Sunday, July 15, 2007

photos of Paul...


In my 'life' post, I mentioned a friend who had cancer... Paul and I were good friends with Benny...all three of us would sit around on humongous bags of rabbit chow in the pet food store that Benny managed, and they would treat me to guitar duets...heaven! This was in the early '80's...it's been hard for me to remember the exact year, because that time in my life was very chaotic in an emotional sense, though it was somewhere between 1983-1984.

Paul had quite a hard time in his life. His mother had thrown him out as a teenager, and his sister eventually disowned him. Benny, who was just generally an angel for many people, took him 'under his wing' in a sense, and was a great friend and support for him.Benny and I were very close. I never considered him to be a 'boyfriend' and I really don't know why, except that we seemed to lead separate lives, but we just loved to be together... still a mystery to me now, except that I think I was protected in a way from feeling too connected to him.




There was a point in our lives where we had a 'spiritual experience' together...I didn't label it that way at the time, and still don't have a handle on it, but there was an energy that enveloped the two of us, and I felt completely changed by it in the moment that it happened. I don't know what Benny experienced, but he was changed after that as well. He asked me for a book on spirituality, he had questions and didn't know where to find answers. I went to the bookstore, and there was the book, on the bargain table, it called to me and I knew it was the one. I had been reading Hugh Prather's Notes to Myself at the time, and this was I Touch The Earth, The Earth Touches Me. It wasn't a title that felt appropriate for Benny at the time, but I knew it was the book for him.

A few days after I gave it to him, he told me that, yes, it had told him just what he needed to know. That was on a Friday. On Monday morning there was a note on his door, the store was closed. Benny was in the hospital with a fatal bullet wound to the abdomen. It was clearly an accident, he was doing target practice in an area where the bullets tended to ricochet off of water pipes, something he was known to do. The wound was not point-blank, so I always accepted it as an accident, though I never believed that anything in life was ever truly accidental, including this. Meaning, that there is a purpose to all that happens in our lives, even if on the surface things happen that are out of our conscious control. But, again, I have been rethinking the accident status of the incident now as well.

So...back to Paul...when Benny died, because of our connection on a deep level, I knew that he wanted me to carry on the emotional caring for Paul that he had done, that Paul could not be left bereft of his closest friend without someone else to carry him through.

These photos were taken in Paul's apartment in Queens NY...where exactly?...I know it was near to Greenpoint and that he could see Manhattan from his home...it just wasn't that important to me at the time, as long as I knew how to get there, though I'm thinking now that it might have been Astoria. He was undergoing chemotherapy treatments, I would leave work early on those days, drive from Long Island to Queens and then drive him to Long Island again (Floral Park, I think) and then back home for him and home to Canarsie for me.

I was working at a photography studio at the time. There were five partners, all fantastic wedding/portrait photographers. Each supervised a different aspect of the business, and Howie was in charge of the production dept. where I worked. I also worked as an assistant at weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. Howie was perfectly happy to let me leave early when I needed to, but his partners caught up with it, and pressured him to fire me. After taking them to unemployment court and eventually winning, I was determined to remain on unemployment for the full 26 weeks allowed...silly, I probably wouldn't do the same thing now, but maybe it gave me time to make sense out of my life at the time. I decided I wanted to go college for engineering, and it was suggested to me that I join the Air Force and have my education paid for by Uncle Sam. I wouldn't have joined just for that reason, but the suggestion took hold in me, and it felt more and more right as time went on. I became an Avionics Instrument Systems Specialist...pretty cool, and the 6 month tech school in Rantoul, Illinois was one of the best times I'd had in my life! I ended up with my first choice of McGuire AFB, NJ and worked on C-141's for awhile, until marriage and pregnancy changed my focus in life.

One more of Paul....


I have no photos of Benny. I know that there is one somewhere, maybe one of my brothers has it. He was standing on the sidewalk in front of the store, smiling...I can almost remember it....

One more thing...I used to argue with Paul about cropping photos...I would crop it in the camera as it felt right to me and that was the way I wanted it...he would tell me, no...you have to crop it....well, I've learned the value of cropping, but these are as they were shot...I think he's smiling...

3 comments:

kateri said...

I loved this post. And I thought you were done with mercury retrograde? ;-) but seriously, what in intense and important time that was for you. The photos are wonderful. I know it is not good to dwell in the past, but I also believe it so important to revisit our history, to know it from where we stand today.

PixieDust said...

You are such a caring soul. To have stayed by Paul's side despite your own career. Your connection with him through Benny - what a spiritual bond. Despite Paul's arguments - these photos are perfect. Not only do they capture him, but they capture you as well.

Cindy said...

Thanks so much to you both!
I've been feeling so much more emotional since Mercury went forward...I think because it's in Cancer, all that looking at the past is now bringing it all into the present! Dwelling in the past is not good, when it takes away from the present, but I find after writing this that I am reclaiming aspects of myself that I had forgotten about. As pixiedust says that the photos capture me...yes, I think they help bring back an aspect of me that playing the role of mother and wife buried...it feels so good to reintegrate this into my life and to process it in a new way.