Monday, December 27, 2004

I Read It in the Papers

Sorting through the boxes, the interesting parts all have something to do with her ex-husband, Paul. He reveals himself on paper, though documents, in his books. And he is a mystery to be solved by his five children, four (or more?) grandchildren, and hangers-on and quasi-relatives like me. His daugher Jane writes:
In every document I’ve found of him, my father’s
eyes are a different color, gray or hazel or brown.

There must have been a time he was just a man
and not a stone egg to be cracked.
Of course in a family of writers, of journalists, of lawyers (and a legal secretary) everything would be on paper. And it is tucked between old electric bills, hinted at in an out-of-date resume, perhaps detailed in shorthand in a steno pad.

The family is economical with their use of names, sometimes making it hard to tell exactly who is being referred to. When Paul wrote his novels, he used the pseudonym Gene Paul. Paul's father was also named Paul, a lawyer in San Bernardino (or maybe Highland). Paul had a son named Paul (who used to be called by his middle name, but who now calls himself Paul) and a daughter named Paula. Paula is Jane's twin sister. Paula and Jane's mother was Jane. Paul's other two children are named after relatives on their mother's side.

We had known that Paul's first wife, Jane, was a Bay Area journalist. We hadn't known that she was the daughter of a lieutenant governor; a building on the Berkeley campus is named after her father. We don't know how (or when) Paul went from Highland to the Bay Area or how he ended up connected to such a powerful family.

We had known that Paul was a journalist in the Army. We hadn't known that when he joined the Army in 1942 that he was 36 years old and had a wife (who would soon divorce him) and three-year-old twin daughters.

I had know that Paul had died tragically. I hadn't known that I would become obsessed with piecing together the life of a man who is not a blood relative.