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Actor's equity
Terry O'Quinn of 'Lost' and, for the moment, Reisterstown, holds a moving sale. For a Westminster family, it's packed with meaning.

Bryan Ayres Jr. is a huge fan of the ABC-TV show Lost.

In fact, he's such a huge fan that every Wednesday night last fall, Grandma would baby-sit for Bryan's 1-year-old daughter, Aliza. "Wednesday was date night," said Helen Ayres, 45, of Westminster. "I'd come over and take Aliza so that Bryan and Sharon could be together and watch the show."

Lost is about survivors of a plane crash on an isolated island. The 48 people who walk away from the wreckage must rely on ancient instincts and skills to stay alive. Bryan Ayres' favorite character is Locke (Terry O'Quinn), a formerly paralyzed man who, miraculously, finds himself fully recovered once the plane goes down, becoming a kind of uber-survivor with the keenest reflexes and jungle techniques in the group.

Helen Ayres can't help hoping that a version of the miracle on the show will take place in real life. For the past three months, her 26-year-old son has been in a coma, the result of a Dec. 17 car accident.

It was that hope that has brought the Ayres family on Saturday to the auction of nearly all the belongings in O'Quinn's 10,000-square-foot home in northern Reisterstown. Helen Ayres isn't entirely sure what she's looking for, but she'll know it when she sees it - some object so special that it will jolt her son back to wakefulness.

"Bryan would want me to be here for him," she says. "I keep imagining him looking around in awe."

We're all planets spinning in our own orbits, our stories intersecting only incidentally with those of other people.

On Saturday, at the O'Quinn place, there were more than 500 planets bumping and spinning and jostling on the lawn outside O'Quinn's home. That's the number of visitors who registered to bid at the estate sale run by Caplan's Auction Co.

The visitors included David Paschane, 36, of Silver Spring. He and his wife, Amy, 34, are expecting their first child, a boy, in three months.

For the future Elliott Conrad Paschane, David Paschane plunked down $22 for three tubs full of sports equipment - helmets, a basketball, ski boots, tennis rackets, lacrosse sticks, even a paintball set. Whatever sport Elliott Conrad might want to play, oh, 20 years from now, David Paschane figures he's got it covered.

And then there's Terry O'Quinn's wife, Lori, who has spent the morning watching strangers peer into her refrigerator and critically hold up her juice glasses to the light.

"It feels weird," she says. "But people have been very nice."

The right decision
She knows that moving is the right decision for her family. Lost looks to be around for a while, and the show is shot in Hawaii - quite a commute from Reisterstown. Besides, both the O'Quinn sons live in Los Angeles, where they are studying acting.

"We're done with the big house," she says. "It's time to be gypsies for a while. It's about Terry and me now. I keep telling the boys, 'I'm done being a mama.'"

Still, it's hard to leave the home that she and Terry built on property that formerly was a riding school run by Lori O'Quinn's parents. It's hard to leave the place where she met Terry when he was a young actor appearing in a Center Stage production of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure in the late 1970s.

He needed riding lessons for Heaven's Gate, a Western movie he was to play a role in, and she provided them. When the film ran into production delays, though, Lori's parents began to question whether the man who'd been mucking out stalls in exchange for room and board was a legitimate actor. They threw him off their property, and the 21-year-old Lori tossed her saddles into the trunk of her car and followed him.

The couple's first date was at the cast party for Measure for Measure. They married in 1979. (Heaven's Gate premiered in 1980.)

Eight years ago, they built their dream home on the family farm, a Gothic-style manse with a stone turret and stained glass windows. Terry built many of the furnishings, including the doors and several tables.

Lori O'Quinn knows there's no turning back; the house itself already has been sold. "What's left is just stuff," she says.

Though she has reserved two rooms full of cherished possessions that were not for sale (her saddles, family photos, gifts from friends), nearly everything else is on the auction block: an antique rocking horse and a dollhouse; scripts of the pilot episode of Lost signed by every member of the cast; a 1999 Ford pickup (which drew the day's highest price at just over $10,000, according to auction house owner John Caplan); the gazebo on the front lawn.

Lori O'Quinn tears up, then apologizes. "You caught me in an emotional moment, there. What the heck. I'm moving onto another stage of my life."

Something for Bryan
The Ayres family can't move on. Not yet.

Bryan Sr. and Helen are daily thankful for their two younger children: Bethaney, who has pale blond hair and a 16-year-old's perfect figure, and open-faced Joshuha, who, at 14, still responds without embarrassment to his mother's teasing. Not to mention Helen Ayres' five sisters, all of whom live in Maryland. "If it weren't for my sisters," she says, "I'd never make it through this."

And she's grateful, of course, for baby Aliza, who visits her father once a week in the hospital, and who the Ayreses say will occasionally walk up to a framed photo of her dad and kiss it.

At the auction, Helen Ayres buys some wicker baskets and two tubs full of Christmas ornaments. Bethaney invests in a really nice curtain rod set, with etched glass finials.

Bryan Ayres Sr. spies something he thinks his son might like - a small wooden desk and chair made by Terry O'Quinn and painted a light green.

With his wife's approval, he starts to bid. He almost drops out several times, but when the price climbs to $400, he looks over at Helen, who resignedly nods OK. "$410?" the auctioneer tempts.

The woman competing for the desk holds up her yellow bidding slip. Bryan Ayres can go no further.

"Thank God," Helen Ayers says. "We can't afford that, not on our salaries. Not now." She drives a school bus, and her husband paints and hangs wallpaper.

And it's not as though the family will go away empty-handed. The Ayreses and the O'Quinns have a mutual friend, who obtained a picture of the Lost cast and arranged for Terry O'Quinn - who was away on location Saturday - to sign it.

"To Bryan," Terry O'Quinn writes. "Get well soon. I mean it. Really soon." He has promised to phone Bryan once he wakes up.

And recently, there have been signs that the young man has been trying to do just that. Now, when Helen talks to her son and asks him if he understands her, Bryan Jr. will raise his index finger. "I know he's there," she says. "I know it."

Meanwhile, she continues to search for "something to stimulate him." It's a mother's equivalent of a signal flare, a message to her child marooned on a deserted island to hold on, because help is on the way.

© 03/2005, baltimoresun.com