Written November 25, 2012, (at Schuler Books and Music, Grand Rapids, MI)
Author Forward to Readers of Upcoming Book “The Gingerbread Boy”
Many years have passed since I first wrote “The Gingerbread Boy,” and it’s only now I have the peace to wrench it from my soul and share it. Although it is largely fiction, enough parallels have come to pass between my life and this story that not only was it emotional to re-read, but to edit as well.
You see, a young man named Paul Ferner was once my “Gingerbread Boy.” I dedicate this book to his memory. “Paul Esquire” he liked to call himself, was a charming, intense, and soulful young man with a quick wink and witty word. A man who loved the company and wisdom of the elderly yet still loved children’s toys like plastic cowboys and Indians, spinning tops and yo-yos.
The last time I saw him, he was jerking in spasms from eurmic poisoning his parent’s dingy living room. He mouthed “I love you” with his lips, for he could no longer speak without vomiting. He then turned over to face the wall.
He’d turned his back on me. And was gone from this earth three days later, a month before his 30th birthday.
That last scene haunted me for over twenty years. I was invaded by unsettling dreams. Dreams where I’d hear that Paul was “back in town.”
Back in town? I’d wonder. Yet in that fuzzy, befuddling dream-world, I didn’t wonder that he hadn’t actually died, but wondered if he’d forgotten to tell me he’d moved away for some experimental procedure, and would only return when healed.
So, why hadn’t he contacted me upon his return? Was he waiting for me to contact him? How could I do so if he didn’t know if I knew he’d returned? Didn’t he want me to know? Wasn’t he thinking of me at all? Did he still love me?
Now I believe those dreams were a symbol of unfinished business. The inadequate closure as I struggled with the question, why did he turn his back on me that final day?
Now, I know. It was out of love. He spared me his last moments on earth-- moments I would later learn I would not want cemented in my memory for the rest of my life if it could be helped.
Yet, there will forever be a Paul-shaped hole in my heart. I’ve come to believe and hope that it is now a much kinder heart, a more gentle and understanding heart. One that holds a unique appreciation for true love, even a lost love, and how marvelous it was I’d been lucky enough to have known it at one time.
And, the sweetness of the realization that true love can be found anew.
Mr. Paul Esquire, you will always be an “epitome.”
From C.S. Lewis:
"Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable."