory for us. We didn’t have a clue what to do, how to handle this, or even understand the reality of it because it was such a foreign commodity to us. I mean this is just like … Honestly, I mean we were like the all American family. We didn’t have a dog, but we had the station wagon and there were three kids, so. But we were-
David Brower: And you had the picket fence, right?
Carl David: Yeah. Well, no we didn’t have a fence either. I think we had a railing.
David Brower: There you go. There you go.
Carl David: But we were a happy family. We traveled together. We did things together and that’s why this was such an abominable shock.
David Brower: I can only imagine how cathartic writing this book must have been. Did your siblings and your mom help to contribute to this book? Or did you share things with them as you wrote along? How did the writing process work?
Carl David: Well, it took a long time because it was an arduous task that was cathartic, but it was painful at the same time and there were times that I would put the book down for six months at a time or even a year, and say, “I can’t do this.” And my wife, God bless her, would always tell me, “If it’s too difficult, don’t do it.” And she was my rock and still is and I said, “No. You know what, I have to do this. It’s within me. I want this for my kids, for our kids when we have them.” Well, at that point we’d already had kids, but I really needed to memorialize now not just my dad, but my brother as well and tell my story.
And as cathartic as it was for me, I begin to realize that hey, you know what, I really need to reach out with this book and maybe I can save somebody else’s life by sharing my experience and showing what the wrath of Hell, if you will, that’s left on the surviving family and friends.
David Brower: Absolutely right. I know here in … I live in a small county, Larimer County, in Colorado and our suicides have doubled in the last 10 years, from 36 to 83. So we’re like 25% now out of 100 thousand, which is-
Carl David: Wow.
David Brower: … a pretty significant percentage when you look at states and other cities around the country. So that’s why … In fact, even my church held a study, a public open study and conversation about suicide a couple weeks ago because it is just so darn prevalent and you don’t see it coming 99 times out of a 100.
Carl David: No. You really don’t. I’m sorry to hear that. That’s quite a percentage. That’s huge. Did you say Littleton County?
David Brower: It’s Larimer County.
Carl David: Oh, Larimer County.
David Brower: Yeah, I live in Loveland, Colorado. Just north of Denver.
Carl David: Okay. Because I had a friend who was John Denver’s pilot who came out of Littleton, California. Not California, Littleton, Colorado.
David Brower: Colorado, yeah.
Carl David: Yeah, he actually flew me out of there one day.
David Brower: In John’s plane?
Carl David: Whole nother story. Not in … John Denver’s pilot, yeah.
David Brower: How fun.
Carl David: No. It was kind of cool.
David Brower: Absolutely. So now that you’ve had … How long has the bok been out, I guess?
Carl David: It got initially published at the end of ’08.
David Brower: Okay.
Carl David: And it’s POD, so it’s print on demand. So it’s alive and it stays that way, which is great.
David Brower: Oh that’s awesome. So how has the feedback been from, I guess, people who maybe have been contemplating suicide, families who have lost family members to suicide, what kind of … You’ve got to be touching some lives on this deal in the last nine years.
Carl David: I have and I’m not sure how many, or who, or where, but I have had people email or call me after doing a radio show or a television show or a journal interview, thanking me for sharing and how much it’s helped them and whether they were considering it, or they had someone in their family, because it’s just as much for us as survivors a tool to cope. To know that we do survive it. We can’t do it on our own. It really requires an enormous amount of professional help.
David Brower: Absolutely. Absolutely. I rarely … Hang on.
Carl David: It’s okay.
David Brower: I rarely share this, but I came close to that five years ago this month, actually, and my son had left an unloaded gun in our living room, fortunately, unloaded. So I went to that place for a couple of minutes and fortunately pulled back from it, but I immediately told my wife about it. We got counseling, which helped tremendously. We put on some depression meds, which changed my life, but to get that close and have a sense, only a sense, of what could have happened to my family just made me cry, you know?
Carl David: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, I’m glad you’re here and I’m glad that you had second thoughts and didn’t do it. There’s a narrow window of 10 minutes that these crisis counselors that I’ve spoken with have said that they can talk to somebody for 10 minutes. They can generally talk them off the ledge. Not always, but generally you can. There’s that one little window where you can let people know that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and that they’re not alone. And as overwhelming as the world seems at that time, that there is help and there’s tomorrow. God bless you for hanging in there.
David Brower: Yeah. Thank you. So this is a huge way for you and your family to pay it forward, right?
Carl David: Exactly. I mean I’m taking the darkest days of my life and doing something to help someone else with them by sharing and showing. You know it’s tough because it brings it right back.
David Brower: Exactly. Yeah. I can only imagine when people reach out to you about your book or you overhear people talking about your book, I would sense that it has to put you on some kind of a roller coaster a bit.
Carl David: It does. It does and it’s a good thing, even though it’s painful, knowing that it’s doing something good for somebody else, whether they’re survivor or they’re contemplating taking their life or they did and they didn’t do it. So it’s a manifold expression of paying it forward. I mean I live my life that way and it’s a real strong passion for me. I mean I’m an art dealer by trade. I love what I do. I also work a lot with the military organizations. I’m a member at the Union League Club over here in Philadelphia and I’m on the Armed Services Counsel, the Veterans Club, and the American Legion Post.
David Brower: Nice.
Carl David: And there’s a big suicide problem, as you’re, I’m sure aware, within the military and among veterans.
David Brower: 22 veterans a day.
Carl David: 22 a day, yeah. That we know of.
David Brower: That we know of. Yeah, that’s right.
Carl David: I mean there are a million people a year worldwide take their life and again, those are the ones that get reported. There are other instances that may have been a suicide that nobody knows about and the scary thing is that the amount of attempts is 20 times greater than the successes.
David Brower: Oh my god.
Carl David: I mean thank God the success rates lower, but it’s a scary number.
David Brower: So, did you serve?
Carl David: I did not. So I’m doing it now.
David Brower: Good for you. Good for you. I just attended a retreat over the weekend. It’s called, Songwriting For Soldiers and it’s an organization out of New York, and out of Austin, Texas really, that puts together four of the world’s best songwriters at any given time. They get with no more than a dozen vets and over a day and a half these vets are able to, in a safe environment, share their deepest, darkest demons and turn it into music.
Carl David: Wow.
David Brower: And my god, it was a life changer. It was just so powerful and one of the young ladies, she … The event started on November 17th and she had just literally, tried to commit suicide on November 17th three years ago.
Carl David: Wow.
David Brower: So her song was about that experience and I’m going, “Tara, my god if you don’t get that song out there in some way, shape, or form, you’re going to save a life or two or five thousand or whatever.” And your book’s exactly the same. There’s so many opportunities for people to be touched and motivated and driven to gather more information, more education. Hopefully, speak closer to their family members. Maybe even be closer than they’ve ever talked to them before.
Carl David: Yeah. That’s a real possibility. I mean I have two goals for this book. I mean aside from saving lives, I am going to work to get this into the school systems all over the country, which is a humongous effort, but I’m not going to quit. And the other one is to have a film made because I think as a visual society it would have a lot of impact on younger kids who don’t read.
David Brower: Oh my gosh, absolutely right. Absolutely right. Well, I wish you the best of luck on both those because either one or both of those would certainly touch some lives. How can people reach out to you to learn more about your book, get a copy of your book, those kinds of things?
Carl David: Well, the book is available everywhere online in 60 different digital markets. You can get it through Amazon. You can get through the iBooks store, the Apple iBooks store, and Kindle and everything. If you just Google Bader Field by Carl David, you don’t even need the whole title, that’ll bring it up. My website’s down at the moment. It’s carledavid.com. It’s C-A-R-L-E-D-A-V-I-D.com, but it’s being rebuilt so its been down for a while. It got hacked, so I have to redo the whole thing.
David Brower: Oh man, yeah.
Carl David: And my email is-
David Brower: And Bader is B-A-D-E-R, right?
Carl David: Right, correct. B-A-D-E-R, Bader Field by Carl David. And my email-
David Brower: Well, it’s just such … Go ahead.
Carl David: I’m sorry. I was going to say my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. My ears are always open if anybody needs help, wants to talk, needs a suggestion, I’m always available.
David Brower: How generous, man. Well God bless you and your family and continued success touching people with this book. And I especially wish you every success in getting this into the schools. I mean that could be a transformational thing for our country, you know?
Carl David: Yeah. I agree. Thank you and God bless you as well for all that you’re doing and for saving your own life. I’m proud of you.
David Brower: All right brother. Thank you.
Carl David: My pleasure.
David Brower: Our guest Carl David, the book Bader Field: How My Family Survived Suicide and we hope you’ll check it out. Check it out on anyplace where you can find books. Just Google it even. Bader Field, Carl David, you’ll find it, and Carl’s email again is email@example.com, right?
Carl David: Right.
David Brower: All right, man. Best of luck to you. Thanks again for taking the time today.
Carl David: My pleasure. Thank you. Appreciate it.