When I was a child in Mill Spring, a Southeast MO small town with a population of 205, I looked forward to the Christmas holiday. I loved the deep snow, smell of wood burning in our wood stove, colorful lights, and the scent of pine in the house.
We didn’t have much back then and because Christmas was near the end of the month, we usually had less – including food. But somehow my mom would find a way to give each of her six kids $5 to buy gifts. My dad always got an ash tray and mom something made of colored glass like a fruit bowl.
But my most favorite time was losing myself inside the Christmas albums my mom owned. These were the two that influenced me the most. Even today I wistfully find that kid when I listen to these LPs. For those that know my music, I recorded a Christmas CD (Snow White Christmas) with most of the songs from these albums.
I hope everyone is finding that kid in themselves this holiday and listening to songs that take them back to simpler times. Merry Christmas.
I met Jamie in 1981. We met in Chicago on May 18 at 5pm. I just had a tooth pulled at the dentist and stopped by my job. When I walked in to Broadway Drapery, my boss introduced us. He was hired part-time as a stock boy. His smile was like sunshine. And I felt the warmth.
Things were very different back then. We always had a level of secrecy about our relationship. We always rented a two-bedroom apartment to keep up the illusion. Jamie kept his secret from his family. It was the condition of the time. We were together for nine years until the unbelievable happened.
In 1989, while on his dying bed, I had to call his father and step-mom to tell them he was dying of AIDS and he was gay. I didn’t know which was worse for them. They came to the hospital only once over the 30 days he was there. We all stood by his bedside. The nurse woke him from his morphine drip to say hello. They made small talk for a few minutes before saying their goodbyes. As I walked them pass the curtained area, they whispered, “When it’s over, call us.” They went back to Michigan. The whole circumstance was numbing, but this broke my heart even more. As we all did, back then, I agreed and moved on.
As the years have gone by, the world has changed in regards to how gay people are treated. But there is still a level of hatred and plain ignorance in the world. Sometimes it is in your face. It is there when a bakery refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Other times, it is more subtle. For instance, when a family member’s efforts to engage is different from the straight couple. Either way it hurts. It forces some to live in the shadows in return for forced love. It prevents someone from being able to honestly share the pain, joy or build strong relationships. But yes, today the door is more widely open, but not completely.
I just read Hillary Clinton’s new book, “Hard Choices,” I realized something important. Whatever you feel about the individual, there is good and there is bad in the world. And she is good. If you’re not helping to heal and bring people together, you are part of the problem. It is just that simple.
If you haven’t read it, you should. In the last chapter, she speaks about her 2011 historic International Human Rights speech. She spoke of the myths the world uses to oppress and dehumanize gays. She clarified that gay rights are human rights. After listening to the full speech, I wondered how anyone could disagree with such a basic human rights premise? If you haven’t heard the speech check it out below.
After closing the book. I couldn’t help wonder how things would be today if things had been different. No hiding. No lying to the ones we loved.
Gratefully, I found love with a man I have been with now for 23 years. We celebrate every day when we can openly call each other “partner.”
Recently, After seeing a movie, I reached out to hold his hand in public and for a moment I felt what it is like to be free.
“There are no bagels available in any Starbucks today!” the Starbucks employee says. “What!?!” I reply. Pause. “Then it looks like I will not have a bagel today.”
This is the mood of the day and a reminder of the way I am adjusting to change in my life. Tomorrow Brian leaves for Los Angeles to begin his new journey. I will stay behind until we sell our condo and I find a job. Sounds easy enough. After all, that is what adults do as life throws changes at them. Right?
Living a life of uncertainty is quite a feat. I guess we fool ourselves when we think we aren’t living that life already. Prime example being, who would have ever guessed I would be a married man at 52, working at Jewish United Fund for 8 years, have a dream job I’m giving up and moving back to Los Angeles. But hey, these sound like good things. Maybe trusting the universe is not so bad. But the universe works with those who cooperate., I have had some hand in my destiny. The universe delivers a script idea and you get to write the narrative.
It reminds me of when I was 19 years old and came home from work and told Jamie, my first partner, “I am moving to Los Angeles. You can come if you want, but I am going.” I intended to pack my guitar and live my dream in Hollywood. It sounds cold, but for a determined independent teenage loner, it seemed normal. Jamie pulled out a roll of masking tape and priced everything we had for a yard sale and we left in a car with only what we could fit. My script was about to change. I was nervous and excited all at the same time. Over the next 33 years, the universe offered some exhilarating and terrifying scripts to which I have had to write narratives. I’ve done okay. I have always stepped up to the challenge.
So tomorrow when I take Brian to the airport, I will feel the same way I did then– nervous and excited for the narrative I am about to write. I am excited for him. I am grateful for the support of friends and family. I am grateful for the script and oddly for Starbucks not having bagels. A reminder of 400 calories I didn’t need to eat.
From the moment we picked her up in 2001 at the Glendale, CA dog pound, Lindsey had been filled with animated love. When she first saw us she ran the 50 feet from her cage and just kept rolling like a water bug between our legs. It was as if she was being reunited with her long lost owners. I had never seen such energy in a dog.
She was one year old then. We brought her into our family of two other dogs, Molly and Lana. We had just lost Joey, a small tan wired hair terrier, to liver cancer. So, Lindsey was the lowest on the chain. And she knew it. Molly made sure she knew who was in control on the first day they met. Lindsey sniffed and Molly barked, snapped once and Lindsey fell to her back showing Molly her belly. She had no idea of her Pit-bull strength. And we liked it that way.
It wasn’t always easy. She tried to find her place by destroying all my belts, zippers and shoes until she moved onto the wood furniture. Once she emptied the kitchen pantry of flour, grains, sugar, beans and everything else before ripping open a five-gallon jug of water to mix it all up. It was quite a sight to see when we came home. Molly and Lana were huddled up in a dry corner of the kitchen, while Lindsey stood smiling, covered in mess. It was clear who was having the fun. But we loved her anyway.
She finally settled down at about four years old. By 2006 Molly had grown ill and too old to make the move from Los Angeles to Chicago. She lived out her last year with someone who gave her an enormous amount of love. It was hard to have her gone, but we were grateful that our friend, David, asked to have her and would love her as she was. Lana became ill in 2013 and we were told she had cancer. We held on until she couldn’t really walk much anymore and had to say goodbye. It was hard as hell, but we knew the responsibility that weighed on us couldn’t be ignored.
Now Lindsey, never sick and always filled with life, was now left as the alpha dog. The only problem was she was alone. She started to slow down, perhaps because she missed Lana or because she was now 15 years old. We weren’t sure.
The time came last year when she suddenly started peeing every minute. We tried to isolate the problem with our vet with x-rays, ultra-sounds and many blood tests. After six months we were told it was bladder cancer and there was no cure. So after 24 years of having our family of dogs, we are saying goodbye to the last one, Lindsey.
Lindsey, the one I always asked as I gently caressed her head between my hands, “Who are you in there?” Always respecting that there was a life inside her and it wanted to love, play and please. All of our dogs made our life more special. I am so grateful that we were able to give them a safe, trusting world to live while they were here on earth. Something we all should have.
I would not change being there when she moved on. I needed to know she left to meet her family – from our eyes to theirs.
I recently had a dream, as I sometimes do, about Molly, Joey and Lana. They were running around as if they were in a dog park. It was good to see them all, but this time Lindsey was there too.
I guess you just know when it is time. Run free “Bindsey, Bindsey.” Thank you for choosing us to share your life-story. Good girl. You did well.
Happy Birthday, Kevin. Thanks for being my friend when I was eight years old. Thanks for getting me into so much trouble at school that we had to be separated the following year, because we laughed too much in class together. It wasn’t that uncomfortable hiding in the back of your mom’s Volkswagen Bug after school so I could spend the night. Sleeping on your bean bag chair and waking up with foam beads in my hair actually helped build character. Then you started dating Gayle in high school and broke my heart. But we held on.
36 years ago, we sold everything we owned (dynamite eight-track player, Llyods stereo, all my 45s) to raise money for the Trailways bus ticket from Southeast MO to Chicago, IL. At 16 years old, we were allowed to run away. Remember the officer who picked us up fifty miles from home the year before? He informed us Missouri law stated you needed to be sixteen to leave home without your parents permission. My birthday was February 3 and yours February 11. So we left as soon as we could. We arrived in Chicago on February 14th, at the end of the 1979 blizzard. The view from the front seat as the bus did a loop between eight feet high snow drifts on Lake Shore Drive scared us to death. But we held on.
My desire to be free and yours to get attention was not compatible for us to remain together in Chicago for long. Your grandmother reached out two months later and promised you a private school in Arkansas. Besides, you just weren’t a city boy. So with another broken heart, I took you to Union Station and said goodbye. But with a few letters and infrequent phone calls, we still held on.
Not long afterwards, you ended up living with your aunt Niecy, out west, before living on your own. A few years later my boyfriend, Jamie and I left Chicago to stay with you and your new boyfriend, Glen, in Anaheim CA. On our first day in California, we spent all day at Disneyland and Knottsberry Farm. Finding a job was so tough we had to move back to Chicago. It took Jamie and me two more tries in the next two years to finally make the permanent move to California from Chicago. Most of the 80s we spent living in the same neighborhood in West Hollywood, CA. We lived through some wild and tough times. It was all worth it. Life would throw us a lot of curves balls through the years, pull us in different directions and sometimes bring a strained silence between us. But silently, hand in hand, we held on.
At 36 years old, you left for good. Already ill, you left for Pennsylvania with your partner. A few months later I got the call from our dear friend, Rayn. The awful disease had taken you from the earth. My dearest best friend, where have you gone? I know somewhere in the stars you are reaching out. And in my dreams, you visit to laugh with me again. Sometimes we talk in dreams about what is new and you look as healthy as you were in your twenties. I guess somehow we still hold on.
So today is my wish to you for a wonderful day, where ever you may be. May you be laughing with others, encouraging trouble and getting all the attention you deserve. You would have loved 52.