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.

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