About Paul Bryan and His Fiancee Kate Pierce
Background & Prequel Journal
Paul Bryan grew up in the mid-California coastal town of Almeria, the son of a mother who arrived in the US from Sicily as a small child and a father who practiced law locally and in San Francisco with partner David Gaffney (father of racing driver Pete).
Excelling at minor sports as well as academically, Paul began courting neighbor Eileen (known by her pet name of Bumble) from childhood, expecting to marry her after finishing law school. However, Paul's education at Stanford was interrupted by the Korean War, for which he enlisted in the Air Force, not seeing Eileen again for another decade. After completing his law degree Paul spent three highly successful years as an Assistant District Attorney in San Francisco before joining his father's old law firm of Henderson, Schlessenger & Du Pres, quickly being elevated to partner. Taken under the political wing of former San Francisco Mayor Dwight Sinclair, Paul was hoping to run for California Attorney General in 1966, perhaps to one day become Governor.
After Eileen, none of Paul's relationships seemed to stick until he met art historian Kate Pierce at her gallery in 1963. From a wealthy family, Kate did her PhD research in Paris, after which she ran several galleries for Odette de Martignac, whose husband was one of France's richest billionaires. The two women became fast friends, but when Odette left her husband, Armand de Martignac slowly grew closer to Kate, and they lived together for two years as one of France's most glittering couples.
After Odette's eventual return Kate went back to San Francisco, but she and Armand remained in constant contact. While Paul had only the vaguest knowledge about Kate's past in Paris, most from her problem sister Molly, he always sensed there was some chance Kate might return to her former lover, and thus the marriage proposal which would have come much sooner never did.
Until the day in February 1965 that, out to buy a pair of shoes, Paul purchased an engagement ring, little realizing that the impulsive gesture was the first definitive indication of the incurable disease he was to learn of within a month. Finding he might have less than a year to live, Paul avoided listening to every specialists' advice, not even learning the unpronounceable name of the terminal illness or the symptoms he will start to experience immediately - erratic behavior, bizarre nightmares, abandonment of normal good judgment and over-quick temper. We join his journal just after he has gone for an insurance medical.
Friday, March 12
Medical by insurance company doctor proved surprising. Thought it would be listen to heart, check blood pressure and over, but it was very thorough. Thank goodness I'm so healthy.
Another thing ticked of the to-do list. Even though we've defied Kate's parents on the big society wedding, the simple family service at Carmel mission church is demanding incredible preparations.
It's strange, I felt so contented all these years, and would have called myself a happy man. Interesting work, career on the move, warm relationships. Maybe nothing that lasted, but good while they did. The happiness I feel now tells me my life must have been going nowhere.
Saturday & Sunday, March 13 & 14
Granny's house is such a haven. I asked Kate if she'd like to live here when we're married, and she asked why I don't already.
Guess it's because I like to think of it as a refuge - somewhere untouched by day-to-day life, but this seemed a perfect time for us to share a weekend here together, watching the surf jump up the cliff, looking at old family photos and memorabilia, and thinking of how our own children will become a part of its heritage.
Monday, March 15
Since she's teaching her class at Cal this evening, went to Dwight's to go over the program he's put together for me, and let him know that I might be out of the country in May and June.
He's designed a comprehensive schedule of talks which he'll arrange for me, and said each one would be an important step towards my getting the party's nomination for Attorney General next year.
While he frowned at the idea I could be unavailable for two months, he said the connection to the Pierce family would be worth an incalculable number of speaking engagements - not to mention what an asset Katie would be.
Dwight clearly has his eye on the Governor's mansion, but I'm still wondering how realistic the AG nomination is. I can't believe what a support and encouragement this man has been to me, and he added to that tonight with a massive financial pledge, then outlined his notes about fund raising, meeting and greeting etc.
Tuesday, March 16
Going through work I'm starting to pass on to partners, came across the Mallory file. It made me stop and think. An amicable divorce between two people who seemed as made for one another as Kate and I. Noted Clara's address in case we decide to go to South America on the honeymoon.
Got a very witty letter from old Stanford pal Mark Shepard, who's now living near Cannes, running some kind of travel business. What a life!
Last time I heard from him he was partner in a Los Angeles law firm, and he's apparently given it up to live on the beach for a couple years. With a future like his, he must have been hit by lightning to embark on something so aimless.
Should include Cannes on our wedding trip. Studying travel brochures, realize that except for business and fishing in Mexico, I haven't been out of the country since Korea.
Finally got around to making up a list of all my property. Hey, I'm not a bad catch! Besides my house and the place in Carmel, there are the San Francisco apartment, Mother's house rented out in Marin, Granny's house on the cliffs, art collection last valued at over $50,000, a sizeable portfolio of stocks and bonds, the brand new Mercedes, Cessna and Cal 40 ….. and more.
Wednesday, March 17
Had a great phone call with Spencer Holt, and we've made a date to go fishing the first weekend in April. He was overjoyed to hear the news about Katie, and congratulated me on joining the ranks of happy men, saying that he'd be lost without Betty.
She's enjoying the campaign even more than he is, and we talked about how active in politics she was, even when he was teaching law at Stanford.
It was great to speak with him. I probably don't know many I could call a better friend. If Johnny or Prof. Turner can't come from Asia to stand up for me, I might ask Spence to be my best man.
Thursday, March 18
Pete Gaffney made a flying visit to see his father in the hospital, and stopped by afterwards. Got his schedule, and we should be able to see him race at Trieste in June.
Friday, March 19
Strangest thing. Got a call from Dr. Clement, the guy who did the insurance exam, and he asked if I could come in to do some blood tests again.
He said very little, just that there were results that didn't make sense, so he wanted me to see a specialist next week, and would ring as soon as an appointment was available. When I saw him face to face, he was inscrutable, and I couldn't get out of him if it was something serious - or what.
Saturday, March 20
Kate can't come down until tomorrow, but I had to get away from the city. This doctor thing is worrying, but the man was so neutral. What could he have possibly found?
Something fatal? We think the worst things, but I've never been sick a day in my life, and don't even have a regular doctor I could go to for advice.
Maybe it's just some quirk of the insurance company to up the price or reject the policy. Will be glad when Kate gets here, but then, maybe I shouldn't say anything to her. It would upset her unnecessarily.
Drove over to Almeria to tell my aunt about our engagement. She was thrilled that we're planning to go to Sicily, and reminisced about the trip she and my mother made there in 1955, then brought out names and addresses of people to contact.
When I asked her if she missed Vabocelli, she shook her head immediately, saying that since the day my grandfather brought her over after my grandmother died, she'd felt perfectly at home in Almeria.
We spoke of Nonno then, and she told me that when they were growing up, he never stopped talking about his dream to go to America.
Alma looked a little thin, but claimed that she's been well. Then Debbie Wilson dropped by and said she called in to Alma most days. The way Debbie's presence lit her up, I could see the visits are a real tonic.
Sunday, March 21
Kate flew down so we could have some quiet hours together before she goes to Toronto tomorrow. She seemed to sense that something was wrong, but I told her it was a combination of work and being a wrought-up groom, and Kate appeared to take me at my word. I'll be glad when this doctor stuff is all cleared up.
On her way back to college, Kate's sister Molly stopped by just as we were about to leave Carmel. With her was that idiot who was in law school with me - Alex Ryder.
Kate was equally dismayed to see Molly with him. Maybe he was just giving her a ride, but what oppressive company he is - even for a half hour.
The stories Kate has regaled me with about all the scrapes Molly has gotten into over the years don't surprise me. Such a flighty girl. But the whole family is hoping at 26, she'll get her degree in June, and finally get on a steady path.
Monday, March 22
Drove back this morning, and dealing with bundles of work when Dr. Clement rang and said he'd made an appointment for tomorrow with a specialist. What kind of specialist, I asked him, and he said Dr. Franzen dealt in rare diseases.
Tuesday, March 23
My hand is shaking as I write. I just stop and stare at the paper. Franzen told me that I'm dying.
Wednesday, March 24
It feels like I have malaria. Freezing one minute. Burning up the next. Last night I took out a gun, and just sat there all night with it in my hand. But the way I was shaking, I'd have missed if I pointed it right at my forehead.
A new day, and I'm telling myself it was all just a bad dream. Franzen said he was almost 100% certain of his diagnosis, but wants me to see a colleague tomorrow, one who just happens to be in the city on a visit from Buffalo.
When I thought my voice might sound half-way normal, I rang Kate in Toronto. She had people with her, so I got away telling her I thought I was coming down with a cold.
Thursday, March 25
Saw this specialist from New York who studied the blood samples I gave on Tuesday. He said I had only a year or two to live, but that I was “lucky,” since there's a Dr. Gene Mason who specializes in what I have right here in San Francisco.
It's starting to sound like reality. I'm trying to think of what I'm going to do. A thousand thoughts are swirling around in my mind.
Kate rang, and I told her I was under the weather, so she cut the call short. How ever am I going to be able to tell her?
Friday, March 26
Got a rush appointment with Gene Mason who confirmed what the other two doctors said. Like Franzen and Collier, he advised that there is intensive research being done to find a cure to what I have - right over on the Peninsula - and I shouldn't give up hope.
But his prediction was only nine to 18 months. That's like tomorrow.
Asked Mason if he could please explain everything to my fiancée, but he said that it was something I must do myself.
All three said that I will feel perfectly healthy until …. the end, and should be able to lead a normal life till then. But what is normal in a situation like this?
Saturday, March 27
I am trying to pull myself together enough to make some kind of road map - lists of what I have to do, what I want to do, and what I need to do.
This place, which has always been a solace to me since childhood, seems like a shell. In fact, that's what my own body seems like, a shell in which the soul has already departed.
When I talked to Kate, told her that something very large had come up, but that it was too complicated to discuss on the phone. Legal stuff, I said, and she seemed to accept that, and didn't press me for more.
Wrote a short letter to Aunt Alma, saying I might be going away, so she shouldn't worry if she couldn't reach me - and that I'd be in touch again later.
If only I could let Kate off as easily for the moment. I just can't bring myself to telling her, seeing the news sear through her - and making the thing even more real to me.
Sunday, March 28
I have tried to clear my mind, and look at all the alternatives in front of me. What I've come up with is that I need to get away. Run away is probably what I mean.
I've decided to take a leave of absence from the practice, cash in my stocks, and just take off. With Katie if she'll go with me - or maybe on my own. I just don't know.
Monday, March 29
In its tenth draft, I've written a long letter to Kate, trying to explain why I'm leaving, but with each one, I alter every word.
She'll be back tomorrow, and I know I'll change my mind a dozen more times between now and then. Should I ask her to come with me? Seeing her face every day would be like hearing the diagnosis all over again. And yet, how am I going to survive without her? What will the news do to her?
I approached the partners today with my decision, and said it was because I'd been doing a lot of thinking, and this was where it took me. Everyone was stunned.
Another terrible shock. I got a call from a very weak Judge Haynes from Australia. He's just returned from the jungle after trying to find Doug when he didn't return to his camp on time. The Judge told no one, just took off after his son, then collapsed in the heart of New Guinea.
I immediately volunteered to finish his mission. With nothing to lose, maybe this will be a solution to the most immediate problem.
There's no way I could take Kate along, so that's a decision made for me. But I don't see how I'll ever be able to tell her about the disease. Just say that I'm going away on a mission, and don't know when I'll be back.
My affairs are more or less in order. Dick Phillips has offered me an extremely generous sum for my car, and the proceeds from the shares is at my disposal.
Tuesday, March 30
Spent the day making preparations to leave. Asked Marcella if she could continue to act as my secretary, screening my mail at the practice and at home. Garrett Hamilton will have power of attorney for anything legal.
When I picked Kate up at the airport this evening, she read my face like a book in one glance. “What's wrong?” she asked after we embraced, her eyes almost with tears in them.
It was like she sensed I was gone already. Said I needed a little space, and would talk to her in the morning.
Whatever I do, I can't burden her with the awful news. I just couldn't make her have to live with it too.
Wednesday, March 31
It's been nearly impossible to think straight, but having decided to tell Kate nothing, just that I'm leaving and that she is free, I went to her apartment and broke the news that I'm going away tomorrow, and wasn't sure when I'd come back.
She was stoic, and though her voice didn't ask why, her eyes never stopped posing the question, more intensely so when I told her that I love her more than life itself.
She took off her ring and gave it to me, but I closed it back into her right hand.
The anguish of this afternoon was a torment I could never have believed possible. I'm going mad, and have to get away.
Another living nightmare, the experience was really worse than hearing the diagnosis - like learning it three separate times. My heart was breaking for my dear Katie, but I felt this was the best way to protect her.
Maybe in time I'll be able to come to terms with what has happened, but for now, I can only run for my life, and try to squeeze the experience of what might have been 30 years into what is left to me.
After leaving Kate I went out to get drunk, but alcohol was like water as far as having any effect on dimming my senses. Met a woman trying to escape a violent husband, and that had a still more sobering effect on me.
But horror or no, I'm packed and ready to begin this uncertain future, to find Doug, and from there, who knows?
1 - 19 April 1965 ("Journey into Yesterday")