Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 170

A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” But that all changed as of January 9th 2001.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


My old friend, Allan Traylor, came up to our home in New Hampshire to share our grief. He brought Paul and Barbara Weatherbee with him. Paul and Barbara were very important to us because they helped lay the groundwork for our strong Christian faith. I remember the three of them standing in our kitchen patiently listening to us talk about Adam. I think I read them some of the poetry Adam had written. They shared some memories of Adam with us too. It was very meaningful to Mal and I that Allan, Paul and Barbara came to be with us. But I mostly remember how difficult it was for me to talk about Adam without crying. If I couldn’t hold myself together in my own house with close friends who loved us, how on earth could I stand up in front of dozens of people at the upcoming memorial service?

My youngest brother, Rick, came up and he went to the accident site with my brother-in-law Greg to gather up the items that were scattered on the ground during the process of the rescue squad getting Adam out of the wrecked car. They also went to the junkyard where the car was taken (Greg knew I wouldn’t want to see the crushed car) and recovered all of Adam’s stuff. There were piles of clothes, lots of trash, hundreds of music CDs, and the briefcase I had given him when he was a young kid containing some beads and his autographed picture of Davy Jones of The Monkees. Most of it was still soaked with diesel fuel so not too much was salvageable. Greg brought it to his home and spread it out on tarps in his garage so we could go through it. We kept Adam’s CDs, a few items of clothing and his briefcase.

Greg and I spent many hours putting together music for the upcoming memorial service. We listened to old audio tapes of Adam singing at his elementary school and watched hours of home movies on video tape, trying to determine what would be the most meaningful songs and snippets of dialog to celebrate Adam’s life. The people who would come to the memorial service knew Adam at various points in his life so we thought we should share a broad range of songs that reflected his whole life. Seeing Adam on videotape made this an emotional time for us all, but we knew we had to finish this soon.

When the local newspaper was delivered, the front page featured the following story:

“Gilford man, 21, dies in crash”

“A Gilford man was killed on Tuesday when his car collided head-on with a dump truck on Route 106. Police say that the man was in the process of making a U-turn when the accident occurred.

“According to a press release issued by the Belmont Police Department, Adam Howley, 21, no address given, was transported to Lakes Region General Hospital by the Belmont Fire Department ambulance where he was pronounced dead from injuries suffered in the collision.

“The accident occurred at 11:19 a.m. while Howley was traveling north in his Honda Accord near the intersection of Lamprey and Farrarville Roads.

“Police say that Howley’s vehicle crossed the center lane of Route 106 just south of the intersection and struck the side of an unloaded dump truck driven by Christopher Fortin, 44, of Belmont. Fortin was traveling south when the accident occurred. He was uninjured in the crash, police said.

“Once on the scene, police found that Howley’s vehicle had spun to the side of the road in the northbound lane, while the dump truck had spun in the opposite direction, landing in an area just off the southbound portion of the roadway.

“Traffic on a portion of Route 106 was detoured while police and firefighters picked through large amounts of debris that were scattered all over the road.

“According to the police report, Howley’s vehicle was totally destroyed and the dump truck received substantial damage to the driver’s side.

“‘It appears that the car that was headed northbound was making a U-turn to change directions when it went in the path of the dump truck traveling in the opposite direction,’ Belmont Police Chief David Nielsen said at the accident scene. ‘The vehicles collided in the southbound lane causing the car to spin into the northbound shoulder of the road, and the truck to spin into an area off of the southbound lane,’ Nielsen said.

“According to the Belmont Police, Howley is from Gilford and was attending an out-of-state university. No further information on him was immediately available. Belmont Fire Department, the Gilmanton Police Department, the Belknap County Sheriff’s Department and the New Hampshire State Police all assisted Belmont Police Department at the scene.”

When I first read this, I was stunned by the headline referring to Adam as a “man.” I had not thought of him that way. To me he was my child, my kid. Then, after thinking about the story, I became more upset. I had talked with the Police Chief Nielsen and based on the truck driver’s statement, he knew that Adam was not trying to make an illegal U-turn. Adam had fallen asleep and his car slowly drifted across the lane. I called the newspaper reporter and asked him to correct this story. During our short conversation the reporter lamented that the police wouldn’t let him close enough to the accident scene to get a “good” photograph of the wrecked car. I ended my phone call before I lost my temper with him. This is what he wrote:

“Accident victim may have dozed off.”

“While police initially thought a U-turn was to blame for the motor vehicle accident which claimed the life of 21-year-old Adam Howley of Gilford, officials and the driver of the dump truck which was hit now believe that it is more likely that the victim fell asleep at the wheel or was distracted.

“There is no question from police or the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident that Howley’s Honda Accord crossed the center line before it struck the side of Christopher Fortin’s unloaded dump truck.

“The questions which remain are why Howley crossed into the southbound lane of Route 106 and why he failed to see the large truck traveling in the opposite direction.

“Fortin, who watched the accident unfold in front of his eyes, maintains that Howley wasn’t in the process of doing a U-turn when he swerved and struck the truck. He talked about what he saw through the windshield of his dump truck moments before it was hit. ‘I can’t say exactly what happened, but it seemed to me like he must have been asleep. I saw him come into my lane and I pulled into the breakdown lane. When something like that happens, the first thing you do is to give the person the entire road to get corrected and I moved over as much as possible,’ said Fortin.

“He added that Howley’s vehicle continued in its path with the driver unresponsive to the dangers which lay ahead.

‘“He was in my lane for a long period of time. I have been driving for a long time and I have never seen anything like it. I don’t think he knew my truck was even there. Looking at this right in front of me was very unusual and scary,’ remarked Fortin.

“While Fortin’s testimony points toward Howley having fallen asleep at the wheel, local authorities say they can’t be sure why the car traveled into the southbound lane. Detective Steve Crockett of the Belmont Police Department was on the scene following the accident.

‘We aren’t sure what caused him to cross the center line. We investigated the matter and concluded that there were no mechanical problems in either of the vehicles that would have caused them to enter into each other’s lanes. He could have dozed off or he could have been distracted. We just don’t know for sure,’ said Crockett.”

After this poorly written article, the same reporter sloppily (and with some misquotes and factual errors) wrote another article about Adam:

“Young man killed in crash remembered as ‘gifted’, artistic.”

“The parents of a 21-year-old local man, who was killed in a motor vehicle accident in Belmont on Tuesday, say their son was an aspiring actor who was preparing to leave for college in the spring.

“‘Adam was enrolled to start college in the spring semester at University of Rhode Island. He was going to leave on Friday for school,’ said Paul Howley, Adam’s father.

“Adam Howley, 12 Williamsburg Ave., Gilford, died at Lakes Region General Hospital from injuries received when his car crossed the center line on Route 106 and collided with a dump truck.

“On Wednesday, his father talked about the loss of his son saying that when the accident occurred, Adam was returning from an appointment at the University of Rhode Island.

“‘When you hear about something like that you are just in shock. He had called me in the morning from the school at 8 a.m. and he said he would see me in a little while,’ lamented the father.

“While a definite answer as to what caused the accident that claimed Adam’s life has not been made, his parents say they have only begun to deal with the sudden loss of their son.

“‘We are making arrangements today to take care of everything, but it is really tough to be taking out old pictures and looking back at his life,’ said Paul.

“Paul and his wife Marilyn are originally from Massachusetts, where Adam graduated from Lexington Christian Academy.

“‘When he got out of high school, Adam went to school for one year at The Boston Conservatory of Music majoring in theater,’ Paul explained. ‘He has always been in plays ever since he was five years old and he knew what he wanted to be. He loved to sing and dance, and it comforts us to know that now he is dancing in Heaven.’

He also said Adam was an extremely gifted individual.

“‘He was a really brilliant kid. He won the Headmaster’s Scholarship for Academics when he was in high school and also won a Massachusetts Drama award. He was a fun-loving and truly caring person. Adam was always happy and we will really miss him,’ Paul said.

“He said Adam had been working at Friendly’s Restaurant on Union Avenue in Laconia since July. Personnel who worked with him at the establishment said that Adam will be missed very much.

“‘Sunday was his last day because he was returning to college. He was a prep cook here and a waiter. Around here, he was one of the gang and everyone loved him,’ said Mike Kearney, general manager at Friendly’s.

“‘He had a really great personality and was truly funny. Last Sunday he dyed his hair red because of a play he was doing. He was a very young man and this is very sad,’ Kearney said, adding that approximately 300-400 people are expected at Adam’s memorial service.”

Next chapter: preparations for the memorial service.
Photo: Adam's accident scene

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 169

A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” But that all changed as of January 9th 2001.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16
Meridith: Adam’s best friend

“Meridith Remembers”

Meridith Burkus, Adam’s girlfriend, told me, “I had a job interview at a restaurant in the Prudential Center on the morning of Adam’s accident. It was snowing on my walk home and I had nothing else to do so I randomly decided to go back to sleep. I was asleep when Adam fell asleep at the wheel and that’s when I had the dream. In my dream Adam and I were together and he said, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t do it to hurt you (referring to Rhode Island) I love you.’

“Adam and I had spoken at length on the telephone that weekend. He was telling me all about how his plans to go back to college in Rhode Island were coming together. It took every ounce of self-control to not blurt out, ‘I love you so much’ but I didn’t because I knew that could veer him off the new course he was successfully on. I wanted him to start school on his own. We had decided to ‘take a break’ shortly after his 21st birthday because I knew that I would get too wrapped up in helping him get into school and get things together at the expense of my own studies. We were so attached and I felt that we needed to accomplish things on our own and then come back together a little less co-dependent. I’ve gone back and forth on this choice but in the end I spent two or three months working on myself by reconnecting with Mr. Greco and his church in Cambridge and really focusing on my studies. I think I developed the strength to get through what was about to happen. I’m not sure where I’d be if I hadn’t made the decision to do some soul searching that fall.

“You called my parents’ house in Groton and told my brother David about the accident and he gave you my telephone number in Boston. I remember exactly what you said to me. ‘Hi Meridith. It’s Paul Howley. Adam died today. There was an accident.’ Unfortunately, this has played over and over in my head so many times so I never forgot it. I remember trying to tell you ‘He was my best friend’ but I couldn’t breathe or get words out. I do remember being able to offer to call Phil Doreau but you said you wanted to contact him yourself. So, I hung up the phone and called home. I spoke to David who just said, ‘I know. Mom’s getting dressed. She’s coming to get you.’ Most all of my friends were away from Boston, on vacation, so I was pretty much all alone. I called the only person I knew was home (our mutual friend Rita) and I told her I needed to find Tori because she’d understand. Tori’s father died the year before. They told me to meet them at a fast-food place called The Wrap. I ordered a smoothie and they walked me back to my apartment. When I got there, my Mom, David, my brother Andy, and my friend Kenny and his girlfriend were waiting for me. I think someone in my family had called Kenny to tell him and he just got in his car and drove to be with me.

“When I arrived at my parent’s house I didn’t get further than the kitchen sink before I started vomiting uncontrollably. It’s probably the only reason I remember ordering a smoothie at The Wrap. I couldn’t stop. While I know that no one else slept that night, I remember forcing myself to pass out to stop throwing up. It sounds crazy, but I felt Adam’s hand on my shoulder. I held it and immediately fell asleep.

“The next morning, flowers were delivered to me. They were from my high school English teacher who remembered Adam fondly. My hometown of Groton lost three fellow students in the time Adam and I were dating, all of whom Adam either knew or knew their siblings. At the last funeral, during my freshman year of college, my English teacher said, ‘Let’s make this the last one.’ The flowers told me that she remembered that too.

“We then drove to Laconia to see you and Mal. Mal answered the door. As my Mom’s often retelling of that day, she said that Mal collapsed in my arms. My Mom says the rest of the day Mal was trying to be strong and was guarded for all of the people who came to the house that day. But with me she could actually cry freely as if she knew I had a piece of what she was going through. Perhaps that’s my Mom being poetic but she’s said it enough that I thought I’d include it in my memories of that time.

“Your parents were there and Sharon and Greg and others. I can’t recall what was said but I do remember a touching moment when your Dad talked openly about how brilliant he thought Adam was. I don’t remember what else he said but I remember his eyes that day. It was like he had lost a best friend, not his grandson.

“While I was at your house I only wanted to see one physical thing of Adam’s- his poetry book. When his interest in writing poems was sparked as a result of assignments in his first semester liberal arts at The Boston Conservatory I bought him a blank green journal. I knew that he had completely filled this book with his writings so I was glad that we found it. Adam’s cousin Emily Demund took my Mom and me to Wal-Mart to photocopy every page. I still have these copies. They are in a file cabinet in the folder I have marked, ‘I’m so sorry you’ve been reduced to a file folder.’ I like to think that title would amuse him. There’s lots of things in there like caution tape, candy necklaces, newspaper clippings from high school and printouts of emails he sent to me. Emily was concerned about me, knowing how sweet Aleeta was. I knew where Adam was at this point in his life, so I knew her without ever meeting her, but I understood that Emily’s concern was valid under the circumstances. I also particularly remember Emily seeming to not know where she fit. She was obviously in a lot of pain over Adam’s passing, but where did a cousin fit in with so many who were suffering? It had seemed like Adam had spent most of his time in New Hampshire trying NOT to fit in with Emily’s friends despite all of Emily’s efforts to reach out to him.

“Later that day, you took me back to Adam’s room and gave me the huge stuffed puppy that was on his bed. It really didn’t leave my side for quite a while. Actually, it’s sitting under the window in my room right now.

“You had already set the date for the memorial service and on my way home I made the decision to sing and read for the service. I contacted Mr. Greco and asked him if he’d play the piano for me and he agreed to do it. He also spread the news to the people at Lexington Christian Academy.

“When I got home I found that David had been sent home from school. He had gone into school but partway through the morning he sought out Mr. Byrne, Groton High School’s drama teacher, who knew Adam very well. David told him about Adam’s death and Mr. Byrne said, ‘You can’t be here, you need to go home, David.’ The rest of that week he was excused from classes to sit in the computer lab and create the poetry books that were given out at the memorial service. David was really destroyed that week.”

Next chapter: The memorial service.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 168

A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” But that all changed as of January 9th 2001.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


“The Details.”

The annoying hospital chaplain was trying to usher us out of the hospital. How could we just leave Adam’s body in this hospital? We knew we had to, but it seemed so strange. Eventually we left. I don’t remember much from the rest of this day but here’s what I do remember. Once I got to my home, I called several of Adam’s friends to let them know about Adam’s death. At some point I spoke to the New Hampshire police and they told me what the truck driver who collided with Adam’s car had told them. He said, “The guy was slouched over in his car, as if he had fallen asleep, and he just drifted over into my lane. I blasted my horn but he didn’t respond and as I swerved to avoid him, he crashed into the side of my truck.”

Adam was killed instantly. I was relieved to learn that my son didn’t suffer.

The police asked me if the Honda Accord that Adam was driving had any mechanical problems that could have caused the accident but I explained that the car was in excellent condition. After the police fully investigated the accident they had the wreck towed to a local junkyard.

At some point, Mal’s sister Ginny and her husband Denis were told about the accident and without hesitation, they made arrangements with their employers, packed up their car, and began to drive the 1400 miles to be with Mal and I. Mal’s sisters Carol and Madeline made travel arrangements right away to fly from Georgia and Colorado to New Hampshire. My sister Sharon and her husband Greg arranged to pick up the relatives who were flying in to the Manchester, New Hampshire airport, even the ones who were arriving very late that first night.

People from our church brought food for us that afternoon. Lots of food, but we didn’t feel much like eating. When we were eventually left alone at our home we were in a daze. Mal and I went into Adam’s bedroom and for some reason we felt the urge to clean it. We packed two large trash bags full of trash and tried to straighten up his room by putting his clothes and shoes into the drawers and closet. We found the empty two-pound bag of pistachio nuts that we had given him for Christmas and a huge bowl of pistachio nut shells on the floor. We found several small notebooks full of Adam’s hand-written poetry. I suddenly realized that I had never read any of his poetry before. Now I’d never have the opportunity to share this with him. I shut off his computer and closed his bedroom door.

Our daughter, Cassy, had gone to a Bible study at a friend’s home and when she came home she went right to sleep. Mal’s sisters Madeline and Carol arrived very late that night. I couldn’t remember anything else that happened that night but recently Carol recalled:

“ I spoke with Madeline the other day and she confirmed that we arrived the night of Adam's death. I remember that her flight was coming in around the same time as mine and that Greg picked us up. I remember that when we arrived at your home...there were flowers and baskets everywhere for Adam (Your brother Jay had made some kind of wooden basket filled with gifts of handmade soaps and breads). There were also pictures all over the table of Adam. You both were horribly distraught and I remember thinking that I could hardly see Mal's eyes because she had cried so much. Mal took Madeline and I through the story of what had happened...and told us about the "Newport" kids.”

The next day, Mal’s sister Ginny and her husband Denis arrived and we told them the story of what had happened. My Mom and Dad came from Florida to be with us but since our house was getting crowded, my sister Sharon convinced them to stay at her house for the next week. Our pastor, Jim Morel, came over to discuss our thoughts about a possible funeral or memorial service. He guided us through the basics, using his experiences with past services and he was very helpful. Jim suggested that we consider hiring Wilkinson-Beane Funeral Home to handle the arrangements so I called and set up a time to meet with them. I don’t like funerals and I’ve always heard about the predatory practices of funeral homes. They take advantage of highly emotional, grief-stricken people to sell them services, caskets and burials that are primarily a waste of money. When my grandmother died a funeral home tried to pressure my mother into buying a deluxe casket with a “quality inner-spring mattress guaranteed for twenty years.” But this guy was different. He wasn’t emotional, but he was understanding and sympathetic. He listened to our thoughts and made very few suggestions. We weren’t ready to buy a casket but we came up with some rough ideas of the cost for a normal service. We’d try to come up with definitive plans over the next few days. He helped us write the obituary and he made sure it was published in the local New Hampshire newspaper and our old hometown of Bolton’s newspaper. It was an odd task to describe Adam’s life in such a short obituary. This is what we wrote:

“Adam Dean Howley, 21, died at the Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia on January 9, 2001, following a motor vehicle accident.
Mr. Howley was born October 10, 1979 in Framingham, Massachusetts, the son of Paul B. and Marilyn L. (Daher) Howley. He was a graduate of Lexington Christian Academy in Lexington, Massachusetts, and attended The Boston Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He had been accepted for the spring semester at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, Rhode Island, as a theatre major. He starred in his first play at the age of five. He loved to sing and dance and he loved the theatre. He was very active in summer theatre and directed the play, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” in the summer theatre in Groton, Mass. He also enjoyed spending time in Newport, Rhode Island. Mr. Howley had lived in Bolton, Mass. For 17 years and also lived in Boston, Mass. before moving to Gilford, New Hampshire a year ago. He had worked at Friendly’s Restaurant in Laconia since July. Mr. Howley was a member of the Trinity Church in Bolton, Mass. and the Laconia Christian Fellowship Church in Laconia. Survivors include his parents, Paul and Mal Howley, his sister Cassandra Howley of Gilford, his paternal grandparents John and Marion Howley of Bolton, Mass, and his maternal grandparents Richard and Helen Daher of Florida, 24 aunts and uncles, many cousins and great cousins, as well as his very close friends Alletta, Meridith, Phil, and Victor.”

Shortly after we got home from the funeral home, Meridith and her mother came up to visit. Meridith shared lots of very personal thoughts about Adam with us that touched us deeply. After a while, we all went into Adam’s room together. We wanted Meridith to take the large stuffed dog that she had shared with Adam and she appreciated it. We told her to take anything else that would be helpful for her but I don’t remember if she took anything.

After Meridith and her Mom left we got our mail. In it was a letter from the University of Rhode Island confirming that Adam had a room on campus for the upcoming semester. If the college had mailed the letter a few days earlier, Adam wouldn’t have had to drive down there to get the college to commit to assign him a room.

Next chapter: The memorial service.

Pictures: Adam's messy room

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 167

A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.”

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


“In the blink of an eye” our lives changed.

Mal and I were on our way to The Lakes Region Hospital after the New Hampshire State Police officer came to our house and told Mal that Adam had been in a serious car accident. We had no idea how serious Adam’s injuries were so the short ride to the hospital seemed to take far too long. We pulled up to the Emergency Room entrance, jumped out of the car, and ran into the entrance.

“Hi…We were told that my son Adam Howley was brought in here by ambulance. Could you tell me where he is?”

“Let me check. Oh…I’ll be right back”, the receptionist said.

A few minutes later, the receptionist returned and asked, “Could you describe Adam for me? Does he have any tattoos or piercings?”

“No. He doesn’t have any tattoos…but he does have his ears pierced. Oh…he has one eyebrow pierced. Why are you asking this?”

“I’ll be right back,” she said (without answering my question)

When she returned she asked, “Are you sure he doesn’t have any other piercings?”

“I’m pretty sure, but I’m not positive. Please…we want to see our son.”

“Well, the doctors are working on him right now. I’ll go talk to the doctors.”

“Please…we want to see him now. How serious are his injuries?!”

“I’ll be right back,” she replied.

“If he’s still alive I want to see him right now,” I insisted.

She ignored me and walked away, apparently to talk to the doctors who were with Adam. A few minutes later she came back with a doctor who said, “I’m sorry, but Adam had severe chest trauma and there was nothing we could do.”
Mal’s legs buckled but I held her up. “Please…I want to see him,” I implored.

“Give us a few minutes to clean him up,” the doctor replied.

Mal and I stood in the hospital corridor, she in stunned disbelief, while I was trying to hold myself together, thinking that Mal would need me to “be strong.” While we were waiting, the hospital Chaplain approached us to offer his condolences. “Helluva way to go,” he said. “Was he an organ donor?”

“No…I don’t think he was. This isn’t a good time right now,” I suggested while Mal cried.

“Oh. Sure. If you change your mind let me know, okay?” he said.

I ignored him. I called my sister Sharon and told her, “Sharon, Adam was killed in a car accident.”

“Oh Paul, that’s a terrible thing to say…don’t even joke about that!” She said.

“I’m not kidding. We’re at the hospital right now.”

Sharon burst into tears.

About ten minutes later Sharon’s daughter Emily rushed into the hospital. She sat next to Mal, holding her, while Mal rocked back and forth saying, “Oh, Adam, oh Adam, my baby, my baby.”

It wasn’t long before several other friends came to comfort us including our pastor Jim Morel and his wife Pam, our neighbor Lisa DiMartino, Jim and Barbara Foote, Adam’s cousin Jesse DeMund, and Emily and Liz Verhoeks. I called the main office of Laconia Christian School and told Judy Downing about the accident. “Judy, could you please get Brenda Carney (the Drama teacher) to get Cassy out of her class and use our van to bring her and her cousin Jacob to the hospital. I don’t want Cassy to know what happened because she might be too upset to drive herself here,” I explained. Judy took care of it right away and I soon met Cassy at the entrance to the Emergency Room. We embraced and she cried before I brought her in to see Mal. The news of Adam’s death spread quickly, so it wasn’t long before several of the students from Laconia Christian School came to be with Cassy. As the crowd grew, the hospital Chaplain suggested that we all move to a different area of the hospital so he brought us to a more private room away from the reception area.

Someone from the hospital asked Mal and I if we’d want to see Adam. I was reluctant but I knew I had to. We held each other and went with Cassy into the room. Adam was lying on a table and he still had the tube down his throat the paramedics had put in to try to revive him. Even though the hospital staff had “cleaned him up,” he smelled like diesel fuel (spilled into his car from the dump-truck he collided with) and he had dozens of small, bloodied cuts on his once-handsome face. His forehead and left eye was bandaged, covering some of his most serious injuries. We touched his face and I was surprised at how cold his skin was. ( For the next several months I could still remember how this felt to me.) I ran my fingers through his bright-red dyed hair and I was shocked at how coarse it felt. I hadn’t really touched his head for several years and the frequent color changes must have damaged his previously soft hair. We stood there, mostly in silence, until my sister Sharon and her husband Greg asked if they could come to see Adam. We cried as they said goodbye to him.

At one point, when I left the room where Adam was in, the Chaplain approached me and asked, “Have you reconsidered donating his organs?”

“No, I’m not donating his organs. Don’t ask us again. You’re upsetting my wife.”

My memory is blurred around this time so I can’t be sure of the “order” of things, but at some point I went back to the hospital nurses station and asked if I could use the telephone again. I called my Dad and Mom in Florida. “Dad, Adam died today in a car accident.” My father replied with an unusual, sad sound, and he assured me that they’d fly up to be with us as soon as they could. Then I called Adam’s closest friend Meridith. When I told her what had happened she told me that she was sound asleep when I called and was having a dream that Adam had come to her and he explained that everything would be alright. I told her that I’d call her back later.

I called Adam’s current girlfriend, Aleeta, but looking back, I wish I had given the news to her mother so that she could break the news to Aleeta. I just blurted out, “Adam was in a car accident and he was killed.” She cried. “I’ll call you later to talk about it,” I promised.

I called Mal’s sister Madeline but she didn’t believe me. I insisted that it was true but I had to eventually put Cassy on the phone before Madeline really believed me. I think Madeline called the other family members to give them the awful news. I can’t remember who else I called while I was at the hospital, but I know the word got around quickly.

The hospital Chaplain came by and said, “Hey, we need that room now for other people. Are you almost done?”

Next Chapter: The details

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part #166

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


Winter in the “Lakes Region” of New Hampshire is always harsh. For five months there is lots of snow and cold. The winter of 2000-2001 was even worse than normal. The snow started in November and piled up so fast that we had to hire a company to come and truck it away because there was no more room along our driveway. But, on Tuesday, January 9th, 2001, it was a clear and snow-free day. Adam called me at 7:45 am to tell me, “I’m up and ready to get in my car so I’ll be home in time for my car inspection.” I didn’t ask him how his trip to Newport, Rhode Island went. He had a list of important things he needed to get done so he’d be able to start taking classes at the University of Rhode Island in mid-January but I didn’t ask him about these. I’d ask him when he got home.

Mal spent most of the morning preparing for a party she was hosting that night. It was her turn to have the group of women over for the monthly “Pokeno” game so she was baking up a bunch of pastries and cakes.

As it neared 11:45 a.m.we were surprised that Adam hadn’t gotten home yet. If he left when he had said he was going to leave he should have already gotten home in time for his scheduled car inspection. I called Belknap Tire and asked if I could take Adam’s allotted inspection time since it appeared as if he was going to be late. I drove to Belknap Tire and visited with my friend, Jim Foote, while my car was being inspected.

While Jim and I were talking, he got a phone call from our friend Liz who asked to speak to me. Liz told me that Mal was on her way there and I needed to be ready to go with her right away. Mal arrived a few minutes later and as I got into the car she told me that shortly after I had left the house, a state police officer had knocked on our door to tell us that Adam had been involved in a serious car accident. The policeman offered to drive Mal directly to the local hospital where Adam was being brought by ambulance but Mal knew it would be better for her to drive our car so she could pick me up to go with her to the hospital. That way, we’d have our car there so we wouldn’t have to call someone to come pick us up later on.

The policeman was unable to give Mal any details about the accident so we had no idea of the nature of Adam’s injuries. Even though we were only a few minutes away from the Lakes Region General Hospital, it seemed to take a long time to get there. We tried to prepare ourselves for the worst. We both hoped Adam’s legs were not hurt. We knew how much he loved to dance. A cassette tape in the car played “Help Me God,” by Kathy Trocolli.

Next Chapter: The hospital

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 165

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


In October of 2000, while working on compiling all of his poetry that he’d written, Adam’s old computer “crashed.” He lost everything he had done but, since he had all of his poetry written in several small notebooks, he could start over if he had a new computer. So, for his birthday, we bought him a new state-of-the-art, very expensive computer. We didn’t ordinarily spend large amounts on birthday gifts for our kids but we knew this computer would be something Adam would use for many years. After it arrived, Adam worked on retyping all of his poetry when he had extra time. He asked me several times if I wanted to see it, but I put him off, agreeing to read it once he had it all done. In truth, I do not like most poetry so I wasn’t that interested.

As Christmas of 2000 approached, since we had just recently got him the computer, we had no idea what to buy Adam as a gift. We briefly considered buying Adam a new inexpensive car so that he’d have something very reliable for his frequent trips to visit his friends in Rhode Island. After checking out the Kia line of cars we thought the small Kia SUV might be a good idea. But after thinking about it for a while, we realized that Adam wouldn’t really take good care of a new car. Adam had bought my Honda Accord from me and within six months the car was no longer in excellent condition. He just wasn’t good at taking care of things. We’d have to come up with a better idea for a Christmas gift.

Both of our kids usually gave us a Christmas “Wish List” with some serious items, some goofy items, and a few jokes. Adam usually requested “Monkey-bacon.” One of the “joke” requests that Adam put on his list was “pay off my student loans.” Sorry kid, I don’t think so.

Mal loved Christmas. She enjoyed shopping for gifts for people, she loved Christmas music, but most of all, she loved decorating our home for Christmas. This particular Christmas season was busier than normal because we had scheduled a Laconia Christian School staff Christmas party at our home and Mal had a Christmas party for her women’s Bible study group there too. Mal set up and decorated four different Christmas trees that year but the fifth tree, in the family room, would be the one that we’d decorate with the kids. Mal had already put the lights on the tree and put the star on the top but, with the hectic schedules of our kids, there just wasn’t time to all be together to put on the rest of the decorations until a few days before Christmas.

Shortly before Christmas, Adam told us that he had decided that he wanted to go back to college. He knew he didn’t want to go back to The Boston Conservatory so he was looking into transferring to the University of Rhode Island to pursue a degree in Theatre. We wanted him to go back to college so we encouraged him to get as much information as he could before he made a decision about where he should go.

One day, after I came home to find Adam’s dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, I asked Adam to sit down and talk with me. I started by telling him that I loved him and that I was probably the only parent around who didn’t want his son to leave for college. I didn’t think he was mature enough or responsible enough to spend more time around his young friends in Newport, Rhode Island. I believed that they were a very bad influence on him and I questioned his motive for choosing a college in Rhode Island. Adam told me that the University of Rhode Island had a very good Theatre Department. He also explained that he felt it was important to be near his friends. He insisted that he knew what he was doing.

He had a lot of details to work out if he was going to be able to enroll for the January semester. He’d need to work out another student loan, get his transcripts from The Boston Conservatory, enroll in the required courses, and most importantly, he needed to secure housing. This would be the most difficult because transfer students get “last priority” for on-campus housing. Mal and I certainly didn’t want Adam to end up staying with his friends, “the Park Rats,” anymore. If he was to go back to finish his college education, we didn’t think it would be a good idea for him to be too distracted by his friends.

As Christmas approached, Adam began to work on the details for the college transfer and gave his notice at “Friendly’s,” the restaurant where he had been working. He planned to work there as close to the beginning of the January semester as possible because he really needed the extra money. Mal and I saw that Adam was concerned about having enough money to pay for his current student loans while he attended the University of Rhode Island. So, for his “big” Christmas gift, we decided to pay off his largest student loan. He was certainly shocked and happy when he opened that gift on Christmas morning! Later, when he found out that we had briefly considered buying him a new car (but decided not to because we knew he wouldn’t take good care of it) he said, “Yeah, but I bet you’ll buy Cassy a new car.” No Adam, I had no intention of buying your sixteen-year-old sister a new car.

Shortly after the start of the New Year, Adam still had no commitment of a room at the University of Rhode Island. On Thursday, he decided he’d call to insist that the college make room for him in a dormitory. He called them in the early afternoon and he was told by the voice mail message, “Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received.” Adam sat on the couch with the phone held to his ear, waiting for his call to be answered by a human being. After several hours of being on hold, a new message came on saying, “The office is now closed. Please call back during regular business hours.” Adam wasn’t pleased. Since there was just about one week left before the January semester was to begin, Adam decided that he would drive to Rhode Island and take care of things personally. He told us that he would go to the college on Monday morning and stand in the office until they promised him a room.

Believing that most college administration-types would give more consideration to a nice, clean-cut looking guy, at our urging, Adam reluctantly agreed to return his hair to his normal brown color from the bright red color it was at the time.

On Friday, Adam packed up some clothes for his weekend trip to Newport, Rhode Island, but he first had to work a full day at Friendly’s. He planned to leave for Newport right after he got out of work that day. Mal and I came up with a short list of things that Adam needed to do while he was in Rhode Island over that weekend. He needed to find a local doctor to give him the school required physical, get information about available student loans, he needed to dye his hair, and he needed to get a promise of on-campus housing. I wrote these things on a piece of paper and brought it to him at his workplace. He promised to take care of these things as he folded the paper and put it in his pocket. He needed to be back in Laconia, New Hampshire by noon on Tuesday because he had an appointment to get his annual, State of New Hampshire required, car inspection and he assured me he’d be on-time.

Next chapter: Adam calls me on Tuesday morning.

Pictures: Our family in December 2000
Adam gets his school loan gift

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part #164

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


In November of 2000, our daughter Cassy signed up through our church to go on a trip to New York City to help distribute food and clothing to the homeless. Mal and I decided to sign up too. Adam couldn’t go because he couldn’t afford to take time off from his job.

The church Evangelism leaders, Ron and Christine St. Cyr, had made many trips to New York City over the years to help the homeless through an organization in the heart of Manhattan. They also organized overseas trips to help build churches, hospitals and orphanages.

Ron and Chris really knew how to organize these trips down to the smallest detail. They required anyone interested in going to attend several instructional classes where we were briefed on the potential dangers of this kind of outreach program. New York City was not like Laconia, New Hampshire. We practiced several potential scenarios so we could reduce possible troubles. Ron firmly explained that if at any time, he sensed a dangerous situation; we were to immediately follow his orders without hesitation.

In early December, we packed several vehicles with the winter coats, shirts, socks, gloves and mittens that we collected to give to some of the people who were homeless in New York City. We drove to a building that had large rooms upstairs for us to sleep in and a soup-kitchen-function room on one of the lower floors. The men in our group occupied one floor and the women were on another. My bunk was near one of the men from my church in New Hampshire who snored so loudly that I was actually awake almost the entire first night.

Over the next couple of days many of us prepared hundreds of sandwiches and packed up bags of toothpaste, toothbrushes, and other personal hygiene products to give to as many of the homeless people as we could find. As we met the people, we explained that there were people who cared about them and we encouraged them to seek out the help of some of the local food pantries and shelters in the area. Most of the people we found were really “in need” but we were surprised when we discovered one man living in a large box with a working television and a microwave oven. He had found a way to hook up to someone’s electrical service! Still an unpleasant way to live, but he had a good sense of humor about his awful situation. Facing a very cold winter outside, he gratefully accepted our offer of food and warm clothing.

Mal and I went with a group of other volunteers to serve hot meals at another local food pantry where it was suggested that we should try to make direct physical contact with the people by hugging them or holding their hand. Many of them would go without any physical contact for weeks or months. They needed food, but they also needed to know that others cared about them. We were saddened to see the dozens of hungry people in line waiting for a simple meal. The people we served seemed so thankful for what we were doing but we were really getting even more out of this experience.

Our daughter, Cassy, went with another group to help coordinate a “Sunday School” for several thousand inner-city children. The church would send busses around the city and parents would just put their kids on the bus so they could be brought to this church. Kids as young as three-years old were sent, alone, to the church program.

On Sunday, we all went to an enormous church service held at The Times Square Church, pastored by David Wilkerson. Then, after Ron St. Cyr reluctantly led us on a fast-moving thirty-minute sightseeing tour of the Rockefeller Center area, we headed back home to New Hampshire. Our son, Adam called our cell phone to see if we were on our way home and Mal told him we’d be back home within a few hours. But we hit an area of tremendous rain that made our driving very treacherous so we ended up several hours behind schedule. Adam called us again, worried that we may have slid off the road. He knew that Ron and Chris usually had everything on a tight schedule so it was very unusual for a trip to be this late. When we finally made it home, we were exhausted but still excited about what we had done and learned on this trip. We looked forward to going again next year as a family with Adam.

Next chapter: Christmas

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 163

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


The two major local newspapers finally ran articles and photographs about my eagerness to buy collectibles while I was set up for a week in the Belknap Mall in New Hampshire. With only one full day left of my rental time, I was curious to see what kind of results these two articles would have as far as motivating area residents to bring their items to sell to me. The previous six days had been profitable because of a few nice lots of items I was able to buy but most of each twelve-hour day I spent alone in my booth and it was boring.

I decided to get to the mall even earlier than I had been getting there because it took me about an hour to set up the toy display each morning. I assumed that we’d have a few more people than usual showing up with stuff for me to look at and I was happy that my wife, Mal, insisted on coming with me that morning. By the time we arrived at the mall there were already about twenty people carrying boxes and pushing shopping carts full of collectibles waiting for me!

Mal and I quickly arranged our display of collectibles in our booth and I began to look through the items that the people had brought into the mall. The first few had toy trucks and Matchbox cars. The next had some old magazines. I made offers on all of these items and the people were satisfied enough and they sold them to me. The next man had a very large plastic storage container filled with comic books from the 1960’s. I asked him if he had an idea of how much he wanted for the whole lot and he said he’d like at least $50 for the lot. I started to search through the container and found several interesting comic books that I knew I could sell for $5 to $10 each. Then I found a copy of “Amazing Fantasy” issue # 15 featuring the very first appearance of Spider-Man. It was only in “good” condition because of some creases on the front cover, but I knew I could sell this for about $750. When I offered the man $600 for just this one comic book he was shocked but he was very happy. It took me about twenty minutes to calculate my offer on the whole lot of four hundred comic books but when I offered the man $1200 for the collection he was thrilled!

As I was appraising and buying stuff from the people in line, I could see that the line continued getting longer as more people carried boxes and bags of old things into the mall. I wanted to hurry through some of the appraisals but I didn’t want to be rude to anyone, so I did my best to explain the true value of each and every item. One man, who was about 15 places back in the line, yelled up to me. As I looked at him he slid a group of 1940’s comic books out of a large envelope. I told him I’d get to him as soon as I possibly could but he said he couldn’t wait any longer. He’d already waited for almost an hour. I explained that I wouldn’t be set up in the mall after today and I gave him my business card and asked him to call me the next day. He assured me that he’d call. He never did. It still annoys me that there is a large collection of rare golden-age comic books sitting somewhere in the area. I should have gotten his phone number!

The crowd was finally gone by about 4 pm and I had large piles of merchandise piled up inside my booth. I also had a few good “leads” on potential additional collections that people didn’t want to bring into the mall. One of these consisted of almost 25,000 comic books from the late 1970’s-2000. I finally completed a deal on these a few months after my mall experience. These were not particularly valuable but I did eventually sell them all.

Overall, this buying experience was exhausting but it was a profitable venture and I have a few new friends because of it.

Next chapter: We travel to New York City to feed the homeless.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 162

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


The night before my last buying day in the Belknap Mall, the two major local newspapers ran articles with photographs. This is the article from The Laconia Daily Sun:

“Old Toys May Bring New Treasures.” By Lin Hourihan

“Who would have ever thought that taking such good care of his toys and comic books for over 40 years could have afforded him to spend $250,000 this week on those treasured collectibles?

“That’s just what Paul Howley, local collector and dealer, is doing at The Belknap Mall this week. He’s on a mission to hunt down comic books, old toys and games, old books and magazines, model kits, G. I. Joe dolls, Barbie dolls, and many other interesting items. He’ll tell you what your collection is worth and possibly might buy it from you.

“This is one hot collectibles dealer, owner of That’s Entertainment, New England’s largest collectible store located in Worcester, Massachusetts. However, Howley, who now resides in Gilford, has brought his business to the Internet through the wonderful world of Ebay and now sells internationally.

“Among his prestigious lists of accomplishments in his toy story is his winning the 1997 “Will Eisner Spirit Of Comics Award,” a beautiful cut-glass award and an international recognition for comic retailing. In 1996 Howley came in second to a company in Australia.
“‘It was great for us, and we had to prepare all of the documentation for it all,’ said Howley. ‘We’ve also been written up in INC.Magazine, a national business magazine, and I co-wrote the book, “The Toys From Uncle,” which is a take off from The Man From Uncle. That was my favorite TV show. I wrote the book in 1990 and was selling it for $9.95. But now it sells anywhere from $35 to $55 on Ebay,’ said Howley.
“Toy trends vary with the times, depending on the generation reminiscing of their yesteryears. The generation now recapturing those long-lost memories seem to be those people from the 1960’s and 1970’s.

“‘People generally buy in their childhood span. But things can change quickly. Two years ago Star Wars was the hottest thing in the business, now it’s slow,’ said Howley.

“‘Collecting toys is not as volatile as the stock market, but you do have to be careful on investments. We have a gigantic customer base that is based on the market right now, not on the future or the past,’ explained Howley.

“‘We’ve never had any cash problems. Now we’re a very successful company. Our website is but we do most of our Internet sales with Ebay. That started five or six years ago. Three years ago that was the single most visited Internet site in the world. Now 16 million people use it everyday,’ said Howley

“This week Howley can be found in the center of the Belknap Mall, somewhere between his huge display of toys and collectibles others are bringing in for him to appraise. ‘I’m looking to spend $250,000 this week,’ he said.

“‘I don’t suggest investing in new toys. You can’t get anything more dead than Beanie Babies,’ added Howley.

“In addition to giving free appraisals and giving away free comic books this week, Howley said he is also looking for sports cards dated prior to 1975 and video tapes and music CDs.

“‘As a kid, I was very meticulous, and my room was very organized. My comic books were in order, in alphabetical order on the shelf. I still have many of the original toys I had as a kid. I played with the other kids in the neighborhood with my toys but no one ever touched my comic books,’ chuckled Howley.

“Included in his interesting collection of toys on display is the second Barbie doll ever made, now a $1000 value. If the doll was loose, it’d be worth $300, but the original box is key.

“‘I have the Man From Uncle attaché case. It was then sold to cash in on the James Bond era. It sold with this cardboard sleeve that most people threw away. In 1965 it was worth $9, now it is a $2000 item,’ said Howley.

“There are paint by number sets, dated from 1967 now selling for $250 and a model kit of The Munsters that sold for $1.98 in 1965 that is going for $2500 now. Remember the Batman card game from 1966 or the Kiss Colorforms from 1979? Well, they are going for $75 and $50 respectively.

“‘I was the first kid in my school to have a G. I. Joe. A G. I. Joe then in 1965 was $3. Now it is worth $75 and because I have it in the original box it is worth $150,’ Howley said.

“Howley’s store is in its 21st year of operation, now employing 12 full-time people who get a very good benefit package and profit sharing.

“‘Our employees are there because it is a career for them. Most of our employees have been there for ten years or more,’ said Howley

“‘I retired from the active day-to-day operation almost six years ago. I knew when I was twelve years old that I did not want to work past 40 years old. I have achieved everything I have ever wanted,’ said Howley.”

Next chapter: The results of these two newspaper articles.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 161

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


After several phone calls to the local newspapers in Laconia, New Hampshire, they finally sent reporters out to interview me about my interest in buying collectibles while I had my display of rare toys set up in the Belknap Mall. Both reporters asked the “right” questions and it encouraged me that it could be quite good for me if they really published articles about me in their newspapers. I had some success buying items already because of the many advertisements I had purchased but no advertisement is as effective as an article with photographs. Days passed and no articles appeared. Now my rental time in the mall was almost done.

Then, with only one day left, I checked both local newspapers when I arrived home from the mall that night. To my surprise, there were huge articles, with photographs, in both of the newspapers! The Laconia Citizen wrote:

“The Art of Buying and Selling Collectibles”

“Stanley and Dodie Pike of Belmont walked away with $141 in their pocket from Paul Howley’s kiosk-like display at The Belknap Mall for the sale of old photographs and magazines they found 15 years ago in someone’s trash.

“Howley, 45, of Gilford, has been a collector, mostly of comic books and toys, since he was a teen-ager. During the years, he has turned his fascination into a profitable career, and now, with his wife Mal, co-owns two collectibles stores named That’s Entertainment in Massachusetts, the largest in the country.

“‘I started off in the low end of the high-tech field, and when I decided to make this career change 21 years ago, my boss at the time thought I was nuts. Now, he’s probably working the same job, and I’m volunteering my time in my daughter’s school, serving on the school board, and doing what I love,’ he said.

“‘I explain to my kids (Adam, 21, and Cassy 16) I never have a bad day because I love what I do,’ Howley said laughing, ‘and I get paid for it.’

“Howley retired from the day-to-day operation of That’s Entertainment six years ago, having moved to Gilford two years ago. He explained that he has 12 full-time trustworthy employees who proficiently run the stores, allowing him time to dabble in the retail market as he chooses. Howley has been offering free appraisals at The Belknap Mall kiosk since Monday and will continue the service until Sunday. It is the first time he has offered this type of service locally, and he explained the items he has on display were shipped from his stores in Massachusetts where they will be returned upon the kiosk’s close.

“Those who bring items such as old books and magazines, model kits, G.I.Joe and Barbie dolls, old CDs and videos may have free appraisals on their treasures and opt to sell them to Howley.

“‘I have $250,000 to spend on these types of items this week, and I’d like to spend it all,’ Howley said. His business has been successful, Howley said, because of his honesty with people and making savvy financial decisions. ‘I choose to make a little money on items people buy rather than gouge them,’ Howley explained. ‘I would rather have them come back to see me several times instead of just once.’

“To prove this point, Howley told of one person who has been a customer for all of the 21 years he has been in business. ‘And now I’m starting to sell items to their kids, it’s kind of a scary thought,’ he laughed.

“As far as the financial decisions, Howley spoke of the purchase of the 20,000 square-foot building in Worcester that houses one of his stores. ‘It was during the 1980s, the building was on the market for $750,000. You can’t pay three quarters of a million dollars and sell funny books; it just doesn’t work that way. But my timing was perfect—about a month later, the real estate crash came into play, and I made the purchase for $200,000.’

“Howley believes his business has also thrived because he provides a service to people. ‘When I tell them their G.I.Joe doll, for instance, this one I bought while I’ve been here,’ he said, picking up the boxed doll, ‘is worth $225, I’m being honest. I offered them $150 because I know it’s an item I can sell tomorrow,’ he said. ‘To get the $225, they could post it on Ebay and sell it for that amount. The difference is, all that takes time. With me, they walk away with $150 ten minutes later and they don’t have to bother. It’s a done deal.’

“Howley said he really cannot say why people become collectors. “You’re either a collector or you’re not.’ But with him it started in 1959 with comic books and accelerated with toy items from the popular TV series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ‘I co-wrote a book called, The Toys From UNCLE. It was self-published and originally sold for $9.95,’ he said. Recently Howley has seen that same book posted for sale on the Internet for $35. ‘It’s become somewhat of a collectible itself,’ he said.

“Howley is especially proud of winning the prestigious ‘Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Award’ in 1997 which named That’s Entertainment the best comic book and collectible store in the world.

“‘It’s like winning an Academy Award, it carries that much significance in this business,’ he explained.

“Aside from the passion he has for the collectibles, Howley also enjoys the people-element of his operation. ‘I have a common interest with most everyone I deal with,’ he said. During the days he’s been at the Belknap Mall, Howley said he has had one gentleman visit the kiosk three times, not to do business, but to talk. ‘It’s been wonderful—I now have a new friend.’

“Howley’s plans for the future are to simply continue doing what he’s doing.

“‘It’s my passion, I love it. It just couldn’t be any better than it is. It’s been fun to spend the week here at the Belknap Mall. I’m sure when the week is over, I’ll have a lot of dusty old stuff. It’s great!’”

Next chapter: The other newspaper’s article.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part #160

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


I was sitting in the Belknap Mall in New Hampshire in the booth space I had rented in the center of the mall which was set up as a display of rare and valuable collectible toys, trading cards, comic books and model kits. My advertisements had been running for a few days in a few local newspapers and I was anticipating people coming in to sell me some interesting items. A few hours passed and no one came in with anything for me to make an offer on or to appraise. Mal, my wife, came by around noon to bring me a lunch and to see how things were going. I was disappointed that I hadn’t bought anything yet. Perhaps the local newspaper ads were just too small to be noticed.

When I closed up the booth at 9 pm, I hadn’t bought anything. The day had been wasted. Frustrated, I called the two major local newspapers the next morning to try to encourage them to write an actual article about my appearance at the mall and was told by both of them that they’d try to send a reporter out to interview me at the mall location. I suggested that they may want to send a photographer too because the selection of rare collectibles would make an interesting photograph for the upcoming article.

I returned to the mall and set up the booth display again. (I couldn’t leave such a valuable collection overnight in the open space of the mall) During the morning I bought some not very valuable record albums and some vintage Hot Wheels cars still sealed in the original packages. I paid $75.00 for the six Hot Wheels cars assuming I could sell them for about $125.00 for the lot. Since I didn’t have any samples of these cars in my booth display, I added them into a prominent location. Later in the day, these Hot Wheels cars caught the eye of two guys, Jim Blackie and Dan Schroeder. Both of them hung around and chatted with me about collectibles for a couple of hours. I would have been very bored if they hadn’t come by. (Both of these guys are still friends of mine many years later!) By the end of the day I had given appraisals and purchased everything that had been brought in to me including a few comic books from the 1970s, the Hot Wheels cars, some Matchbox vehicles, some record albums, and a very nice lot of original 1960s G. I. Joe dolls in their original boxes. I was disappointed that the local newspaper’s reporters never came by to interview me but at least my advertisements were noticed by some people. Some of the money I had invested in this mall rental would be recouped once I sold the collectibles I had just bought.

The next day I was surprised when my son, Adam, and his then-girlfriend, Alletta (who was staying at our house for a couple of days), stopped by for a visit. Adam was dressed up as a punk rocker. I was so happy that he was expressing an interest in what I was doing and took the time to come to see me that his outlandish “costume” didn’t bother me. Adam was constantly changing his appearance by dyeing his hair bright colors and he’d go from wacky clothes to conservative clothes depending on his mood. They stayed and visited for quite a while and it was very enjoyable.

The next morning, before I went to the mall, I called the editors of the local newspapers to remind them that I was still hoping they’d do a short story about me and they assured me they’d send a reporter that day.

Shortly after I got to the mall, a man and his wife came by to tell me about some vintage items they’d be interested in selling to me. They hadn’t seen my advertisements but had been referred by Karen Fogg, a fellow school board member and a friend of mine. This couple had a few things that interested me but I was not sure of their accurate current value so I suggested that they allow me to try to sell a few of the items for a small commission. They agreed to this and I told them I’d contact them sometime in the coming weeks to make arrangements.

Later that day, both newspapers sent their reporters out to interview me. The reporters also took several photographs of me with my collectible display. Neither of them could guarantee when these stories would appear in their newspapers but I urged them to hurry before my week was done! It wouldn’t help me if the stories ran when my mall rental was over! Two days later, the stories still had not appeared in the newspapers.

Next chapter: With only two days left of my time in the mall, the two newspaper stories appear.

Picture: My son, Adam, and his friend Aletta.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 159

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


While living in New Hampshire in the fall of 2000, I realized there had never been a good comic book store in the area and it occurred to me that there might be some nice, undiscovered comics and collectibles stored in the attics and basements of some of the older homes here. I met with the manager of a nearby shopping mall to discuss the possibility of renting out some space in the center of the mall, explaining that I didn’t want to sell anything there. I just wanted to buy collectibles that people would bring into the mall. I planned to spend some money advertising that I would be there the whole week to evaluate any vintage items that local residents brought into the mall. The mall manager was smart enough to realize that this could possibly attract hundreds of potential shoppers into this normally very slow mall so he agreed to rent me space for a few hundred dollars.

I wrote up some small and medium sized display advertisements offering to buy and appraise collectibles and brought the ads to the three local newspapers. With only about five hundred dollars budgeted for print ads I needed to be sure they got good placement in the newspapers. I didn’t want them to be buried with lots of other small ads. I suggested that they would be noticed more if they were placed on the upper right corner of the right-hand page and the ad salesperson eventually agreed to this placement. The ads would read, “Need Cash For The Holidays? We pay cash for: Comic Books, Barbie Dolls, Model Kits, Trading Cards, CDs, Records, Video Tapes, Old Toys and Games, GI Joe Dolls, Sports Cards, Old Calendars, Matchbox and Hot Wheels Cars, Beatles Items, Video Games and Video Systems, Star Wars Toys, and more. For free appraisals call Paul, or visit our booth at The Belknap Mall.”

These advertisements began their run the night before I was to be in the mall. Some small classified ads also ran a few days before my time in the mall began. Most importantly, I sent out press releases to the local newspapers and radio stations to let them know that I would be buying and appraising collectibles and that I had hoped to spend at least $50,000 while I was here. Two newspapers ran short articles about my upcoming appearance at the mall using mostly the information I had provided in the press release. One article appeared in the Laconia Daily Sun and it said:

“Local collector-dealer Paul Howley, (owner of That’s Entertainment, New England’s largest collectibles store) wants to spend $250,000 on comic books, old toys and games, old books and magazines, GI Joe dolls, Barbie dolls, and more during the week of November 6-12.
“Paul Howley of Gilford, New Hampshire, is considered by many to be one of the most knowledgeable collectible dealers on the East coast. His store in Worcester, Massachusetts was the winner of the prestigious 1997 “Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Award” naming That’s Entertainment the best comic book and collectibles store in the world.
“Paul Howley has been involved with the collectibles market since the 1960s, and in 1990 authored ‘The Man From Uncle Collector’s Price Guide.’ He also served for many years as an advisor to ‘The Comic Book Price Guide.’
“Howley’s business was recently the subject of a feature article in the national publication ‘INC. Magazine.’
“Howley will be available at the Belknap Mall in Belmont each day to make free appraisals and offers on a vast assortment of collectibles including comic books, old toys and games, Barbie dolls, GI Joe dolls, old magazines and books, sports cards, trading cards, model kits, Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, Beatles items, old calendars, CDs, records, video tapes, Star Wars toys, video games and systems, and much more.”

This was almost word-for-word from my press release!

On the first day of my mall space rental, I arrived early and set up my booth that consisted of four eight-foot long tables that I arranged in a square, leaving space for me inside. I used the tables to display rare and interesting toys, comic books and sports cards to give people an idea of the kinds of items I was interested in buying. Now, all I needed was for people to bring me things to buy.

Next chapter: Working alone at my mall booth from 9am-9pm makes a long, boring day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 158

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


In June of 2000 my store in Worcester, Massachusetts came up with an interesting idea for an in-store event. Dave Hartwell and Ken Carson were both fans of the creativity of Frank Cho, a popular independent artist-writer who created the newspaper comic strip “Liberty Meadows.” He hadn’t done any New England appearances and they knew he’d draw a decent crowd if he’d agree to do a store appearance. On August 5th our store was packed with fans eager to meet Frank Cho. Frank drew sketches, signed autographs and visited with the customers for several hours. The event was a big success.

The summer of 2000 went by quickly and it was almost time for Cassy to begin her junior year of high school. She remembered the “last minute” frustration Adam had when he procrastinated in making his decision as to which college he’d attend and she didn’t want to repeat that. Cassy, Mal and I attended an exclusively Christian “college fair” in Concord, New Hampshire in the very beginning of Cassy’s junior year of high school. We had decided that it would be best if Cassy attended a Christian university because of our negative experience with the secular college where Adam had gone for his first year. While walking around the convention room filled with college representatives eagerly trying to entice the high school students to attend their colleges, Cassy found a booth that interested her. It was Palm Beach Atlantic University, a college from South Florida, who cleverly used their easy access to the beach and the warm weather to attract teens to their campus. It was also one of the very few colleges that offered a degree program in Musical Theatre. Most offered a theatre program and a music program, but not a musical theatre program. Although Cassy gathered information from other colleges at this college fair, she had pretty much made up her mind that she’d go to Palm Beach Atlantic University. Mal and I figured that Adam would end up living in Boston or New York City, Cassy would be in Florida, and we had planned to move to North Carolina. This way, we’d be halfway between them so it would be easy to visit them periodically.

At one time, Mal and I went on a vacation with our friends, Mike and Liz Verhoeks, to explore some potential areas of North Carolina for the near future. We loved the forests and hills there because it reminded us of the beauty of New England but North Carolina has a much warmer climate. I was eager to escape the harsh winters of the northeast. While we were on this trip, Mike asked,” Why don’t you consider moving to Florida?” Mal said, “I have no interest in living in Florida.” Although we’ve always enjoyed our many trips to Florida, it just didn’t seem like a place we’d want to live. Most of our trips were during the intense heat of the summers and we mostly went to the big theme parks where we spent hours every day on hot asphalt, mingling with large crowds of people. We preferred the rural setting of North Carolina.

In October, Adam turned twenty-one years old. We invited several of our New Hampshire friends and Phil Doreau, Adam’s best friend from high school, over to our home for a birthday party. Adam wore a t-shirt that advertised our comic book store and had a picture of Insect Man, the super-hero I created, on the front. This was the same t-shirt that Adam wore when he was a young child, but now, it fit him.

Now that Adam was twenty-one, I was eager to get him to go to the Foxwoods Casino with me. I had hoped that it would be a fun time of father-son bonding. Adam asked the manager of the restaurant where he worked for two days off and I was excited about the trip. At the last minute, Adam was asked to work. He needed the money and I knew it was more important for him to be a responsible adult than go to a casino. There’d be plenty of time for fun in the future.

By the middle of November I was very eager to go with Adam to the casino. I figured that if we waited much longer we’d be too close to Thanksgiving and then we’d be into winter. I didn’t want to make the three and a half hour trip in icy conditions. I pressured Adam to schedule his two days off for the next Tuesday and Wednesday because the minimum bets would be more affordable for a beginning player like Adam. Once Adam confirmed his days off I called the casino and arranged for an overnight stay in the hotel that is on-site. The hotel room was complimentary for me if I redeemed the “Wampum Points” I had accumulated during previous visits.

We spent two days at the Foxwoods Casino and had a great time. I won a few hundred dollars while Adam lost four hundred of my dollars. I didn’t mind giving him money to play, mostly because I knew this wasn’t going to be a frequent thing for him to do. He didn’t have enough money of his own to risk gambling and he knew better.

On our three and a half hour trip home, I finally took the opportunity to talk seriously with Adam about his future. After urging him to think and plan ahead for his life, I asked him the clichéd question that many parents ask their kids, “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” Adam replied, “I see myself married to Meridith and, hopefully, working in a job that I enjoy.” That sounded good to me.

Next chapter: I set up at a local shopping mall to buy collectibles.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 157

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 20
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


Although we had only been living in New Hampshire for two years we had made some very good friends. Through our involvement at Laconia Christian School and our church, we began to hang around with Barbara and Jim Foote and my sister Sharon and her husband Greg. We had also become friends with Mike and Liz Verhoeks. As you may know, it’s not always easy for couples to become friends. Many times, the wives may get along great but the husbands may not. In most of our relationships, our friends like Mal but I’m not as likeable. In this case, we all liked each other!

Mike and Liz owned Laconia Pottery, a retail store, selling mostly Victorian gift items and the hand-made pottery that Mike created. Mike had been a geophysicist for a major oil company but when that industry slowed down he decided to pursue his passion for pottery full-time.

One day, as we were visiting Liz at her store, Mal suggested that Liz should add rubber stamps and card-making supplies to her inventory. Mal told Liz about her experiences with her own stamp store and how much fun and profit she could have if she developed a customer base for these products. My comic book and collectible store had bought the remaining inventory from Mal and her partner Diane several years ago hoping to be able to continue the successful business they had developed inside of our Fitchburg location, but our employees just didn’t have enough interest to make this work. They had a huge sale to try to get rid of the inventory and eventually just packed up the remainder and stored it in the back room. I suggested that we could put the leftover inventory of stamps and supplies into Liz’s store with no risk to Liz. We’d share the profit on any of our old inventory. Liz seemed reluctant to try this, mostly because it wasn’t necessarily a “good fit” with the overall theme of her gift shop, but she decided to try it anyway.

I drove down to our Fitchburg store and was very disappointed to find that we only had a few boxes of leftover stamping stuff. Apparently they had sold most of the inventory when they had the big “blow-out” sale. Liz made some space for the inventory but because there wasn’t very much left to begin with, she didn’t sell much in the first few weeks. Mal offered to teach stamping classes in order to create some demand for the stamping products and within a short time the inventory began to sell. Liz conservatively ordered some new products and she was surprised at how fast it sold. There were times when customers would stand by and watch her unpack newly arrived stamps and accessories and buy them before she could even get them onto the store shelves. Liz became convinced that these products could eventually out-sell her inventory of gift items and she began to allocate more and more store space to stamps, inks, accessories and decorative papers. It still amazes me how little things, like Mal’s decision to open a rubber stamp store all those years ago, can change the lives of those with whom we later come in contact. The following story is taken directly from Liz’s store website:

“Stamping Memories was officially born in October of 2002. A new sign was hung under another sign, which for eight years had served to direct locals and visitors to one of central New Hampshire's most popular destinations, Laconia Pottery. What was originally established as an upscale gallery featuring unique gifts and fine pottery, The Gallery at Laconia Pottery began to change focus in 1998 shortly after owners, Mike and Elizabeth Verhoeks, met and became friends with Paul and Mal Howley. The Howley's had recently moved from Massachusetts to Laconia, New Hampshire, so their daughter could attend Laconia Christian High School.

“Mal Howley had owned a rubber stamping store located within her husband's large comic book and sports memorabilia store, That's Entertainment, in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Prior to their eventful meeting, Elizabeth had no knowledge of rubber stamps except for those used to identify a bill as PAID or a check as VOID. Mal was an avid rubber stamper and when she showed Elizabeth some of the beautiful cards she had made with stamps, ink pads, and paper, Elizabeth was surprised and impressed. The Howley's suggested that rubber stamps might be a nice addition to The Gallery's line of merchandise because they were becoming quite the "hot trend" in Massachusetts. Mal offered to teach classes and do demonstrations at The Gallery so customers would see how to use the rubber stamps. Elizabeth was skeptical about how these "craft items" would sell in her shop but, after considerable thought and discussion with her husband, Mike, she decided that since Paul and Mal were such successful retail store owners in Massachusetts, and seemed genuinely interested in the success of The Gallery, she would trust their advice and try a few rubber stamps in the shop. It turned out to be the best business decision she has ever made--so far!

“What began as a small experiment in a new product line, slowly began to move the shop in a completely new direction. As the number of classes grew, the need for another instructor arose. Debbie Monell, a close friend of Elizabeth's and already part-time employee of The Gallery, offered to help Mal with the teaching. She was a fairly new stamper but had quickly learned the basics from Mal by attending regular classes. Her creativity coupled with her outgoing personality and her familiarity with the shop, made her a natural. She continued teaching classes and working part time until she accepted a position with Laconia Christian School in 1999. In May of 2005 Debbie returned to Stamping Memories as a part time employee.

“Now, an unforgettable seven years later, the Verhoeks' and the Howley's are the best of friends. The Gallery at Laconia Pottery is now Stamping Memories--one of New Hampshire's finest rubber stamping and scrap book stores. There you will find cabinets lined with hundreds of great rubber stamps, walls of beautiful paper, shelves of colorful inkpads, rows of embellishments--all that a rubber stamp or scrap book enthusiast could ever hope to find. Pride in the way inventory is displayed is key at Stamping Memories. Because it was formerly a gift gallery, some beautiful remnants still remain which give the shop its wonderfully charming atmosphere. From the many windows adorned with lovely European lace curtains, to the gorgeous silk flowers filling giant containers, Stamping Memories is truly a different kind of stamping and scrap book store. Visitors to the shop have been overheard describing it as "the nicest stamping and scrap book store I've ever seen". Owner, Elizabeth, simply desires it to be a pleasurable experience for each and every person who enters her shop.

“These days, classes are taught several times a week at Stamping Memories, with an emphasis placed on teaching proper techniques and developing creativity. Often students travel from many miles away to attend a myriad of classes taught by several gifted instructors who enjoy sharing their wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm with those who are eager to learn. Elizabeth is careful to select teachers who have a passion for rubber stamping and scrap booking and who willingly stay abreast of the latest trends and techniques. It is Elizabeth's goal to keep classes at Stamping Memories fresh and new with as much creative variety as possible in accordance with the ever changing world of stamping and scrap booking styles and trends.
“The store has experienced tremendous growth each year since adding rubber stamps despite a sometimes sluggish economy. The future continues to look bright. The additional emphasis on scrap booking is drawing new customers daily. An increased focus on family, since the national tragedy of September 11, 2001, has made scrap booking even more popular. People seem more interested than ever in preserving their memories for future generations and Stamping Memories strives to provide their customers with the best the industry has to offer.

Stamping Memories carries only the finest quality rubber stamps, papers and accessories. Elizabeth and her team are always on the look out for new and unique lines to add to the store. Occasionally they travel to other parts of the country to see what is in vogue and to network with other storeowners.
A visit to Stamping Memories is well worth the trip and it will most likely become one you’ll make as often as you can.”

Next chapter: Cassy makes a decision about college, even though she’s only just beginning her junior year of high school.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 156

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 20
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


As the 1999-2000 school year was ending, things seemed great. Cassy finished her sophomore year at Laconia Christian School with a straight “A” grade. She was also actively involved in a local abstinence program under the supervision of Julie Goetz from the Lakes Region Pregnancy Care Center. Cassy traveled to several local public schools to encourage the high school students to abstain from sexual activity and the students seemed to be open to Cassy’s “teaching.”

Adam was still working at the local “Friendly’s” restaurant while he was living with us but he really missed being around his friends in Rhode Island. He’d frequently drive to Newport to spend weekends with them and he’d come back late on Sunday night, exhausted and not too excited about going back to work. We talked about how important it is to enjoy your job. I tried to convince Adam to run a local collectibles show and we spent a day scouting the area for possible locations to run such a show. I wanted him to eventually have a reliable, ongoing source of income and since I had experience running collectibles shows, this seemed like a good idea. He also liked the idea that I’d be around to help him get started. But as we evaluated the different places to rent, Adam began to think that he’d prefer to run teen dance parties or “raves.” It took a while but I finally convinced him that the possibility of lawsuits because of injuries or other trouble wouldn’t be worth the risk.

I didn’t want to do all of the work necessary to start a collectibles show by myself. I was willing to do it with Adam but then he decided he didn’t want to put in the effort to run these shows either. I guess his passion just wasn’t the same as mine for collectibles.

Cassy had been dating a guy named John for about a year. Though she was only sixteen years old, she had true, strong feelings for him. (We couldn’t say much; Mal and I fell in love when we were only seventeen!) She was convinced that John was serious about a meaningful, long-term relationship. He was always respectful to Mal and I and he understood Cassy’s commitment to refrain from physical intimacy until marriage. He seemed okay with this until the summer, when the school took all of the male and female volleyball players to a volleyball camp in Pennsylvania. While they were away, John suggested that they break up. Cassy was heartbroken. John claimed “he wanted to get closer to God.” What he actually meant was that he wanted to get closer to one of the other girls on the volleyball team. Cassy felt betrayed when she realized that John wasn’t being honest with her. She cried a lot for many weeks. Nothing I could say to her could ease her pain and this made me feel helpless. As her Dad, I just wanted her to be happy and healthy. I was accustomed to being able to deal with any situation but now I couldn’t take away my own daughter’s heartbreak. What could be worse than this? We’d soon find out.

Next chapter: The left-over inventory from Mal’s rubber stamp store is put to good use!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 155

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 20
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


As Cassy’s sophomore year of high school came to a close, Mal and I realized that things would be quite different for us. Adam worked as a waiter at a nearby “Friendly’s” restaurant and his scheduled hours changed from week to week. Cassy also worked at the same restaurant but on different shifts so we always ended up with one of our children at home with us. We loved our kids but we knew we’d never have peace and quiet while they were home. We began a search for a “get-away” cottage on a lake. We gave our requirements to a real estate agent and she began looking for an inexpensive place for us to buy. We couldn’t really afford to buy anything on Lake Winnipesaukee because it was the largest and most popular lake. Even a small, run-down cottage would sell for $500,000 on this lake. Since we lived in “The Lakes Region” of New Hampshire, there were dozens of other lakes with available cottages. She drove us around for several weeks but we didn’t find anything that seemed right for us. The search would continue.

Cassy and Adam usually got along quite well, but there were some problems now that Adam was back with us. He shared a bathroom with Cassy and the rule was that they would alternate cleaning the bathroom each week. Cassy was very thorough when it was her turn to clean it but Adam didn’t do a very good job. He’d leave wet towels on the floor, his whiskers around the sink, and he hated cleaning the shower. This made Cassy upset that he could get away with this poor cleaning job. Mal and I would ask Adam to do a better job but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

A short while before, at Adam’s request, we turned over Adam’s finances to him again. Although the “envelope system” had wiped out most of Adam’s debt (other than his large college loans) he insisted that he could now handle his money. Within a couple of months he was deeper in debt than ever before. Handling money just wasn’t Adam’s strong point. This also frustrated Cassy because she was very careful with her money and she worked hard at developing good savings habits.

Cassy asked me one day why I treated Adam differently than I treated her. How could I put up with so much from him? I related this parable from Luke 15:11-31.

Jesus said: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.
"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.' So he got up and went to his father.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "

I explained to Cassy that I was just so happy to have Adam back with us that I could overlook many things that would have previously driven me crazy. We loved both of our kids but I felt that we had been given a second chance to teach Adam and I wouldn’t allow myself to be discouraged. Cassy seemed to understand.

Next chapter: Cassy’s heart gets broken.