Different

Although you were several years my senior
There was an awkward kinship between us
An unspoken acknowledgement
Both swimming against the tide
Of social constructs around masculinity and gender

Once, while being being chastised for having long hair
And being called “effeminate”
I used you as an example
Of a Christian who seemed both gay and femme
I was sternly corrected with
“He’s just different”

Several years later
After I had come to terms with my own sexuality
I ran into you at a local gay bar
We shook hands
Both seemingly relieved that the pretenses
Were no longer necessary

I heard things about you through
The Gospel Grapevine
Religious tongue-waggers
With nothing better to do than
Ridicule those who are different

About your failed attempts at relationships
How you ultimately joined the Catholic faith
And devoted yourself to it
Much like a priest shelters himself inside the Church
To hide from his perverse inclinations
You probably felt you had a sickness
That you needed to protect yourself from

But you should have known that you
Like everyone else
Were fearfully and wonderfully made
And deserving of God’s love and acceptance
Whether or not God’s children ever gave you either

I heard you passed away the other day
And the thing that bothers me so much
The one question that nags at me is
Were you ever truly happy with yourself?

I hope so…

Carolyn

We unexpectedly lost one of our beautiful friends yesterday evening. We first met Carolyn in 2006, and she quickly became a fixture in our lives – frequently accompanying us to movies, restaurants, and even on the occasional road trip.

Some people don’t understand why we enjoy hanging out with elderly people, but if they had spent just a few moments with Carolyn they would have quickly discovered what a delightful person she was.

She was probably the least judgmental person I have ever known. She rarely had an unkind word to say about anyone – but if she did they were most assuredly deserving of it. It was simply her nature to see the good in people.

Carolyn was rarely anxious about the little things that so many of us stress over. She would wave away concerns over her leaking patio roof or who was going to be president, but she always cared enough to ask about the health of my family members or which plants I had purchased on a recent trip to the local nursery.

Carolyn could be extremely humorous without even trying. She is the only person I have ever known who treated a wig like a hat. She would haphazardly throw it on before leaving the house, and then hang it on the hat stand when she arrived at her sister Betty’s for a game of dominoes.

And speaking of dominoes, that was one game she was always happy to play regardless of how badly she felt, and she thoroughly enjoyed rebuking her sister for swapping out pieces when no one was watching.

Riding in the car while Carolyn was driving was its own kind of amusement. I will never forget how she said she liked to drive especially fast around the curve on Buckner because it made her feel “elegant.” When coming up behind a car at a stop light, she would wait until the very last second to slam on the brakes, leaving us passengers screaming like we were at a theme park.

She loved frozen yogurt – especially the Cake Batter flavor.

She read constantly.

She loved plants and gardening.

She was kind, and generous, and loving.

A French poet once said, “A great man is one who leaves others at a loss after he is gone.” Carolyn is gone, and we have certainly experienced a loss, but I also recognize what a blessing it was to have known her and to have been able to call her my friend.

I will miss her terribly.

Checking in

It is hard to believe cold weather is already here, but our lawn is covered in leaves, and Honey has begun nagging me to put up the Christmas trees. As I watch my various plants and trees enter their dormant phase, I am already looking forward to next spring when they will burst forth with new life. The growing season never seems to last long enough, and this year seemed to fly by in record time.

Like every year, this one has had its highs and lows. I officially became a business partner on January 1st. The legalization of gay marriage in Illinois allowed us to travel to see our friends get hitched in Chicago, and we took that opportunity to continue on to Wisconsin to see our wonderful friend Barb. We saw Cher in Nashville. We spent several relaxing days in Gatlinburg last month.

Some of the low points included losing my coworker and friend, Jerry, and then learning of Barb’s passing a few months later. Both affected me deeply, but I try to focus on the good memories. I will never forget Jerry’s belly laugh, his dirty sense of humor, or the way he never ever let life get him down. I will always remember Barb’s unwavering courage and the way she exuded love to everyone around her. I am so thankful we took the time to go visit Barb this summer, and I feel blessed to have known and loved both of them.

We are currently in the middle of refinancing our home. I can get the interest rate down from 5.25% to 3.375% – which will shave 10 years off my loan while increasing my monthly payment by only $20. My goal is to have our home paid for in 10 years, just in time for my 50th (yikes!) birthday.

Other than that, life continues on as before. I always remind myself to appreciate the mundane moments, because it is hard to complain about being bored when you are comfortable and happy.

Judge not

My cousin’s birthday is tomorrow. She won’t be around to celebrate it, because she died in a car accident in 2001 at the tender age of 25. Her father called my mother today and sobbed on the telephone as he remembered. Even 13 years later, the wounds haven’t healed.

I remember Tammy’s funeral. People wept and talked in hushed tones as expected, but this one felt much different from other memorials. Most were quite obvious in their belief that Tammy didn’t go to heaven. Some were so convinced of this they dared to say it out loud. You see, Tammy was reared in a strict Pentecostal home, and she wasn’t living according to those standards the morning she wrecked on an ice-covered road.

Years later another young person I knew passed away. Like Tammy, they had left the faith of their childhood and weren’t living what you might call a “righteous” life. This time, however, things were much different. The same people who judged Tammy clung to hope that this particular person had gotten right with God in the final moments of their life, and the funeral was filled with admonishments about letting God be the final judge. There’s nothing at all wrong with that line of thought, but I wonder why Tammy was treated so differently?

If God is truly love and if God truly loves us more than we can possibly love each other, why would he cast a young person into Hell before they even have a chance to figure things out? I can’t think of anyone who deserves an eternity of torment, nor can I reason what it would accomplish. Even the worst criminal is given a shot at redemption.

I saw Tammy in a dream a few years ago. She looked lovely, and we walked together for a while as I wept. It was probably just a meaningless creation in my sleeping mind, but I treasure it. I prefer to think of her happy and at peace. I just wish those who call themselves “Christian” would give her the same courtesy.

Happy Birthday, Tammy. I remember your lovely smile and your wonderful sense of humor. I remember the fun we had driving with the windows down and the music turned up loud. I hope I made you feel even half as loved as you always made me feel. Maybe I’ll get a chance to see you again one day. Until then I’ll see you in my dreams.

‘Bridegroom’

Just watched Bridegroom on OWN, and I’m feeling a myriad of emotions. Heartbreak over the death of a talented and beautiful man in his prime and in love, anger over the way his partner of six years was treated after his passing, and an even deeper appreciation for my partner and our relationship.

I wish both of my parents would watch it. Even though we have afforded ourselves some legal protection with wills and powers of attorney, I still worry about what might happen if one of us dies. People who make an effort to accept a son or daughter’s spouse for the sake of family unity might not be so inclined once their child is no longer in the picture. I don’t want to consider that my partner could be scorned by my family upon the event of my death – during the very time he would be struggling through the grieving process. It is unimaginable.