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Wish You Were Here

He was in the row in front of me standing shoulder to shoulder with hoards of screaming football fans. The rare Texas boy not on the team, he appeared their biggest booster. Every time the team would score, which was constantly that championship year, Paul would leap up and down, "accidentally on purpose" bumping into everyone and knocking them down into the stands.

He made it look like an accident but from where I was sitting, I could see it was quite intentional, though none of his surrounding seatmates seemed to realize it. I knew I had to meet him. By half time I slid down onto his row and introduced myself. The conversation Paul and I started that night lasted for nearly 40 years. &

South Texas was not a friendly environment for young homosexuals in those days. The only openly gay boy in our class, he moved to New York City at 21 to become an actor, and within a year he had met John, a well-known writer 10 years his senior. They fell in love and moved in together. In the 30 years John and Paul were together, I never saw a more loving and respectful couple.

Godfather to my first daughter, Paul sent her wonderful whimsical gifts over her childhood. Mr. Badger, from Wind in the Willows, sits on my bookcase as I write this. A picture of Irises that he painted two decades ago hangs on my wall.

When I married my second husband Tim, Paul called him from his sickbed to tell him what a prize he had won and to threaten him with bodily harm should he ever cause me any kind of unhappiness. Those last years, Paul and I continued our conversation by phone. He assured me that John was taking impeccable care of him and that they were fortunate because the hospital considered John & "next of kin." &

Other gay couples were not so lucky.

When Paul died New Years Eve 0f 2002, he left a heartbreaking void, and there are days that I cannot believe that he cannot be reached on the other end of a phone line.

Filing the obituary, John was told that he could not be listed as a survivor. In his grief, John remained stoic but it hurt me to see this one last indignity inflicted on a union that had lasted longer than most marriages.

I see him still... his tall slender self, gold brown hair falling into his intelligent eyes, lovely long artistic fingers, crooked smile plotting yet another outrageous escapade for the two of us.

This one's for you, Paul.

-Citizen Voices blogger Candace Suerstedt is a filmmaker and a mother of three who lives in Coronado.

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