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


  1. Every bit as heartbreaking the second time reading this...I'm so sorry, I can't even imagine what those days were like.

  2. I remember reading this before, too, of course, and I'm still enraged by the insensitivity of the hospital chaplain.

  3. He is a great person one of the vip I wanna look up when I get to heaven, lol I could never bring myself to say a word to him in high school as a freshman...he was too "hot" :) and I was shy.

  4. Cake and David,
    Thanks for reading this all again! It means a lot to me...

    "L"...did you go to high school with Adam? Or did you know him from Newport, Rhode Island?

  5. Oh, wow. I've just now gotten to this. I've lost both my parents (my mom when I was 16) and my brother who was only 52. But I can't imagine losing a child (my children are currently in that age range). May God and your loved ones continue to give you comfort and strength. --Mike Turniansky

  6. Mike: Thank you VERY much for reading the story. Have you actually read the whole thing???? It's LONG!...Paul

  7. I'd be lying if I said I read every word (although I pretty much did from the parts covering my sojourn in Worcester from 1980-1988). I skimmed most of the rest (too bad Google Street View took their picture of your shop about 8 months before you had the Lois Lane name change) (But really,it's a lot faster to read than it was to write) I did look up stuff, like I'm surprised that you didn't mention Total Confusion at all (except as part of a small aside in the story of the marriage of Ken Pendleton (part 185))

    BTW, it occurred to me that it's very possible that That's Entertainment may have wound up with Al's comic/game collection (especially if you attend any storage auctions) (this would be after you moved out of state, though. I think it would have been somewhere between 2005-2008) He had a collection of tens of thousands of comics, including a complete collection of Justice League, Silver Age Flash, Legion of Superheroes (including all of their appearances in Adventure) and comics going all the way back to the 40s I don't think he had anything worth more than three figures, though (well, I take it back.. just saw the current price on Showcase #4, which I'm almost certain he owned). Also included in that storage unit was at least dozens of board games (I'm not sure how many he lost by not paying his storage fees. I know that my family inherited over 200 of them after his death). I'm also not sure exactly where in Massachusetts it was. Probably Framingham or Arlington area, because that was two places he lived at the time. Such a silly loss. Selling jsut a few of the comics could have let him keep the unit.