Today in My History
20 April 2020
As the years pass, you forget the dates that once loomed like neon signs in your head. So I was watching The Today Show before I realized today was April 20.
It was 11 p.m., April 20, 1999. I was sitting at my desk typing, when the phone rang. I looked at the Caller ID and saw that it was Paul. He had been here earlier, to borrow something from Walt, but I hadn't seen him.
We had talked earlier in the day. He told me that he and Audra had found a house in Southern California and were going to make an offer on it. They decided they were going to try to make it in Hollywood. My mother had B of A stock for each of the kids and he had talked to her that morning about getting his stocks so he could cash them in in order to make the offer.
We talked on the phone often. He called me nearly every day and once asked me, jokingly, if it was weird that he called his mother so often. I told him I didn't think so and that he and I had a lot of interests in common and it was fun to share our feelings each day. I also assured him than when he moved to LA, we could still talk often.
So when I saw the caller ID was Paul, I picked up the phone and said something cheery.
But it wasn't Paul. It was a police officer telling me that he was at Paul's house and that Paul had hung himself.
We raced to the emergency room and met Audra there. I remember the doctor coming out looking like he wanted to be anywhere else but there, telling us that he was gone. I said I wanted to see him and he warned me -- I'm not sure of what. But Audra and I went in together. She sat there holding his hand. I ran my fingers through his hair, noting the greasy stuff he used. I whispered "tell David hello" in his ear and then left Audra there, looking lost.
I think I called Jeri first. Because of the time difference I wanted to be sure to reach her before she left for work. Then I called Ned. He and Marta were living in Davis and they came right over. We all sat in the waiting room. Not sure why.
I asked the doctor about donating his organs but because of the circumstances of his death, there had to be an autopsy and his organs could not be donated (David's had, 3 years before)
Audra told us that she had been working at the vet hospital and Paul had made dinner for her, which was sitting on the stove. When she came into the house, he was sitting in the chair with a rope around his neck. She called 911 and tried to revive him, but to no avail.
The coroner ruled it a suicide but I have never believed he deliberately killed himself. For one thing -- and Audra thought of this too -- when she checked the music playing on their CD player, it was nothing you'd consider "significant." I can't imagine dramatic Paul deciding to die without putting on music that would mean something.
For another -- the rope. Paul liked to make nooses. He had a heavy noose, but this was not it. It was a lightweight rope. They lived in a 2-story apartment and the rope was tied to the toilet upstairs and then hung down the stairs and around Paul's neck.
In the months before he died, Paul had reading problems. After he died, a friend of his read about a kind of brain tumor which makes it difficult for you to read. At times he could read fine, at other times, the words just jumbled together and he could not. So it was not possible for him to write a script for a show he was doing. He wrote the show in his head and memorized it.
His previous show had talked about David's death and he told about my sister's murder by her partner. He had a stage gun and shot it three times to give the audience the feeling of what it must have sounded like to kill her. Then he continued to wave the gun around to make a point. He had the whole audience, me included, on edge watching that gun until he finally put it away.
He was preparing a new show and he had been looking for some sort of subject that would have the same effect on the audience that my sister's death had.
In the previous year he knew one or two people who had killed themselves. I can't remember who now, but he got the idea that he would talk about the stupidity of suicide.
So it has always seemed to me that he died, sitting in a chair with a rope around his neck, mentally writing what he was going to says about the stupidity of suicide. The doctor did say that it was possible the rope had pressed on his carotid artery and he had passed out, and with nobody there to revive him, he just gradually passed out deeper and deeper until he died.
Oh he killed himself, all right, but I'm convinced it was through stupidity. I could be wrong, but it comforts me to think that.
The coroner interviewed me and I stupidly admitted that Paul had wide mood swings but that he was never happier than when he was writing a show, so I could understand that he might want to kill himself, but not at that time. He also had called his band that morning to arrange for a Saturday rehearsal for the new show. The coroner didn't pay attention to that part of what I said, and his report said that I admitted that I could understand that he might want to kill himself.
Someone apparently told the coroner that he and Audra were having problems, though none of his friends that I spoke with knew anything about that.
When the report came from the coroner there were significant errors in it. For example, they said that he was depressed about his aunt's death. He was 2 when she died. I can't remember all the other mistakes but once the report had been filed, there was no re-examining it. They did let me write my own comments about his death and added it as an addendum to the report, but what difference did it make. Dead is dead, whether deliberate or stupid.
But today is the day. 21 years ago today. Every year on this date we go out for sushi, but because of Covid-19 we can't do that. I suggested to Ned that we watch Taxi Driver, his favorite movie, instead. I don't know if we're going to do that or not.
I do hate anniversaries. I hate that Bri and Lacie never knew Paul or David...and that they never knew their nieces. I hate that they weren't at Tom's wedding.
But one thing about an anniversary like this is that you realize that you never "get over it," it just becomes the person you have become. There are no more hills and valleys of grief, and most of the time you don't think about it all the time, but you still have moments when you can be brought to tears, but you do move on.
I look at Ned and see his features becoming middle aged and it's hard to think of Paul -- and especially of David -- as being middle aged. they are permanently set at 30 and 24.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
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This is entry #7393