My friend Paul Mineo died three days ago. Cancer. I've been in touch and
around his wife through the chemo, the hospice, and now that he's gone, the
grief. She and I have a lot in common. Paul was the person in the world she
loved most; my dad, who suffered the same awful demise nearly a year ago, was
the only member of my family I could say I loved unconditionally. My brother and
mother I ain't gonna get into right now.
Paul was a well-published educator in the field of communications. His life
was led humbly and privately, in drastic contrast to that of his cousin, whom he
loved very much, Sal Mineo. Sal died before I got to know Paul.
Paul drew people close to him. He and his wonderful wife Donna nearly always
had friends in tow. Now, it's Donna who is becoming aware of just how many
close, close, devoted friends she has.
Well, whatever you believe in, happenstance, fate, Buddha (as I do), Wicca
(as does Donna) or a God(s) of your choosing; the ball's now in my court. It's
my turn to return all of the caring and love and affection and talking and
silence that was my privilege to have available when dad died. I must rise to
this occasion without allowing it to overwhelm me. Given Donna's great, old
soul, I'd hazard a guess that it isn't gonna overwhelm me.
We're going to New York tomorrow. Donna's coming with me and San-San to go
about our usual Monday routine. I may even surprise her with an evening on the
town and a stay-over, unless she wants to be at home (she's refused offers of
hospitality from 4 of us, and is alone in the house).
Now the shoe's on the other foot for me. What do you say? What do you do?
I've been through it all before quite a few times but these questions continue
to rear their ugly heads.
The memorial service is Thursday, followed by a "gathering of remembering the
joy of knowing Paul Mineo" at my restaurant. We're prepared to turn some
customers, not involved in the wake, away; not really closing but fully
realizing that our place may be overwhelmed with people. Suffice it to say that
from the calls and emails coming in to the funeral home, the funeral director
suggested that I "hire part-time staff and use plastic glasses," as the crowd
will probably just barely fit in his largest room, and will overwhelm my place
(which fits 175 at full maximum, lots of standees).
I miss Paul and it hurts. However, I take a peculiar pleasure in being able
to give back what was so generously given me in September of last year.
ADDENDUM: Just after I posted this, I began searching the Internet for Paul's
writings and papers and thinking about what I could possibly say about a man
whose life focused on effective communication. A page from the Daily Campus,
the newspaper of the University of Connecticut, got a quote from Professor Mineo
about a rash of spray-painted anti-war slogans on campus buildings (This from
the October 14, 2005 issue). Rather than lose focus and insinuate his own
passionate feelings about the war, Paul remained on-topic and instead said this:
Communication (sic) Prof. Paul Mineo said while graffiti is an effective way
to create a sense of communal bonding, the effects are only temporary.
"Graffiti is probably an effective way of gaining attention, and perhaps an
effective way of expressing a sense of community within certain specific
cultural groups," Mineo said, "it is most likely not a way of having enduring
effects on attitudes or values for a wide audience. Like annoying TV ads, it may
capture attention or appeal to group feelings of a specific target group —
wrestling fans, gambling enthusiasts, etc. — but with such ads, you may remember
the name of the product tomorrow, but it is not likely to make you buy it."