A friend and an angel

So here we are, closing the final pages of yet another bygone year. I do so literally, with a book: “The World of Paul Crume,” a late, much beloved columnist for The Dallas Morning News, which ran his gentle wisdom on its front page every day from 1948 until his life ran out in 1975. He never missed a deadline, so lucky subscribers always loved his homey, Old Texas philosophy, delivered with the just-right touch of gentle humor.

I didn’t land here until 1980, but I’ve been catching up ever since. I found my copy of this incredible collection for $1 on a last-ditch giveaway shelf in the very back of Half Price Books. We should all be so lucky! And if we’re all lucky now, the DMN has once again reprinted Crume’s column about angels on its Christmas Day front page. “Feel the wings beating beside you,” he first wrote back in 1967, when this piece made its debut. “Rejoice at the universe and your fellow man.”

I’m luckier than most, even without ever having known Paul Crume in the flesh, because his son Chris — to whom this book of collected columns chosen by his mother was dedicated — has become my dearest friend. That’s the gift from my late husband, after he and Chris were brought together by computer problems. Chris is a PC expert; I use a Mac. It was always just “hello and goodbye” on the many times Fred needed an expert’s help, and I’m forever grateful that he chose the “guru” he did.

Somehow, the two men — so different in age and interests — became true friends. And then, Chris provided a male’s reality perspective as Fred faced the end of his life, making leaving it easier than it would have been otherwise for both him and me. So I enlisted Chris, who understands much because he has difficult health issues of his own, as a pallbearer, which was also much easier for me than it might have been otherwise. It was just a few short weeks later, after the shiva and the end of “formal” mourning, that Chris called for the first time: “I miss Fred,” he said. “I know you do, too. Let’s go out for lunch together and talk about Fred.”

And so we did. And so we have done for all the years since. We have little in common except mutual love and respect for Fred, but that has been enough. From time to time we meet for lunch or now dinner, also to share the realities of our current lives. We do both enjoy classical music, which was not one of Fred’s favorites, so occasionally we attend Dallas Symphony concerts together, and the annual Christmas recital at a local Lutheran church has become a do-not-miss event. From time to time, I’m spotted by someone who raises eyebrows when meeting my much-younger companion for the first time. I don’t feel the need for long explanations; friendships are built on many things, and no more information than that should be necessary.

Chris’ friendship has enriched my life in many ways, and I am able to return the favor because a friend can help with his major health problems just by knowing about and understanding them — as he helped Fred. While I reread his father’s column again this year, I know that one of Paul Crume’s angels is with me today — as I am with him. May the coming year be full of angels for all of you now reading this, as the past years have been for me.

Harriet Gross can be reached at

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