Back to life, back to reality

We spent our last day in Florida walking on the beach, sitting in the hotel watching it rain, and eating seafood. My coworker and his girlfriend arrived for vacation early Friday morning and stayed in the room right next to us. It was nice to see someone familiar after a week away.

As soon as the rain had moved out, we all went for a walk along the water’s edge and saw several stingrays swimming so close to the beach that the edges of their “wings” would pop through the top of the water as the waves rolled in and out. We also spotted a pufferfish lying on the beach. Unfortunately, he was deceased, but still in good condition and an interesting find nonetheless.

We all went to the pier to watch the sunset on what would be the final night for Honey and I. It was glorious. I seriously almost heard angels singing.

sunset

We were up early on Saturday morning to start our trip home. It took forever! A traffic accident forced the closure of I-65 and resulted in an unbelievable traffic jam. It took an hour to creep a couple of miles, but eventually we were clear of the traffic and on our way.

When we arrived home and opened the car doors, we were shocked at how chilly it was. The low last night was around 40 degrees, which was a huge difference from where we had just spent the week. Home always feels a little less familiar to me after several days away, so that can be an adjustment. I’ve also noticed my allergies are going haywire, as they got progressively worse the closer we got to Kentucky.

I’ll miss the sound of the waves, the white sand, the dolphins, and the magnificence of the sky over open water. But, still, I’m glad to be home.

Trying to avoid the sun in the Sunshine State

We almost ruined our vacation by staying in the sun too long on Tuesday. We are both terribly sunburned and I actually woke up with a large blister on my shoulder this morning. Being in the sun was too painful yesterday, which is the reason we drove to Panama City Beach to sit in the shade and watch the sea lions and dolphins.

Today wasn’t much better, but we did manage to visit the beach for a short while, even though we stayed covered by a large umbrella and beach towels the whole time. Once we had walked back to the hotel, the sky darkened and it poured rain for several minutes. It was actually a welcome reprieve from the hateful, torturous sunshine.

The best part of the day was a very long walk on the beach around sunset. There was a thunderstorm in the distance providing some natural fireworks, but the sun was still peeking through and creating beautiful bands of color over the pier that juts into the Gulf. We were ecstatic to find three sand dollars as we walked along the edge of the water.

We have one more day left in paradise before heading for home. Once there, I will build a shrine to sunblock and worship it daily.

pier

Dolphins, sharks & parks

There is something captivating and almost spiritual about dolphins, which made today extra special. We got to watch them frolicking in the waves for most of the day; bouncing along the sea’s surface in groups, bobbing with their heads exposed, or playfully leaping completely clear of the water. Their joy was contagious. I took several pictures, but seemed to only be able to capture their dorsal fins as they slipped below the surface. At least we’ll have the images stored in our brains for quite some time.

dolphin

Another exciting part of the day was watching a fisherman haul a small shark onto land. I excitedly asked if I could snap a picture as he explained he had been able to catch almost nothing else for two days. We figured where there are small sharks, there must be large sharks, and this greatly added to our hesitancy about getting in the water. We did manage some cautious wading later on in the day.

shark

If you ever get a chance to visit St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park in Florida, jump on it. The park contains nine miles of award-winning white sand beaches and gorgeous natural dunes, and is virtually devoid of humans. You can plant your beach umbrella so far from other visitors that you would need binoculars to see them clearly. That’s a definite plus in my book.

beach

Meeting the parents

Honey graduated from college today, which provided the perfect opportunity for me to meet my “in-laws” for the first time. Although we’ve been together for just over four years, he’s never actually told them about the nature of our relationship. He hasn’t exactly kept it a secret either, since they know we live together and that I’m gay.

After spending almost three hours watching around 1,300 students accept their diplomas, we met up with friends and family at a nearby eatery. Since I hadn’t actually seen Honey’s parents during the ceremony, this would be my first face-to-face meeting with them. To say I was nervous would have been a great understatement.

After getting out of the car and walking to the front of the restaurant, we were greeted by Honey’s mom – a rather attractive lady who seemed delighted to meet me and our other friends that were along for the occasion. Honey’s step-dad introduced himself and said he had heard a lot about me. I said, “I’ll bet you have!” which made him laugh.

As we sat and ate, we shared little humorous stories about Honey and chit-chatted about various topics. Step-Dad was a rather likable fellow who kept me quite entertained with his offbeat sense of humor. We noticed an advertisement on the table for a special edition of Dolly Parton’s latest CD (which was being sold in the adjoining store) and Honey’s mom commented on how much she loved the song “Backwoods Barbie.” When I went to pay the bill a few minutes later, I bought a copy of the album and handed it to her. She was thrilled and I instantly knew that I had scored some major brownie points.

Once outside, we took some photos and Step-Dad announced that he wanted one with me. After taking my place beside him, I was surprised when he put his arm around me and insisted that I do the same. I even got a hug from Honey’s mom as we all said our goodbyes.

For four years I’ve worried about how this meeting might go. Thankfully, it turns out I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

Later letter

Tucked neatly inside the birthday card my sister handed me on Saturday was a smaller envelope, sealed and marked “Later Letter.” I looked at her with a quizzical expression and asked what it meant. “It’s a letter to read later,” she explained. I tore it open as soon as I got a moment to myself, uncertain if the contents would be good or bad. Here’s what it said:

Dear Brian,

As I thought back over the years, life has dealt us some hard blows, hasn’t it? It doesn’t seem to be getting any easier, either. Sometimes I wonder where I’m gonna wind up.

Since I turned 30 it seems my life is changing along with my body and mind. LOL! But one thing that will never change (unless it gets stronger) is my love for you! I am sorry for anything I’ve ever done to hurt you!

I’m trying to raise my kids the way we were raised, and things have changed so much since we were kids, it’s hard to know how sometimes. But I never meant to make you feel like I am “holier than thou” or “self-righteous.” Please don’t ever feel that way.

You are the best brother I could ever have asked for and I wouldn’t trade you for anybody in the world! My only prayer is for our family to make it to heaven!!

I am sorry for the pain you have suffered throughout life. I would take every pain from you if I could. But if we can only make it, I know God will do just that for you!

I don’t know how to handle alot of situations and may not always do it right, but please don’t hold it against me. I want you to know you are my best friend (except for Hubby) and I want to spend eternity in heaven with you.

We’ve only got one chance to do this, Brian! Let’s give it our very best! We’ve been through alot in our lifetime, but it will be worth it all to hear Him say, “Well done!”

I love you,
Sis

Sweet, huh? It’s amazing how the years can mend relationships and bring people closer together.

Depression

It’s easy to get reflective and pensive on this anniversary of my birth, but I will try to refrain since I am already having some difficulty with depression. I started taking Paxil last Monday and stopped on Friday. It made me feel absolutely miserable. I felt like I was in a fog all day and couldn’t sleep at night; not a good combination. I know there is an adjustment period, but there are also long-term side effects that I don’t want to deal with.

My doctor pointed out that counseling would account for about 60% of the remedy, so we’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, I have decided to try to remove as many stress factors from my life as possible. Exercise also seems key, as it is a natural way to increase serotonin levels.

I am not anti-medication. Paxil was a lifesaver for me several years ago and I am thankful that medical science can help so many people. Maybe I just haven’t hit bottom yet, because I am still optimistic that there are viable alternatives. I don’t want to numb myself to the world around me just to get through life. I want to feel sorrow right along with joy, I just don’t want the darkness to take over my life to the point that I feel drained of energy and the will to live.