They have always been funny, these two. Paul kept Bob on a wild ride of --what should we get up to next? Long time ribbing of how they were the youngest and most spry men in attendance (even when Paul's gait was unsteady) did not prevent them from actively participating in the omni-sexy model railroading that is all the rage these days. Upper Midwest road trips from Madison to Milwaukee, Minneapolis to Winona and points in between. Paul would drive a long ways to go to a model railroading show and if Bob could tag along, he would.
Paul developed a penchant for holiday decorations after his kids had grown and graduated.When his first grandchild came along, it seemed the perfect time for a Christmas inflatable. For a few years, he kept adding to these with the penultimate being two gigantic polar bears. But there wasn't much for them to do so he moved on to Halloween. Here is where he could create some action. A technology guru and a long time fan of special effects, he was always interested in what the average man could do at home. And so with his ever-willing compadre, they would putz and tinker and make endless trips to Menard's and Home Depot for the right this or that. It goes without saying they likely already had whatever this or that may have been. This or that just could not be found due to.... organizational challenges.
Over the years Bob has been gifted with any number of masks, weird hats, costumes, and special effects gadgets to enhance the haunted houses we started doing in our own garage. Not everyone can claim they received a bubbling cauldron, a strobe light, or a animated rat the size of our dog for their birthday...or even Christmas. Such gadgets allowed Bob to set up an empty exam room at Winona Health one Halloween to the delight and surprise of patients and staff. Again, not everyone can claim their doctor had animated Halloween displays...in their exam rooms. Paul radiated pride at this feat.
There are endless stories of the funny man and his boy. Those, of course, are easy and fun and healing to tell. It explains at least part of my husband's heart, his penchant for seeking fun and sharing it with others, especially his own kids, and particularly his son.
But here is what won't be said this weekend.
Bob has lost his best friend, his mentor, his North star. There have been pivotal moments in his life when what he needed for that final push in a big decision was some sort of stamp of approval, some clarification in his thinking, some guidance. He could talk to me, he could reason his own way through so much, but whenever he felt really hurt or particularly stuck, his dad pushed him through it.
The phone calls are done. The endless Saturday morning chatter about another railroad scene. The middle of the week phone calls where Paul was seeking guidance from the one doctor he trusted most, his son, about the latest medical malady.
I don't know why I didn't see it before, that Paul was his best friend. But it has hit me like a ton of bricks, the realization of what he has lost.
We will find our way through this together since there really isn't any other way.
This weekend we will gather with friends and family to celebrate the wonderful life of The Original Big Man. And I will do my best to take care of his boy.