There are moments in our lives where things change, forever. They’re a turning point, where the world as we knew it up to that event will never be the same after it.
I have a wonderful core group of friends. They are the select few I can call when shit really hits the fan.
We were all brought together by a fortuitous series of events.
I was 16 or 17, I can’t remember anymore. My friend Dylan graciously invited me to go to Cape Cod for the week. His dad had rented a house, and he was told to invite his friends. For folks not from New England, Cape Cod is our version of the Hamptons, Outer Banks, etc. It’s one part tourist trap, riddled with mini golf courses, the hum of go karts, and the shouts of kids running amuck high on sugar. Parents and young adults nurse hangovers while sunbathing on the beach. While the locals bitch about the yuppies and tourists, but they love the summer just as much as those who don’t winter on the Cape. They just do it with more of a chip on their shoulder.
It’s a magical place, is what I am trying to say.
At that point I was not familiar with the guys I’d be spending my week with or Dylans dad, Paul. My friend Austin and I drove down there, hesitant. We stayed at his parents house, which seemingly had not been renovated since the 70’s. It had this awful orange shag carpet. The next day we headed over to the house Paul had rented and graciously invited us to spend the week at.
Paul stands about 6’2”, red from a couple of days of tanning, he greeted us with a booming voice that filled the room. His hair, short curly and grey with age, it matches his chest hair, and it suits his personality to a T. His smile is a million miles wide, and I can’t recall it ever fading from his face. He laughs from his belly, and his eyes are partially hidden behind a pair of transition glasses.
Arms open he welcomed us into his rental, which smelled like salt water, had large sliding glass doors that looked into the Atlantic, and was finished in classic Cape color way of Navy/White.
The first question out of his mouth, “ You boys hungry? Can I get you something to eat or drink?” I knew I was in the right place.
I’m not sure if he realized it that week or years later, but Paul had inadvertently created the moment where all of us became life long friends.
Over the years, especially during the summer all of us could not be separated. Fourth of July, we were at the Cape. Then for shits and giggles we decided to throw a slip and slide party into the mix. Who supplied the space without batting an eye? Paul.
Paul has always been there. He is as much apart of our friend group as any of us are. As we got older and we all moved away from home, we would all reconvene at Pauls. You would walk in and he would be sitting in his chair or running around in the kitchen prepping for more guests to come over. Always, it would be, “ Miles, how are yah?” or “What’s the good word?” and without missing a beat, “ Are you hungry? Can I get you anything to drink?”
Within minutes of entering his house, there was always bar nuts, chips, or snacks of any variety really placed in front of you. Paul was without a doubt a gracious host. When he spoke to us we were his equals, he always asked how we were doing first, and showed genuine interest in our lives.
Wether we knew it at the time, all of us were learning from Paul. We were learning how to be decent, compassionate humans, who respected those around us even when we did not see eye to eye. We learned how to be good hosts.
We learned how to lead a good life, and how to make the most out of what we have.
As the years went on it was clear, Paul is the reason for this group that has been dubbed ‘ The Super Friends ‘ and ‘ Boyz Haus .’ He was the catalyst that put all of us together for one week in the summer on Cape Cod. Not a day goes by where I do not hear from one of the people I have met because of Paul.
On July 19th I woke up to bright sun and a beautiful day. It was also the day I learned Paul had passed away peacefully after a short, but valiant battle against cancer. My heart is broken for Dylan, who lost his best friend, and for our group who has lost the man that brought us all together.
Paul took on a persona bigger than life itself, always smiling, always gracious, and always willing to help. I saw him one final time in June, I was home for work, but made it a point to go see him. Even at his weakest, he stood, shook my hand, hugged me, and asked how I was. All of us were gathered in the living room, and Paul caught up with us individually. One of our friends even shared the news that he and his wife were expecting. All of us are better people for having known Paul, and I like to think the world was a better place when he was physically in it.
After that message, I took off for the rest of the day. I got in my truck, put the windows down and went to the only place that felt appropriate. I pulled my truck on to the beach, dropped the tailgate, laid out my blanket, threw my swim trunks on, and jumped in the water. I went back to the truck, toweled off, and cracked a beer as the sun was high in the sky. The beach is where I met my best friends, my life long friends, and I have Paul to thank for that.
Not a day will go by that I do not think about him, and I’m sure many stories will be shared by all of us in years and decades to come. Not an event will go by that we all did not wish he was at.
Paul, wherever you are, I hope you’re having a good time, and I hope someone has asked, “ Can I get you anything to drink or eat?”