Chapter 27 – Paul
As he drove through Ontario, Paul began wondering if Beth or David had felt his burn scars through his clothing when they hugged him. He almost drove himself crazy with the thoughts before he was able to refocus himself with prayer and a Steve Camp CD.
Paul arrived at his father’s apartment in New York shortly before five and called his lawyer, scheduling an appointment for the following morning. He looked around the apartment. Most of his father’s belongings were still here. In fact it didn’t look much different than it had two weeks before. Boxes still sat around half-packed. He wondered how much time he’d actually get to spend with his father. He knew they wouldn’t be able to have the all night talks they sometimes did when they visited each other.
Paul took out his wallet and sat down on the couch. He looked at the pictures of Joel and then David. He tried to remember Joel, but it was such a distant memory, and his thoughts kept coming back to David. He looked at Beth’s picture, and absently ran his finger over her hair. He closed the wallet, put it back into his pocket, and took out his computer. He hoped his father had planned to come over instead of calling first as he disconnected the phone and plugged in the modem.
“David, my beloved son in the faith, I have just arrived at my father’s apartment in New York and am waiting for him to come. I know he will be surprised to hear that I have a son, now. Probably as surprised as I was to hear about his new family. I’m sure he will want to meet you.
“It is so hard to believe that after all these years God has given me another son. Only God could have brought us together. I miss you already. Maybe you and your mother can come to visit me, and I can show you around Washington, D.C. and the base. There is so much to see that I don’t think you’ll be bored. If your mother lets me I will pay for your vacation while you are here so you don’t have to worry about that. I don’t often get to show people around, and it would be fun for me to have you both visit.
“I was listening to Steve Camp’s Consider the Cost album on the way here, and his song ‘Guard the Trust’ reminded me of you. Look it up and you will see what I mean. It’s taken directly from the Apostle Paul’s letters to Timothy. I am thinking of studying those books when I am finished with Romans.
“My father is here, now. I will write to your mother later. With love, Your father, Paul.” Paul glanced up at Saul as he sat down at the table across from him. He quickly logged off the net and shut down the computer.
“How long have you been here?” Saul asked, watching him plug the phone back in.
“Less than an hour. Looks like you came here straight from work.”
Saul agreed. “Do you want to go to dinner?”
“Sheila’s not expecting you?”
Saul shook his head with a grimace. “I don’t think so. I didn’t stick around for the argument after I told her you were coming tonight, and I wanted to spend some time with you.”
Paul waited. He knew Saul wasn’t finished.
“You know, I just don’t get it. Before we were married she seemed so understanding about everything. Now we don’t agree on almost everything. There are so many things that I never even imagined that she didn’t think the same way I did about.” He paused. “Well, are you going to say it?”
“I told you it would be a mistake.”
“It’s too late to worry about that. You just have to learn to live with it now.”
“So you think I should stick it out.”
“What else can you do, Dad? I’m sure you’ve already consummated the marriage. Probably did that before you were married.”
Saul stared at him and then laughed. “You don’t beat around the bush, do you? You just go right in and grab the bird by the tail. I’m starting to think you’ve inherited some of your great-grandfather’s zeal. He was a man to call a spade, a spade. His journal is filled with quotes from the Scriptures, applying them to the things he wrote about. You and he would have had a really great time. I remember when your mother and I were first married. He’d come over, and they’d start talking about the Messiah. I think he spurred your mother to take her faith more seriously than she had been, and she….” He shook his head. “She even had him reading your Christian New Testament before he was killed. She was quite a woman, your mother.”
“You should have put that in the book. Maybe add a whole new spiritual side to these men’s lives.”
“You would think that’s important.”
“True faith affects every part of a person’s life, or it should. Yes. I think it’s important to know what they believed, how strongly they believed it, and how it affected the decisions they had to make.”
“But the book is finished.”
“Only if you want it to be.”
Saul waved off his comment. “I don’t suppose you got my quote.”
“Yes, I did.” Paul went to his suitcase and took out the large manila envelope Beth had given him before he left. He handed it to Saul. “She still has the pictures, but she’ll send them back to you if you decide you don’t want her to do it.”
Saul opened the envelope and pulled out his manuscript. There was a letter on top. He read it silently and then handed it to Paul as he glanced through the next sheet of paper which contained quotes for various options.
“Saul, I love your book. You’re a very good writer. I especially like the way that you used humor and the journal quotes to make the people more real. I’m just curious about what role religion played in these men’s lives. We know a little about Joseph’s zeal for Judaism, but not much about the other men.
“I also think that you need to rework the chapter that I believe Paul turned into a military rap sheet. The style wasn’t anything like the rest of the book. Also, do you keep a journal? Why don’t you quote yourself in the section about your life?
“These are just suggestions, and I’m only making them because Paul said you wanted an editor and not just a layout and design person, which is what I do most of the time. But if you don’t like them, please ignore them. I have gone through and marked in the manuscript different areas that I thought needed changes. Most are minor. Look them over.
“I won’t charge you anything for my time. Paul has done so much for me I could never repay him. The quotes on the next page are what the printer would charge for different printing options and quantities.
“I appreciate the son that you and Ruth Ann raised, Saul Jonathan Israel. Thank you. Sincerely, Elizabeth Weaver.”
Paul handed the letter back to his father. “Stubborn woman.”
Saul glanced up from the manuscript. “What do you mean?”
“She needs the money, but she won’t take it now. She even tried to pay me for helping her out. I’ve never met a woman who you couldn’t even force to take money.”
“Maybe I should have married her,” Saul said. “I’ll give you some advice, if you ever plan to get married again, don’t tell the woman how much money you have. Sheila wants to buy a house, which is fine. I think we should get a house that will fit us, but to get what she’s looking at I’d almost have to liquidate all my assets. She knows it’s there, and she wants to use it. I mean, what are we going to do in a mansion. And then how would we keep it up if I sell all the stocks and redeem the mutual funds. She has no financial sense at all.”
Paul half listened to his father’s frustration, shocked by the streak of jealousy that hit him at his father’s first statement. He was already married, and Paul knew wouldn’t seriously think about anyone else right. Why did it matter anyway? She was going to marry someone eventually, even if it wasn’t Jay. “Are we going to get something to eat?”
Saul stood. As they were heading out the door the phone rang. “Let the machine get it,” he said.
“Saul, this is Sheila. I just wondered when you were coming home tonight. Holly and Greg would like to spend some time with you, also.”
“Yeah, right,” Saul said, shutting and locking the apartment door. “Now, I can be a father.” They got into Paul’s car before Saul said anything else. “I thought that one of the reason’s she married me is because she wanted a father for them. But apparently it’s not a full time position. I can’t take Greg hunting this fall, and I certainly can’t discipline them. Sometimes I feel like I even have to watch what I say around them.”
“I’ve never known you to be excessively vulgar.”
“It’s not that,” Saul said, and Paul heard the frustration in his voice. “I can’t talk about hunting. I shouldn’t glorify the military as in I shouldn’t brag about you. I don’t know. I’m not sure how much of a father I am. Sometimes I feel like I’m just some guy sharing her bed. I guess your mother spoiled me, because this definitely isn’t what I expected marriage to be like.”
“I’m very surprised if you’re letting things stay this way.”
Saul laughed a little dejectedly. “Letting things stay? We’ve been fighting almost every day over these things. Believe me, when I buy a house all of my things will be moved into it including my rifles.”
Paul pulled the car into a parking spot at their favorite Italian restaurant.
When they were seated, Saul said, “I’ve been running on and on, Zach. I guess I just needed to get some stuff out so I can go home and keep working on things without strangling her.” He took a drink of his water. The waitress came, and they placed their order. “So how was your vacation?”
“Well, I wanted to punch a few guys, but no strangling. I guess the most important thing is that I’ve unofficially adopted a son.”
“Oh, Dad, you should meet him. He’s great. His talent in music is extraordinary. You should hear him play. And sing. I heard him sing Sunday and again yesterday, and his voice is wonderful. He’s so mature for his age, sometimes. It’s uncanny. You should have seen him this morning. Just him and me drinking coffee like two men. And he has an understanding of the sovereignty of God that would shame most adults who claim to know God. I just know that God has something special planned for him. He’s just so….” He paused. His father was staring at him in amazement. Paul reached for his wallet. “Look, I have his picture.” He opened the wallet and handed it to Saul.
Saul took it and studied the picture. “You’re really serious about this kid, aren’t you?”
Saul’s almost unemotional question quieted Paul’s enthusiasm a moment, but it came back quickly as he continued to talk. “I’m very serious about him. God has given me another son. It’s so great. You know how my middle name is Paul? Well, his is Timothy. Paul and Timothy. It’s great. I couldn’t have planned this.”
“I don’t see the significance.”
Paul stared at his father. Then he shook his head. Beth would understand his reference. “Dad, the apostle Paul… Forget it. It’s a Christian reference. If you ever read the whole Bible, you’ll understand.”
“I know who the apostle Paul was. His name used to be Saul until it mysteriously changed to Paul, somewhat similar to the way your middle name changed from Saul to Paul from the time your mother and I discussed it to the time it appeared on the birth certificate. I became quite acquainted with the man in the discussions that followed you coming home from the hospital.”
Saul smiled. “No, actually furiously whispered discussions so that you wouldn’t wake up. Your mother had a stubborn streak, also. If you notice she broke a hundred and fifty years of tradition, and never regretted it. She was quite a woman.”
The waitress brought their order. When she left Saul continued. “So this son, what’s his first name? Or is he known by his middle name, like you’re trying to be.”
“Well, that’s a respectable name, especially for a musician. Can he play the harp?”
“I bet he could if he had one.”
“Maybe I should give him one just to find out how accurate your claims are.” Saul looked at the picture in the wallet that was still open on the table between them. Then he shook his head. “This isn’t Beth’s son, is it? The one who was going to have a birthday when I called?”
“Yes, he is. Beth adopted him about a year ago.”
“Both of his parents are dead?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t know much about his past before he came to live with Beth. He doesn’t talk a whole lot, but when he does say something, it’s usually important.”
“May I assume that Beth has no husband?”
“You may.” Paul reached out and turned the picture in his wallet, displaying the photo of Beth.
Saul studied it and then looked at Paul. “She’s pretty.”
He watched Paul’s face, and Paul knew what he was wondering. “We’re just friends, Dad.”
“You’ve adopted her son as your own. According to her letter she obviously thinks highly of you. You just spent two weeks visiting her and her son. What’s wrong with her?”
“There’s nothing wrong with her.”
“But you don’t want to marry her.”
“With your sterling example of marriage before me? I don’t think so.”
“Forget me and Sheila. If you need an example use your mother and I. We were very happy, even with our differences. You sounded pretty happy together on the phone. You are even carrying her picture. What is it, Zach? What’s holding you back?”
The waitress came and asked them if they needed anything else. Paul shook his head. After she left he turned back to his father. “You obviously have a very short memory. But I’m not going to refresh it here.”
“What happened twenty years….”
“I’m not going to discuss it here, and you aren’t either,” Paul said firmly.
“Okay. We’ll discuss it back at the apartment.”
Paul looked at him in disgust. “You’re not still hoping I’ll have a biological son. I’m getting a little old to have more children. Besides, I have David now.”
“Who’s last name is what? Weaver?”
Saul waved his hand in annoyance. “But you distract me with minor details, Zach. I’m more concerned about you than any children you might or might not have. Believe it or not, I’m glad you’ve got David now. I almost saw a man I haven’t seen in twenty years. A man with enthusiasm. A man who has let himself care with his whole heart and not just his mind.”
Paul said nothing. He took some money from his wallet and then shoved it into his back pocket.
“Why don’t you plan to come to my house tomorrow? I want to make it clear to Sheila that you’re still my son and my best friend, and that will not change.”
“No, I have an appointment with Harvey Wells at ten thirty.”
“I’m just making a couple changes on my will, mainly to include David.”
“Why don’t you just make him your principle heir? You know, I should change my will also to include Sheila and the kids. There might be some trouble if I don’t, and I do want them taken care of. Do you mind at all?”
“No. I have everything I’ll ever need. Give all of it to her and her kids, if you want.”
“Are you sure?” Saul studied him carefully. “If you want it I’ll split it down the middle. I’m not going to slight you for this new family.”
“I don’t want it. I’ve been saving somewhere around a quarter to half of my income for almost twenty years. I really don’t need anything. I could retire now and never worry, but then I’d be bored.” He shrugged. “Take care of them. I am planning to set up a trust for David with Beth and you as trustees until he’s twenty-five. I want him to be able to pursue his music before that though, so if something happens to me, make sure he gets what he needs to do that without upsetting the bulk of the estate.”
Saul agreed. “I’ll treat him like your own child, Zach. That means, of course, that I’m a grandfather now. So when do I get to meet him.”
Paul smiled. “Hopefully soon. I’ve invited them to visit me, but I don’t know if they will. But we always have an excuse to go there as long as you’re working on your book. I really want to thank you for that.”
“So that’s why you don’t want it to be finished. But then do you need an excuse if he’s your son now?”
“No. But you might use it.”
Saul stood to leave. “As if you think I can get away that easily now. I have to plan my strategy carefully if I want this marriage to go the way I want it to.”
Back at the apartment Saul played back his phone messages. There were four. Three were from Sheila and one from Holly. “Now she’s siccing the kids on me. I’ll wait until ten and then go back. That’s what I told her I would do. Now Zach, tell me more about this editor of mine. How’d you meet her and when?”
Paul told him about the computer theology discussion group and the Orlando conference. Then he told him about what he found when he arrived at her apartment. He told about how she loved David and about Jared and Wes. He then told about how he and David had worked together to keep her clients happy and then how the three of them had worked together and the routine that had been established the last week of his visit.
“You love her, Zach. Do you know that? If you married her you could be with them both. You’d be with your new son.”
Paul looked at him in anguish. “I can’t. Damn it, you know I can’t. Don’t you remember what I’m like?” He stood and started to unbutton his shirt. A button popped off, and he pulled it over his head instead, along with his T-shirt. “Look at me. No woman wants to lay herself next to a monster. No woman wants this.”
It had been years since Paul had let anyone see the burn scars over most of the left side of his chest, back, and shoulder. The back of his left leg was equally puckered and scared.
“Zach, not all women are like Clarissa. It won’t matter to the right woman. I know Ruth Ann wouldn’t have left me because of something like that. Maybe it won’t matter to Beth.”
“I’m not taking the chance of losing her friendship.” Paul shuddered at the thought that Beth might look at him the way Clarissa had and the way those women from the bar had the two times he had become so lonely after his surgeries were over that he actually had tried to have a one night stand. But that was when he was still in his early twenties, and he had never tried again. He used to go dancing a lot, just to touch and be touched, but it wasn’t long after he started following Christ that he no longer felt comfortable at the bar and quit going.
“No.” Paul sat down on the couch, putting his face in his hands. “You’re right. I can’t believe how much I want to be with her, and I haven’t even known her that long. The truth is, Dad, I’m changing the will to leave everything to her and David equally with David’s half in trust, except for a few donations to a couple ministries that I support. It’ll probably be the only way she’ll accept any money from me.” He lifted his head and looked at his father. “Please, if I die first, look after them both for me.”
Saul looked at his son in concern. Then he said quietly, “I will, Zach.” They sat in silence a while before Saul continued. “If Beth is worthy of you….”
“Oh, please, Dad. She deserves so much better, and I know someday she’ll find someone.” He picked up his T-shirt and pulled it over his head, covering the worst of the scars that the plastic surgery hadn’t. A different set of doctors had worked on his lower left arm than his face and hadn’t done near as well a job. If his arm was viewed closely white lines could be seen crisscrossing it. The pain, time and expense had prohibited any other attempts at cosmetic surgery.
He had only been able to stay in the military because he had found favor with an influential general before the fire who had arranged for his sick leave and subsequent evaluation to determine if he could still perform up to military standards when his face had been completed.
“I wish…,” Saul started to say, but the ringing of the phone cut him off. He glanced at his watch. “It’s probably Sheila. I guess it’s almost time for me to go.” He went to answer the phone. Paul listened to one side of a discussion while he opened his suitcase to get ready for bed. Saul hung up the phone. “I’ll see you tomorrow by noon then, Zach. You still have the address, right?”
“Yes. I’ll see you then.”
Go to Chapter 28
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.