Paul and I have known each other for eight years. The photo is of us wrasslin' in front of the Field Museum where we and our girlfriends spent a chunk of Memorial Day picnicking, flying a kite, and throwing around a frisbee.
Paul and I had co-founded a literary arts journal at the University of Illinois in Urbana, where he was an aspiring writer and I was a soon-to-be graduate school dropout. We had little in common - I, an Italian misunderstand genius grouch from New York with a love of rum; he, a clean-cut young man from a good Polish Catholic family in Chicago and with a love of jazz and pot - but what little we did have in common (It's late; I can't remember what the hell we have in common) was enough to create a bond that's as strong today as it was back when we sat in an Urbana coffeehouse and created a litmag. We've been roommates, participants in each other's weddings, drinking buddies, bowling buddies, poets, punners, pains in the ass. I suspect we'll be one or all of those together for another eight years, if not longer.
Paul's mom died the previous Saturday. She'd been battling stomach cancer for well over a year and had fought it long enough to see her only child married. She had differences with Paul (she had differences with everybody), but what was never in doubt was her love for her son and her family.
My girlfriend and I attended her wake last week. I was always impressed with Paul's mom: she struck me as a tough, unbreakable woman. Maybe it was her staunch Catholicism. Maybe it was that she lived in Poland during the Nazi occupation and the Communist dictatorship. All I know is although I disagreed with her on many counts, I always respected that tough skin of hers.
I kept forgetting to contact Paul after the funeral; I was in the middle of a killer work week and had no working brain cells between shifts. We finally talked Saturday, but he had company over, so the conversation was brief. This blog entry is remind the Pauliwog I still think of him and hope he's doing all right.