Letter From New York 01 16 16 A Paean to Paul…

When I woke this morning, the grey sky was sheeting rain and I could hear it pound on the roof.  It was a somber morning, reflecting my mood.

Yesterday, as I was about to go into a meeting with the Associate Dean at the college where I begin to teach on Wednesday, I listened to a voice mail on my mobile.  It was Andrew, the son-in-law of my good friend Paul Krich.

As soon as I got the message I knew what would be waiting for me when I returned it.  Paul, who had been fighting a stoic battle against cancer, had succumbed.

It was news that stunned me almost more than I could handle.

Years ago, when my now ex-partner and I first had the cottage, we quickly developed a routine.  My schedule was more flexible than his; I took the 5:35 out of Penn, went to the house, turned up the heat, laid a fire and then went down to meet the train that left Penn at 7:15.

There was a crowd always at the station, many, like me, waiting for significant others to get off.  Almost always in the crowd was an elegant man with what white hair he had, carefully shorn, always dressed elegantly.  I noticed he met an equally elegant woman who invariably got off the train with bags of food.

It became our custom to go to the Red Dot for dinner.  The other couple did too.

The man and I began to nod to each other while waiting on the platform and then, one night, the elegant woman had too many bags and my ex helped her with them as she was getting off the train.

Not more than fifteen minutes later we were at adjoining tables at the Red Dot.  Laughing, I said we really should introduce ourselves and we did.  It was Paul.

We pulled our tables together and had a lovely evening that became the first of many.

My partner and I split.  Not long after Paul and Lorraine separated. 

There came a time in the summer after Paul and Lorraine had separated when Paul and I found ourselves at the Dot, seated at the bar, eating dinner.  The second time it happened, we left the bar and got a table, starting a tradition of Saturday evening “dates.”

Paul was one of the most amazing men I have ever met.  An avid gardener, he knew so much about horticulture, Whenever we were walking he would point out to me plants and tell me their lineage.

He adored and collected botanical prints.  He appreciated antiques and taught me about tramp art.  To go with him to an antique show or an auction was to be both entertained and educated.

He savored the fine things of life with palpable pleasure.

He rode a Harley – Davidson and wore biker jewelry.

Once he told me he loved to come to the parties at my cottage because I always had such an interesting mix of people at them.  And they were an interesting mix, artists and neighbors, filmmakers, real estate agents and restaurant owners, retired state patrol officers and a former lineman for the local electric company.  Young and old, gay and straight, all fun and all welcoming of each other…

Paul was inclusive.  He had long ago shed the middle class fears and snobberies that flowed through our world as we were growing up.  He embraced people of color, the gay men and women who moved in his orbit, the musicians and the dancers and the artists.

He constantly praised my blogging, encouraging me to keep on at a moment when I was thinking of wrapping it up.

He worked at being fair to everyone, to treating them equally.  He had a ready laugh and a constant, wonderful twinkle in his eye. 

He was the man you counted upon.  Everyone who knew him, knew he could be counted upon, to work to his best to be his best.  He was a human being, not flawless, none of us are, but he worked hard at his humanity and inspired me.

He invited me to his mother’s 100th birthday party, not a large party but one dominated by warmth and caring, for Millie, his mother, and for him.  I will always look back with warmth at the softly lit room and see Paul sitting at the head of the table smiling, his eyes laughing.

The world is diminished with his passing.  I have felt bereft since I heard the news.  As I was driving into Hudson today for errands, I realized it seemed impossible to me we would not ever again sit in the garden of the Dot, the fountain splashing, chatting about our weeks and our lives.

I cannot imagine a world without Paul but that world now exists and I will have to learn how to cope with it.

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