Saturday, December 5, 2009

Paul Mooney: October 27, 1965 - December 5, 2009

The note came via a fellow fantasy basketball league member: "Should we still play? Paul died early this morning." It was out of the blue-ish. My friend, Paul Mooney, had cystic fibrosis and had already survived a double lung transplant performed over a year ago. Recovery looked good at first, but over time he began to slide. The last month was hard for him and he kept in contact only through e-mail or instant messaging chat. His last "Facebook" post was, "Paul Mooney closed on his home. Married. Bought a Lexus. Life could not be better." It's the life he deserved, but not the life he got.

"Stats", as he was known in Colby College community, and I met in the fall of 1983. We lived on the same floor as freshmen in Mariner Hall. He was my first friend there and became my closest. His nickname was derived from the vast warehouse of sports information that he kept in his head. When asked about it, however, we made up a couple of different stories, mostly for the benefit of girls...of course. The first was that when his younger brothers (affectionately referred to as The Gremlins) were learning to speak they could not enunciate "Paul" and it came out as "Stats" so it stuck. Seriously, you would NOT believe how many freshmen fell for that! The other was that he was born in Mexico and his given name was Estasticos Munez and when he crossed the Rio Grande he Anglicized it to Stats Mooney so he'd fit in. Hilarious...

Stats and I burned up the racetracks when we were in college. We fueled our love for the game at the harness tracks in Lewiston and Scarborough. One of the best weekends we ever had - sober - was a weekend trip where we started Thursday night at Lewiston, Friday night at Seabrook greyhound, Saturday afternoon at Suffolk Downs, Saturday evening at Wonderland greyhound and the Sunday opening day at Scarborough on the way back to school. Our home base was his parents house in Manchester-by-the Sea, Massachusetts right on the water. Paul loved it there and it is an absolutely gorgeous spot. All in all, for two guys into horse racing, it was a dream weekend - at least when you live in northern New England.

We went our separate ways after college, like everyone does, but we kept in contact all the time. He was an usher in my first wedding and when I up and moved to Guam, he accompanied me half way across the country to drop my car off in Los Angeles. I picked him up in Chicago and he flew back from Las Vegas. Along the way we stayed in Santa Fe and spent a completely sleepless night in Vegas before he left. In Santa Fe we had a hard time finding a room because there was some art festival going on. We finally found The Thunderbird Inn that had a few rooms available. In classic Santa Fe tolerance the innkeeper asked us if we wanted one bed or two. We glanced at each other and without missing a beat, Stats asked him sincerely and very matter of factly if we looked like one-bedders. We opted for two beds and had a helluva laugh over it. One-bedders became a lifelong part of our vocabulary.

When I moved back to the States, we still stayed in touch and then, mysteriously, we completely lost touch. I knew he was in Chicago somewhere and he knew I was in LV somewhere, but we never connected. The last call I had made to him was letting him know that my family was heading back East for a month and that he should come on out and stay a week or so with me. He was teaching at a community college around Chicago and he had the summer off. It'll be a blast, I reasoned. He didn't call back and the next time I tried the number was out of service.

Fast forward about 2 years ago and I get an e-mail from him. He had tracked me down using the Internet. I was on a business trip in St. Louis and called him immediately. We spent the rest of the evening catching up. Literally the entire evening. I completely drained a cell battery and had to plug in the phone to keep on yakking. It was that call that I learned he had cystic fibrosis. He never mentioned it to anyone in school and he just lived his life. A lot of the goofy chances he took in college made a helluva lot more sense now - he knew he was living with a death sentence, but the rest of us didn't. I was actually incredulous when he told me. We learned early on that we were born about 12 hours apart straddling October 26th & 27th and I knew the life expectancy for cystics was not into your forties. In fact, a dear friend, Susan Brigham, was a senior when we were juniors and she passed from the disease about 3 years out of school. We kept in touch again from that moment forward. Until the message today.

As a parent now, I can't imagine what his parents are feeling today. I heard that his mother was with him when he passed - I cannot imagine anything more painful for her. He fought harder than anyone could have expected and lived longer than odds dictated (he LOVED that). I heard that he brought comfort and peace into the lives of many cystics and was a source of inspiration for all who came in contact with him and that does not surprise me. He died peacefully at home in a favorite chair. He lived to see the Red Sox win not just one, but two, world championships (Game 6 of the 1986 Series was our collective 21st birthday - they OWED us!) and he loved that as well.

My life is a better one because Paul Mooney was in it. While it doesn't make it any less painful for those of us left behind, I know he's breathing easier now and there is no more pain or disappointment or setbacks. Only peace and love. Rest in peace, my friend.


QQ said...

Flannery O'Connor was right: A good man is hard to find. So sorry to read that the world has lost another one. Condolences to you, and the Mooney family.

CL said...

Well said Ted. You made me chuckle. I needed that. Peace to you and to Paul.

Vincent said...

Paul was something and I for one will miss his cryptic comments on my Facebook page. One correction: he called his younger brothers "the goons."

Ted Grevelis said...

Thanks for reading and commenting. Back in the early eighties they were the Gremlins. As they got older they evolved (?) into the goons. All lovingly said, of course!

Teresa said...

So terribly sorry to hear this, Ted. You've written beautifully and eloquently about your friend.

Shannon said...

This message was linked to from one of the CF pages Paul frequented. I was one of Paul's online CF friends, though I did have the pleasure of spending some "real life" time with him on a few occasions. I was devastated when I heard the news today. I spent many, many hours online with Paul discussing everything from Zen to writing to football (more him than me!) to CF denial (something we bonded over!) Thank you for this wonderful post, it made me smile on this heavy hearted day.

--Shannon North (wanderlost online)

Kim said...

Ted, I'm so very sorry for your loss, a good friend of 20+ years is hard to come by, and one of Paul's caliber is impossible to duplicate. I've heard your name over the years and know that Paul has many happy memories of his Colby and racetrack days, and that you meant a great deal to him. We're all better people for knowing him. I'll be keeping you, his friends and family in my thoughts over the coming days and weeks. With sympathy,
kbn online screen name

David M. Miller said...

Heartfelt condolences to you and Paul's family -- I could picture you both in your description of the racetrack roadtrips and enjoyed your sharing Paul's memory.

JP Russell '87 said...

I have fond memories of Paul's wit and demeanor in class at Colby. He will be missed. Godspeed, Paul, and peace to you and your family.

Tara said...

I hadn't read this blog post until today. It really made me laugh, especially the stories you guys created behind the nickname, Stats. Paul was better known as Q, or Quoof, in the CF community. He was very well loved and very knowledgable about CF. I never had the chance to meet him in person. I miss him to this day. Thanks for writing such a heartfelt blog about your friendship. I enjoyed reading it.

Elk Grove, CA