|The very 1st lipstick mark forehead kiss for Paul. He gave me roses, I responded spontaneously.|
On June 8, 2006 Paul Patrick was a hard-working family man. That is, he provided for his ailing mother while his sister did the caretaking. Before that night was through, he was sprawled on a blistering sidewalk, shot full of lead, the RANDOM victim of evil disgusting serial killers. He would never work again. His whole family has been drained, exhausted, and shattered.
Today is June 8, 2012. This is an important anniversary for Paul. Whenever he autographs a book for a fan, he always writes "6-8-06" under his name. There is no chance he can ever forget the date his once robust and productive life took a screeching halt and became a daily battle for every breath. Ever since I've known Paul, we have had a special visit on this anniversary. He gives me more details of what he remembers from that night. He tells me witty and often rhyming slogans that embody his philosophy of fighting on, of triumphing.
But late last year, Paul lost his mother, who on June 8, 2006 had gone from the family heart patient to the family engine, staying at Paul's side constantly, advocating for him in endless hospitals and nursing homes. Pushing his buttons as only a mother can, Mary Patrick nurtured the twinkle in Paul's eye and helped him focus on goals. She also saved him from several medical crises in which her instincts proved superior to customary but off-the-mark-in-this-case institutional regimens. Without her quiet captaining of Paul's journey, his path has veered. 2012 has been very, very hard on him. And on those of us who now do the hand-wringing and have no idea how to make things any better. Early in the year he endured yet another major surgery. Instead of making his life better, soon he was in the ICU and we were bracing ourselves for the worst, which seemed inevitable. He pulled off another of his Hollywood comebacks, and the threat of imminent death passed. But he has never bounced back from this surgery and near-death experience. His level of health and quality of life are dramatically worse than they were last year.
I went to see Paul today -- June 8, 2012. I wanted to start our visit by showing him recent messages of support he'd received on FaceBook. I had gotten a screen all ready because there is no wi-fi where he currently is.
I couldn't wake him up. I am under instructions from the family to do so if I find him in slumber, because he hates so much to miss my visits. Today he fluttered up to brief moments of recognition but quickly slid back into the Sand Man's grasp. I asked for professional help from the staff, but they told me this has become "normal" for him. Guess I'm lucky that in all my other visits, I found him so much more "present." Nevertheless, they tried to wake him, too. Finally I leaned down and gave him the forehead kiss that leaves the famous lipstick mark he loves so much. No response.
The discomforts and indignities of his life are all too easily recognized as he slept. Just for the record, getting shot in the belly leads to very unhappy things. He is pale. So, so pale.
I am furious. I want to scream every four letter word ever heard at the docks when the fleet's in. I want to smash dinner plates with a baseball bat. I want to cry. I do cry. I am so angry at what has happened to this vital soul, this sparkling personality, this Irish raconteur, this son of a kind and faithful mother.
I write about Paul Patrick a lot. Yes, out of a cast of hundreds in the A SUDDEN SHOT: THE PHOENIX SERIAL SHOOTER story, Paul is the one who gets most of the attention. While Paul is very special, so are the rest of the characters. It simply isn't possible for me, without benefit of a very large cloning lab, to keep up with all of them in a meaningful way over a period of years.
There are dozens of victims in the Serial Shooter case (a complete list is available in the back of the book). I know that each one still suffers agonies large and small because of their run-in with the dimmed headlights and swiftly slung rifle barrels of Dale Hausner and Sam Dieteman. Some families suffer worse than Paul's, because they go to bed each night knowing their beloved died while some creeps laughed.
So I hope that the people who read my updates on Paul remember that every time I write about him, I am really writing about all of them. He made himself their representative at trial. And I must ask him to keep filling that job now. What Paul has lost, they have all shared in.
One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is how do I do this kind of work, it entails so much sadness, so much gore? My answer usually emphasizes that my work also exposes me to so much heroism and love, so much good, that I "live in that space."
Today I'm finding it hard to live in that space. Today I freakin' hate killers. HATE THEM.
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