Remembering my cousin, Paul Miranda, 1971-2000

I wrote this email to my uncle and to Paul’s wife about 15 years ago. I was lucky to find it again after much searching. I’m happy to post it here to share a few family memories.

August 20, 2000

To Uncle Tom and Stacy,

I cannot even imagine what it is like to have someone very close move on to the next level. Nor do I want to. May these memories help you to heal and to remember.

New York City 1984
My sister graduated from Yale in 1984. My mother and I made the journey to the event. Every visitor to Yale was greeted with a large Coitus Interruptus sign hanging out of a dorm window. Mari did the ceremonial thing along with Jodie Foster and her bodyguard entourage. Connecticut and New York City was of course Uncle Tom’s neighborhood. He showed us around. Paul also joined us for a trip to the Big Apple. We went to Chinatown as Paul and I each searched for something unique. I wanted to buy fireworks. Firecrackers and bottlerockets. Chinatown would have street vendors to make the perfect sale. These pyrogoodies were outlawed in Florida. Paul on the other hand was into everything Ninja. He had a ninja uniform, he owned nunchakus and he collected Ninja throwing stars. And so he took off into various shops hunting for different metal stars to add to his collection. He was the ninja dude for sure during that visit.

Disney World 1985
It was the summer of 1985. The Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL had just lost to the Oakland Invaders in their last playoff game ever. Uncle Tom was nice enough to invite me to Orlando. Disney World – that commercialized yet magical place that is home to every kid. Uncle Tom checked us into the Viscount Hotel. A triad of sorts towering over Walt’s cornucopia of ideas. There was only one thing that annoyed me the most back then. At 15, it’s quite easy to get annoyed about everything. Uncle Tom and cousin David snored while they slept. And it wasn’t just ordinary snoring, but enough to fracture the building’s foundation. If Florida never saw earthquakes, it certainly saw tremors when these two were in the state. For the two evenings we were together I slept on the balcony. I took a few sofa cushions and made a bed of my own. Yes, it was hot and humid and the mosquitos were impossible, but i made it through the night. Anything to separate myself from the chainsaws.

In the morning as I awoke and made my morning urination journey, I noticed the two snorers continuing their evening escapade. I noticed that Paul was still sound asleep. Quiet as a bug on a log. Nary a sound. He was able to sleep through the volcanic eruptions. It was Paul who slept the best. Maybe he was used to it. Maybe he had a way of disconnecting his senses from intrusion. Whatever it was, I wish I had his talent. My back ached from the balcony and here is my cousin being able to tolerate the construction sounds going on.

The dawn awoke us all. It was Disney World today (EPCOT tomorrow) with all the tourists wearing their pathetic holiday garb drooling for an appearance by the Big Mouse himself. We were upon the main entrance. Uncle Tom wanted a real guided tour, I told him to save his money. I showed the gang around all day. We stood ready for the action. Something this way Main Street comes. Paul had his camera. He was readying a shot of Cinderella’s Castle. There was a family ahead of us.

Suddenly, a very large woman’s loud, southern voice shot out, “May Jean! Move yo’ big fat head! I’m tryin’ to take a pic-cha!”

Paul, David, Uncle Tom and I just looked at each other and burst out laughing. Those eternal words became the joke of the day as we repeated them everywhere we went. Welcome to the Deep South.

Later that day we lunched at one of Disney’s expensive tourist restaurants. Afterwards we continued our adventure. But something wasn’t right, Paul had lost his camera. We backtracked our steps and returned to our place of feasting. Paul didn’t complain. Paul didn’t seem worried. He had that calm, cool sense of serenity amidst chaos about him. And yes, when we went back to the restaurant the camera was waiting for him.

San Juan 1989
In December of 1989, I went to Puerto Rico for a visit. I had been there the previous summer and I wanted to see if I could see a girl that I knew. At 19, anything involving a girl is reason enough to visit Puerto Rico twice in one year. For the first half of my stay, Uncle Tom, Paul and Paul’s friend (I forget his name) were also on the island. Paul’s friend’s father worked for Eastern Airlines. I guess he got free tickets or something. Paul at this time was a teenager like me. He had scruff on his chin and he had wiry hair that sometimes looked very strange as it was seemingly unmanageable. I was losing my hair already at this time and tried to look the rock and roller type. Metallica t-shirts and high tops were part of my duds. Paul and I always got along quite well. But I never knew him really. He was the quiet type of dude. Like the bassist of a famous rock band. That’s what happens when you live so far apart for a such long time.

Uncle Tom, Cousin Paul and I on grandma's porch in Aibonito.

Uncle Tom, Cousin Paul and I on grandma’s porch in Aibonito.

Anyhow, Paul was enjoying his holiday with his buddy. I on the other hand looked for trouble and went out with my cousin Maluco in the small town of Aibonito to go drinking while our grandmother complained out in the street that Maluco was ruining his life. “It’s only orange juice,” Maluco would explain. He and I shared the same fondness for Jimi Hendrix.

One evening in San Juan, Paul, his friend, Uncle Tom and I went to a small get together of one of Uncle Tom’s friends. I remember that we got stuck in the apartment complex elevator. I’m not sure if all of us were there. But no one panicked. Everyone just waited patiently. It was after 15-20 minutes that we got instructions on how to get ourselves out.

Anyways, we were quite bored with the party and we wanted to hit the town. You have three teenage boys with adrenaline and hormones coursing through their veins and something like this is bound to happen. We walked to a night club maybe called Chevrolets, but they wouldn’t let us in. Too strict of a dress code. We didn’t have ties or jackets and we wore jeans as well. I told them of a place that would be more lenient. So we took a cab to Old San Juan. Destination: a disco called LAZER. I found out about LAZER from the previous summer when I went there with one of my mom’s best friend’s daughter, Carmen Maria, and her two lady friends. Within this Puerto Rican discotheque,  I was reminiscing of the events of five months earlier as Paul and his buddy were playing billiards. I joined them and we played cutthroat while we had a good time checking out the women. I remember drinking too many ‘sex on the beaches’ that night. Paul and his buddy weren’t too much into drinking during that holiday, but I did notice that Paul received most of the attention from the girls. It must have been his eyes. I certainly don’t think it was the funny hair. He always had kind eyes. Even his son, Jonah, has those same eyes.

We eventually hailed a cab and I tried to remember where Uncle Tom’s cousin, Luis Alberto, lived. It was great night out for three young dudes in Old San Juan.

Wedding 1993
The last time I saw Paul was at his and Stacy’s wedding in Paradise PA. The Miranda family invaded a local hotel and its swimming pool
in nearby Intercourse that weekend. It was damn hot and we got kicked out of the pool area because we had brought glasses instead of plastic cups and were boozing it up. I believe the theme was “I’m too sexy for my shirt.” My dad and mom sang that song all weekend long.

The ceremony was in a lovely little church and afterwards the newlyweds ran to their horse-drawn buggy under a tirade of uncooked rice or birdseed. I don’t remember what the projectiles actually consisted of, but I do remember taking a photo of this event that turned out quite nice. It was a snapshot of the action with Paul and Stacy running with heads down avoiding the hailstorm and Paul’s hand is out front towards the camera. The crowd around was blurred. It was a very unique image from a wonderfully happy moment.

The reception was definitely grand. I sat with some actor wanna-be with a fake name like Kip Raven or something. There was a nice African American couple at my table. They showed me how to do the chicken dance the real way. It was a fun time had by all for sure.

There is nothing that I can say that will ease the pain of loss. There are no words to soothe someone’s tortured soul. We all experience loss on our own. All alone. As in birth and as in death. However, the one thing we can all do is to try and share the grief by sharing the memories of a person’s life. By doing this we shall continue to keep a person alive. By doing this we will find the Peace within that will continue to give
us Hope for tomorrow.

Fernando J. Miranda
Helsinki, Finland