Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Soul Brother

My Dad whispered to me as I joined him in the pew. “Paul St. Peter is here”. I immediately started looking across the church where Dad had gestured. “He’s wearing red”, my Mom added. With butterflies in my stomach I scoured the other side of the church for what seemed to be an hour but for which was probably only 5 minutes. Then I saw him.

I immediately smiled. It’d been a long time since we’d run into one another here at St. Martin’s. Now, both back in our hometown at the same time, we’d made it to the same Mass. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I whispered to my daughter, “My best guy friend from high school is here! See the tall guy over there with the red sweater?! That’s Paul !!” She smirked at me. I imagine it is pretty funny to see your Mom getting so excited to see an old friend. She knew of him. I’d long spoken of the several Pauls in my life who had been very special to me. Father Paul Stefanko, Eric’s grandfather Paul, and my dear friend Paul from high school. It’s no surprise that I’d been easily convinced to name my son Paul eleven years ago. It’s a very special name.

After Mass I couldn’t get out of my pew quickly enough. “Mom, just wave to him already”, Emma pushed. So I did. And then he saw me and the biggest, warmest smile came over his face. His eyes lit up just as I remember them doing back in high school. I didn’t have more than a second to wonder if our conversation would be awkward. It took only the time it took for him to meet me at the front of the church for him to envelop me in a big bear hug. Ahhh... Paul. How I love this guy.

We were never anything but close friends. Paul was my “Soul Brother”. We affectionately referred to one another that way, as “Soul Brother and Soul Sister”, undoubtedly because we were always at church together, but also because we had a certain closeness, a bond, that was so natural and so strong. I trusted him completely and I always felt safe with him around. I used to tell him that someday he was going to be an incredible husband to someone very special and a wonderful father too. I do believe I was right for I saw the way his two daughters looked at him when I spoke to them. “Your Dad was always so funny back in high school. I bet he’s still very funny, right?!” “Yeah. He is” was their unison response.

We talked for awhile. His beautiful Mom gave me a big hug and for a minute I remembered his Dad who had been an inspirational teacher of mine but who had died shortly before Paul had graduated from college. His Dad had always teased me when I’d drop in at his house to see if Paul was home. Paul and I had hung out on Stage Band trips. He’d taken me to the Christmas Dance my Senior year knowing my boyfriend was away at college. He was always there for me. My favorite memory of Paul and I were our car rides “past the underpass” to the new streets going in on the other side of town. We’d drive there after Jazz Band practices and talk and talk and talk. I thought of how lucky I was to have been friends with Paul and it wasn’t until he hugged me all these years later that I realized how much I had missed him and our friendship.

But my absolute BEST memory of Paul is of he and his Angie at their wedding. I had not met Angie before their wedding day. At the ceremony I remember little other than Paul giggling, just as he had always done since I’d first met him back in Middle School. And the best part was that Angie giggled too. The two of them giggled throughout the entire wedding ceremony. Their joy was so apparent. So beautiful. It was the happiest, most loving wedding I had ever witnessed. To this day, I don’t believe I have ever attended one more naturally beautiful.

After the wedding, Paul and I kept in touch through our annual Christmas cards and an occasional meeting at St. Martin’s. I watched his daughters grow from year to year. I heard of his life and I sent off news of my own. But it’s safe to say that life simply took us in different directions. That’s only normal. Still, no matter how many years have passed, we found one another at the front of St. Martin’s church last weekend. I should have known he’d have his arms around me within seconds. I should have known that with that embrace I’d feel just as close to him as I always had on our rides “past the underpass”. He wasn’t just a friend after all; he wasn’t “just the best guy friend I had in high school”. Paul was, and IS, my Soul Brother. Ahhh...Paul. How I love this guy.


  1. OMg!! I am randomly surfing through blogs and somehow I come upon this one and see MY COUSIN!!!! Holy crazy!! I love paul too!! If you need to reconnect with him I have his address in nh! Thanks for the fun post I just happened to find!

  2. Yes, Paul has always been something special.