Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Paul and Alexander

Alexander was born mid October of 2001. Paul and I had been seperated for a year in 1999 and when we started dating in the summer of 2001 I was living in LA. For a while we continued living apart, me in Venice Beach, Paul in Encinitas (an art and surfing community in San Diego county).

I wasn't sure things would work out with Paul this second go-around and I didn't want to dump my super cool job in Santa Monica. I worked as a girl-friday for Lookout Management/Vapour Records a boutique artist management and record company that handled some hefty rock and roll clients like Neil Young and Jonathan Richmond. It was fun to show up at work and have someone interesting dropping by. I had to pick up David Crosby at the Santa Monica Airport once, I had boxes of my stuff in my 15 year old Toyota stationwagon and I'm picking up Crosby. I told him I was married to his old pal Paul Williams and we had a great conversation about the sci-fi writer Theodore Sturgeon and terraforming planets to make them livable, he told the staff at Lookout he was going to steal me away.

After about six months of "long distance" dating I suddenly found I was pregnant. One of those classic lack of insight moments "Geeze, I've been sick to my stomach for 4 days, I guess that salad really did me in". Then I got a grip and took the test. Paul and I were both happy and looked forward to our new life together.... with a baby! The other gals at Lookout, Bonnie and Cori helped me find a name I liked (once we knew it would be a boy). I brought the name Alexander to Paul that weekend and he said he'd thought about that name that week too. So it was decided.

Paul was a great husband during the last few months of the pregnancy, I quit my job at Lookout and moved back to Encinitas to live with him. The landlord put in new carpet and painted the walls and everything was clean and new. A fresh start. The baby arrived and Paul and I had lots of those sleepless nights that babies tend to bring. But we were happy and wanted to do things "right". Paul went into therapy and worked on his relationships with his two grown sons from his first marriage. He was really trying to fix what he'd broken and didn't want to repeat what he'd failed at before. He really did try to make things right with his past.

And he was a great dad to Alexander. The volleyball ladies at our beach still remember him as the dad that would go for walks with his baby in a sling, showing him off to whomever passed by. That first year he was in good shape and so I decided to start working, giving guitar lessons at our home. Then a year later, when Alexander was 15 months I picked up a teaching job at a nearby music studio and Paul stayed home and watched Alexander. Things seemed to work well for about a year, then slowly I began to see that something wasn't quite right.

One day Paul told me he'd left Alexander in the car when he went into Trader Joe's "for about 10 minutes. But I left the window down so it wouldn't get too hot". I was horrified. I told him to NEVER do that again, "you go in-he goes with you wherever you go". Paul agreed. Then I came home to a puddle of red goo being mopped up from the carpet "What's that Paul? " "Oh, Alexander got ahold of the cold medicine and spilled it all over the carpet". Alexander was watching us, he didn't appear to be losing consciousness, so I figured we got real lucky. Then when Alexander was two and a half we moved across town to a subdivision and Paul's mother moved out from Cambridge to live with us. It was an expensive experiment that failed. And Paul was beginning to show signs of something not being right. He wanted to sleep alot, like half of the day. He got angry. We tried anti-depressents. You name the brand- Paul tried it. When we realized that Paxel or whatever, wasn't working Paul slowly stopped taking them, just as the doctor recommended, but when he was off of them he had an episode and bit Alexander's arm.

He didn't tell me about it. I don't know if he forgot...But that night when I got home from work I noticed the bite marks on Alexanders 2 1/2 year old arm and asked Paul "Did you bite him?". He said he did because he was working on the taxes and Alexander kept reaching up for the papers and he didn't want to hit him so he bit him instead. I told my therapist, child protective services came out, by then I'd already made arrangements for Alexander to go to a friends house when I worked. I told Paul "you won't be able to watch your son anymore." I was furious. I just didn't get how sick Paul was becoming. He went from being the doting father that was trying to heal his past mistakes to a sleepy, sometimes angry guy that slouched whenever he walked. Why couldn't he see it and fix himself?

Now I look back and see that it was I that was amiss. Why didn't I see those earlier signs as Paul becoming sick. I knew he had a brain injury. I made allowances for his eccentricities, he was a genius right? But I didn't see the dementia until it hit me with a two by four. The biting incident happened in 2004 and I'm thinking Paul just needs the right anti-depressants and he'll be more like himself, by 2005 my mother and others that have been around loved ones with dementia or Alzheimers are telling me Paul looks like he has It. The doctors keep telling me he's fine.

When we moved back over to the beach in 2005 I thought the familiarity of the apartment and location might bring Paul back, instead he continued to slip further away. Alexander now eight years old doesn't remember his dad carrying him on the beach in a sling, he doesn't remember his dad watching him while I was at work, or the biting incident. What he knows is a father that needs to be watched and not left alone. In kindergarten I overheard Alexander explaining his father to his friends like this, "My daddy has a brain injury and then he got sick."

Now that Paul is in the nursing home I can see it's a relief in some ways for our son. Alexander and I can go out whenever we want, we couldn't leave Paul at home when he was here and it was hard taking him anywhere. Alexander gets more of moms attention now, we read books together and I'm not as stressed out as I was when Paul lived with us. Our lives are simpler, less complicated and their is now time to dream and from dreams come things.


  1. Your love for Paul shielded you from seeing the early signs of his decline. It is difficult to observe someone so close with any objectivity. The important thing to keep in mind here is that you did the right thing when the 2x4 hit you. The quality of your lives has improved and the quality of your love has never wavered. Sweet dreams.

  2. Thanks for sharing Cindy. I am a face in the crowd and fellow musician. I also remember Crawdaddy magazine. I always thought of Paul as the Warhol of San Diego Music. You have a lovely son. Kids are the reflection of their parents and he reflects a beautiful image of love and poetry.

    The mind can be so mysterious. I have worked in Special Education for seven years and I have learned a lot about the mind, but I know that there is so much to be discovered and even more issues to resolve. There has been news of brain injuries of NFL players and early onset of dementia. I think CBS made the report. You are a wonderful person, Cindy. Alexander and Paul are lucky to have you. I have always admired your music - especially your Garage Orchestra years. Hope to see you again soon. ;-J ohn Vaughn

  3. Hi John, Yes I've read some of the New York Times pieces this past year on brain injuries in football, now folks are even writing about kids sports and TBI's. The early onset of dementia is a shocker. Espcially when you think it means age 70. Paul was in his 50s. I've spoken with some young folks with a father that got it in his late 40s. It's enough to make you wanna buy Long Term Health Insurance.

    I'm hoping Garage Orch part II may happen in the next year, gearing up for it actually. Thank you. clb