This is for Paul
On this street tonight we are all lying in our beds wishing everything were normal. “How can this be?” we ask. For we are missing one of the sturdiest among us. Paul.
Our good neighbor of seven years, a family man, a partner for a lovely woman, the father of two children and two stepchildren, a fireman, a former serviceman with the Corps of Royal Engineers, a long distance cyclist, a rugby player, a coach for children’s sports, a dog lover and trainer, a believer in chickens and fresh eggs, the man who checked the street’s septic tanks, the man who sponsored my family for British citizenship just this year.
A man with a quick wit, an optimistic man, a man who was willing to help.
Paul encouraged my family through the two and a half year process of permanent residency certification and UK citizenship. Towards the end of the long slog of paperwork, Paul asked how it was going. I answered, “We still have to swear to the Queen.” He smiled. “That’s easy. Here we do that all the time.”
He was a practical man, who saw the situation and made a decision:
One day I had walked to Newcroft Primary to collect my children after school and it started raining. Paul offered us a ride home. We got in the car and my last child walked up. The car was full. Without a change of his impervious, cheery expression, Paul called out to him, “What do you want first? The good news or the bad news?” My son looked uncertain. Paul answered, “The good news is, you get an umbrella. The bad news is, you’re walking.”
A man who was larger than life.
You must be up there, Paul, controlling the celestial fires in the boldest, reddest, most incredible fire engine imaginable. Let your booming voice ring out across the heavens and send a little of its strength down to those of us left behind.