Paul & Bethany's Story: An Unexpected Journey, Part 2

{Part 2 of 3} Read my introduction and interview with Bethany in Part 1 here. Below is my interview with Paul. He's quite the character - smart, careful, a bit of a goof and fiercely committed to his family.


[S]: Bethany has told me that you had to meet her like 3 or 4 times before you finally noticed her and remembered who she was.

P: That's a little bit of an exaggeration

[S]: Okay. So you tell me what happened.

[P]: I remember her sitting in the lobby of the dorm. I walked by and had a witty conversation with someone she was sitting with, but didn't say anything to her. 

[S]: What sort of witty conversation?

P: Oh, we were talking about snipe hunting or something like that. 

[S]: What's a snipe?

[P]: Well, I'm going to spoil it for you, but its a made up creature and people end up running around the woods for a couple of hours hunting for nothing.

[S]: A fool's errand? Like telling someone they need a muffler belt? 

[P]: Yeah, or blinker fluid...Then, the next time Bethany and I actually interacted was around a foosball table. She had invited my friend, Wes, to go to church with her, at her dad's church as I found out, and I tagged along. Then, the rest was history.

[S]: How did you guys make that first romantic connection? 

[P]: Actually, that night after we went to church, I had a date set up with another girl, but was stood up, so I hung out with her later that evening.

[S]: Star Trek: The Next Generation...what's the first character that popped into your head.

[P]: Riker. 

[S]: Riker? You're a fan of Riker?

[P]: Um...yeah. For the most part, but really, how do you pick a favorite? In the later seasons, Riker is a pretty striking resemblance to my dad. Especially after Riker got chubby.

[S]: What's your favorite episode?

[P]: Anything with Q in it.

[S]: You like Q?!?!?!?!

[P]: Yeah. I think he's fantastic. I love how he makes fun of Picard being so stodgy all the time.

[S]: The later Q episodes are okay, but that first one is awful.

[P]: The first season is terrible. You don't really consider the first season when you talk about the quality of the series.

[S]: Any particular Q episode stand out?

[P]: The one where Q has been banished from the continuum, and then comes back and brings a mariachi band to the bridge of the Enterprise. 

[S]: That is quite good. You mentioned Riker bore a striking resemblance to your dad. He passed away when you were 12-years-old, correct? What were the circumstances of his passing?

[P]: For a few years in a row, we had gone up to the Boundary Waters with this family from Mankato and that year was no different. We put in at Bear Skin and went to Bearskin to Dunkin to Rose over the Stairway Portage. In the middle of the night one night, my dad's rattled breathing woke us up. He was having a heart attack. Jerry, my dad's friend from Mankato, came in and was giving him CPR, but he didn't make it. So, we went and slept the rest of the night in another tent. The next day Jerry went out. I don't think he was able to get cell service, this was '99, so there wasn't really any service in there. Jerry made it all the way out and then the forest service flew in a float plane, picked us up and brought us back to Grand Marais.

[S]: Who was in the tent with you that night?

[P]: Me, my mom and my dad.

[S]: As your dad was in the midst of this heart attack what was your first response?

[P]: I thought he was kidding around, but realized he wasn't when he didn't stop. My mom was freaking out.

[S]: At this point, what were you doing?

[P]: Just watching.

[S]: Do you remember any emotion?

[P]: I don't.  It was a charged situation so I don't remember much. I don't think there was any response from my dad at that time. He was already gone by the time they started CPR. 

[S]: Can you describe what you felt when you realized your dad had died?

[P]: I don't think it sunk in immediately; not for a few hours, few days, few weeks, few months. I didn't know what it all meant immediately afterward. It was later, at every stage, or event, where he should have been that I felt the impact. 

[S]: What do you remember most about your dad?

[P]: That he was kind of a goof ball.

[S]: From what I can tell you inherited that characteristic from him?

[P]: Probably.

[S]: What did he do for a living?

[P]: When I was a kid, he was a real estate agent for a while. Then, he worked for a distributing company, but was laid off from that and ended up finishing our basement. His last job was as the manager of Petco in town.

[S]: So, he wasn't a scientist?

[P]: No.

[S]: Where do you get your affinity for science?

[P]: I think it started more as an ability to do it rather than an affinity.

[S]: What is one of your fondest memories of your dad?

[P]: He used to do comparison shopping at other businesses with a little mic and voice recorder. Sometimes when we would drive around we would use the voice recorder and say dumb stuff and then speed it up and slow it down. I thought that was hysterical as a kid.

[S]: How did you see his death impact your mom?

[P]: The first year it seemed there was crying every night. That's hard to see that as a kid. I think she kind of ended up throwing herself into work and working really hard.

[S]: Your mom makes really good rhubarb slush.

[P]: Yep.

 Paul with his daughter, Salome.

Paul with his daughter, Salome.

[S]: It's quite good...Tell me about faith in your life?

[P]: My parents and extended family were believers. I spent summers going to various church camps. You know, every Wednesday night was confirmation or youth group or something. We rarely ever just stayed home from church for whatever reason. When Bethany and I moved to Rochester we attended various churches, but didn't land anywhere. One morning we went to NewDay Church's parent church and happened to go on the day when NewDay was being launched. It seemed pretty clear to us that we were going to connect with NewDay and we did. 

[S]: Why medical physics? Why are a physicist?

[P]: Well, I had a B.S. in physics and in the months leading up to graduation (in December of 2008) I put out several dozen job applications, but got no response from anyone. I had done an internship at Mayo Clinic the summer before graduation in basically what I'm doing now, and I knew that I was going to apply for grad school, so I did that at Mayo Clinic.

Interestingly, when I left high school I had decided that I didn't need a girlfriend and I didn't want to come back to Rochester and I didn't want to go to Grad school. So, of course, I came back to Rochester, got married and started in grad school.

Ultimately, I made the decision to go to Mayo because I like being around family and I knew what people were doing at Mayo in terms and of research/work and I liked the environment.

It seems that when I make seemingly arbitrary decisions, God works them out very well. 

[S]: Speaking of God, if you could ask him one question what would it be?

[Lengthy pause in which I could literally see the wheels of Paul's mind spinning]

[P]: What facet of my life would be improved by a piece of information that I know I can't have? 

[S]: Perhaps it would satisfy a curiosity?

[P]: Some of those questions, those curiosities, is part of the reason I got out of regular physics because I didn't have those curiosities. I pretty much just want to make things work.

[S]: So, you wanna make stuff work...what doesn't work in your life right now? What needs fixing?

[P]: I think in very tangible terms, so things that need fixing include my bathroom window, grout, garage door, deck, potentially garage roof at some point here...

[S]: You're very concrete.

[P]: ...the concrete in the driveway...getting into abstraction is a very foreign thing for me.

[S]: Think about Christmas as a kid...what's the most memorable gift you ever received?

[P]: Christmas was usually about heading out to Grandma and Grandpa's house and hanging out with all the cousins and the gifts.

I think I got a Lego set that I enjoyed for a long time - it's somewhere in the garage - a space shuttle. That was pretty cool. I was often excited about tangible things, but only very briefly and so looking back on what was Christmas as a kid...it was hanging out with a whole bunch of family, running around and being ridiculous. There always seemed to be James Bond movies on, so we'd watch James Bonds movies with a bunch of cousins. Eating a lot of cookies. My Grandma would make a lot of cookies.

[S]: That's an interesting response since, when I ask you what needs fixing, you gave me a very concrete answer; yet, when I asked a very concrete question you gave me a relational/abstract answer. 

[P]: Huh. Well, Freud away.

[S]: That tells me that relationships are very important to you.

[P]: Yes, they are.


Those relationships will prove ever more valuable as Paul and Bethany face a daunting, and possibly devastating diagnosis...stay tuned for Part 3.