Monday, April 23, 2012

Home Stretch

It was once said that no one ever washed a rental car – a commentary on ownership which has crossed my mind more than a few times of late.  It was a bit over four years ago that I ventured forth from the basement lair (some might say man cave but that would not be an accurate depiction) and rented an apartment.  Some belongings from the old house, a few trips to Ikea and a one year lease.  Even the year lease seemed long for what was surely a brief experiment, a way station on that circuitous path back home.  Before I knew it the landlord wanted to know my plans; another one year lease – the rates were good for the two years, but that took me to a faraway date, very far away.

Well the second year also passed and now with recession surrounding us all, the two year renewal was financially attractive.  A long commitment but at some point the cheap gene kicks in and if after two years I am still here, another two is seeming much shorter.  Lo and behold, the next two years passed and with them the dream of going back to what once was.  And the renewal notice again appeared.
After four years in my picturesque but rather inconvenient town, it was time to take a look around – there are other rentals.  But the housing crash and recession linger so with prices down, mortgage rates at historic lows, by any estimation this is a good time to buy.  And buy I did, a modest – cozy as the brokers say – place; better configuration for my kids, and closer to everything.  A little painting, some minor construction and bring on the moving vans.

Once there it became apparent to me in different ways – internally and also interactions with Phil and Carrie – that something had changed.  Life was no longer measured in one year lease terms, the concept of a way station on my way home no longer held water.  This car would be washed; it was mine with a mindset of staying a decade.  My relationship with Carrie particularly suffered – not in any way directly to do with the new home – my fingers have done it again with the word “home”.  I had moved from my apartment, from the way station on the journey to my new home.

The move was four months ago and it is easy to blame another brutal tax season for the delay in writing these words, but it was much more.  It was the unsettled landscape but yesterday the tremors and aftershocks faded.  I had the kids for a multi-night sleepover, Carrie had a little needed time for her and when I returned with them, Carrie and I sat at the table and talked – not of big things but of little ones and it was as friends.  How much the tension weighed on me was not apparent until some of it lifted and maybe now we can both move a bit forward without false illusions. 

The return train left the station a long time back but it has taken me a long time to accept. It's time.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Who'll Stop The Rain?

SueAnn has proven to be quite the reader – an hour or so of reading and the e-mail: questions and comments which should only become more interesting as things really start to heat up.  Yesterday she read Rage and wondered of her brother, a gentle child I gather, who in his late teens developed his own anger and rage.  A vignette appeared – his children inadvertently locked out of the house, a cold night, and a discussion: hypothermia or wake Dad?  As I read it another vignette came to mind, one that has heretofore escaped these pages. 

Must be close to a decade ago now and we decided that the little ones – maybe nine years old – needed to go camping.  A new tent, some other equipment and it is time for a test run – one night in a campground not far from home.  My boys are with me along with their cousin – three healthy teenagers to join our quest.  Now my boys are not much for camping but there is not really much discussion. We – they – are going camping and I suppose one could add and they will like it.

Now we are seven, a bit much for even our beautiful new Eureka tent so a second tent is somewhere found – Carrie, the young ones  and me in our tent and the boys, lucky them, get their own tent.  The weather had a chance of rain, but everyone knows the weather man is always wrong.  Anyway, what better way to test the new tent?

Night falls, we curl up in our sleeping bags and yes, the rains come. And come. And come.  Oh yes, the winds join the party.  Our tent is beautiful, rain tarp taut, tent lightly swaying in the wind. Nice and dry.  At some point – maybe 11 PM, one son comes over.  Their tent is not faring as well, there is some leaking.  It is late, we are camping.  I assure him it will be fine and anyway there is not much to be done.  An hour passes and he is back.  Their tent is faring poorly, something about a water condition. 

He suggests they could sleep in the car – a nice Suburban with plenty of space.  All they need is the car keys. We are there to camp, spread out in our sleeping bags, being real men, not wimps huddled in the car.  My tent is fine; how bad can theirs really be.  Character building, what a Dad does for his sons.   He goes back to the tent, I go back to sleep, the car keys sitting idly in some pocket.

Dawn breaks, the rain has let up and I go to see how my little men, real men have fared.  They are wet.  The tent is wet. The sleeping bags are wet.  I suspect the sleeping bags stayed wet for a period measured not in hours but in weeks. Even I can see the evidence, the evidence of terrible judgment, of child rearing gone horribly awry.

There are many family stories – every family has them – but there is not much humor in this, not even with years to recover.  I have apologized, they have accepted, but it happened and it never had to.  So I read of this other man and for a moment thought poorly of him but then realized that I actually thought poorly of myself.

The question of course is where does all this come from – the rage, the controlling, the veneer of fear.  (Veneer is such a nice word, a thin layer of bad hiding my internal good.  I could, should, change the word but it shall stay as a reminder of the depth of my delusions.) To say it comes from the repressed gayness feels way too easy, life is much more complex than that.  But then there is the “new” Dad, the calmer model.  There are the comments of friends of my new found calmness.  I would like to tell them, tell them all, that I was always calm; they just weren’t looking hard enough.  But as a good friend says, when three people tell you are drunk it is time to lie down.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Where Was I?

Recently I met a childhood friend of Phil's and we were making conversation, passing the time and the subject turned to writing. SueAnn spent much of her life writing for a living - magazine articles, commentary - focused non-fiction in her field so keeping up my end of the conversation, and undoubtedly ego driven, I volunteered that I had recently done a significant writing project - this Blog.  It is not a secret and a number of people know of it and that is typically the end of the story.  So I was caught unawares when SuAnn wrote to Phil asking for my email so she could ask how to find the darn thing.  Of course the soaring ego was tempered with the fears, the fear of sharing so much of myself and those around me, the fear that it would be banal when read after the fact, the fear the writing would not measure up - all the usual suspects.  And thrown into the mix was Phil's fear of what she may learn about him, her very old friend. Not the gayness, he has been out to her for a while, more any embarrassments.  Uncharted territory.

At first it seemed easy - Phil was my excuse, easy to hide. But then an email, an explanation.  SueAnn's brother passed away, maybe five years ago, and after his death it was uncovered that he had a gay side.  She loved her brother and is still coming to grips, grips with the secret, grips with the gayness, grips with what he must have gone through.  Upon reading that, and a few further emails, a plan was hatched.  Phil does not join my tale until rather late in the story; by the time SueAnn gets that far, we can see if editing is necessary or if the fears are all in our minds. 

So it was with a sense of excitement and trepidation that I opened this blog, saw the picture and the layout, and in essence said hello to an old friend. I often think about this friend, frequently have thoughts that need to be put to paper - not for anyone reading but so I will have a chance to revisit some day.  I know, they sell diaries, but it just is not the same for me for reasons I cannot understand no less explain.  And then while there, standing in the foyer, a quick peek inside; I read the last post.  It was going to be part 1 of yet another triptych but there it was, a full year later, standing all alone, a story started and never finished.  There was work - there is always work - and there were distractions but that was not why the post was all alone.  It was that Carrie was peeking and I was afraid to share and afraid to hurt, hurt more than I seem to do regularly.  I suspect that after a year it is quiet out there, no one around and that is okay.  But I do miss this place and maybe it is time for a few more visits. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Final Days

Lately I have been noticing a book at the end of one of Phil’s book shelves – The Final Days, the story of the end of the Nixon Presidency and I have considered that the participants probably did not realize that they were in the final days until after the fact. So it is with hindsight I can gaze back over the past three months and see what should have been obvious.

Thanksgiving was in Connecticut this year (yes readers, another road trip), an extended weekend in the family home. But of course the phrasing “family home” should be the first hint of trouble. The home has become crowded with the addition of an adult daughter and her child. What was comfortable for three and on occasional fourth is a petrie dish seething with humanity. There is also internal geography – a house with a basement bed / bath where at some point one could say “good night” and wander (or slink as the case may be) down to a spot which is while in the house is not in your face. Now my personal geography is a single bed in the home office with my head as the crow flies being maybe twelve feet from Carrie’s, our doors maybe a yard apart. It is impossible not to be aware of the total lack of personal space boundaries.

Yet with all of the new limitations Carrie and I persevere, dinner, a glass of wine, chatting while the kids float about. The limitations on personal space, the additional children, take a toll but also almost create a sense of fellow travelers in a revolution gone wildly awry. A strange existence where the underlying reality gets lost.

We were preparing for Thanksgiving a few paragraphs ago, a Wednesday night, dinner and a pitcher of Perfect Manhattans – a specialty of the house. Soon dinner is forgotten in an alcohol induced haze and the inevitable happens. First pure sex, the virtual ripping off of clothes, skip the foreplay and become one followed a little later by making love, hugging, feeling, being. It was and it was good. Of course there is always a morning after, one marked more by guilt and recrimination on her part than mine – I do have an awesome tin ear – and further complicated by a child in the next room who admitted to hearing us talking but in reality did connect the dots.

We now move to the land of Rashoman (a movie I actually missed) where the same moment becomes very different in the minds of different participants. I went home and thought of somehow having it all back – not being straight per se but if not a man in my body, a toy wielded by the right person, by her. Somehow a return to a life that has continued in many ways – weekends, dinners, telephone calls, but is also long gone.

I speak to Phil, tell him what occurred, and share my emotions, my misguided dream. Not tomorrow - five years do not disappear into the ether in a blink of the eye. No, she would need time to think about it, time to consider. I have it – I will not have sex with Phil while she has time to think secure in the knowledge that I am only living with him during the week, maybe still sharing a bed, but I’ll skip the bj’s: what more could one ask.

The whole story is too long for one post so I suppose this is as good a time as any to leave off with one thought – can you spell delusional.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Survivor's Guilt?

Every year Jews across the world have Passover Seders commemorating the Exodus from Egypt many generations ago and at those Seders there is a moment when we remember the ten plagues that God wrought on our enemies and as we recite each of the plagues we dip our pinky in the wine glass and allow a wine droplet to fall on the plate – a reminder that in our time of happiness we remember other’s losses.

Over the last three or four year’s thoughts of relative happiness have been a constant in my brain. How can my happiness – if that is really even the right word – not be tempered by Carrie’s travails? So she remains a constant – a constant with daily phone calls, a constant with almost weekly visits and if not a constant, a comfort when she recently allowed us a full embrace, a throwback to what once was.

And the refrain from the outside has been that we are each responsible for our own lives, that her success or lack thereof in the social world lies on her own shoulders. I do understand this – I am her friend but not her keeper. I also understand that she has taken a series of “hits” that one would not wish on their enemies, no less a best friend. So I have been oft accused of survivor’s guilt.

It’s just that it does not feel that way to me. When I call each day to check in – the mundane things that make a life – I do not feel a sense of obligation, getting something out of the way. I rather enjoy the little updates and banter. And when I arrive for a weekend visit and the kids announce they are off to something else, sitting at the kitchen table with Carrie is not a burden, but on the whole relaxing. Lord knows there is not much pretense left (though I still try to make believe that if my cell rings, it is really not Phil).

As we sat at the kitchen table recently I asked about the future. In less than four years the youngest will be off to college. There will be no need to call daily, the updates will be slim. There will be no need to drive up on a Friday night – the kids will not be there. Does all that end; is there a weaning process like a four year old giving up the teat?

The thing is that while there may be elements of survivor’s guilt, I enjoy my life, limitations accepted, with Carrie and cannot really imagine the day when the spigot gets turned off.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Weekend Update

While not much of a Saturday Night Live person – past my bedtime – I always liked the Weekend Update, essentially real news yet when an errant picture or caption, or even a stutter in the delivery is thrown in, the absurdity becomes evident. That is the way I feel about this story – absurd bordering on self parody.

I have written of Phil’s friend Stan, his last boyfriend and current beach buddy. I have written how the three of us would find the beach or maybe I would just join them for dinner after my day of work. And I have written of Stan turning against me – not that I blame him - and my wondering what this summer would bring. I wondered on these pages would there be resentment on my part, not so much of their days at the beach – I do work – but of the evenings after, dinners presumably absent me.

Of course having fixated on all of the possibilities, I missed the ones that actually came to pass. You see we are not just talking beaches, Phil and Stan are not making sand castles with hoards of children: they are at the gay beaches, a small universe. If one wants to travel – drive a bit, take a ferry, walk a bit, there is Fire Island, more of a weekend than day visit. If one wants to go to the local beach there is Jones and there is Robert Moses. They are quite convenient to each other – one drives to Jones and if the parking lot near the gay section is full, another twenty minutes on a beautiful road and Robert Moses awaits.

The summer comes and things roll along – Phil is busy running to the country, a wedding to make, I have my weekends with the children and we have a surprising number of weekends together. It is quite nice; we work on his house, paint cabinets, blissfully mundane. Phil has some beach days – weekday affairs. I have my work. We meet up on those days, a surreptitious mid-evening rendezvous swooping him from a railroad station, a train not taken. I won’t deny the strangeness but like everything else in life, after a while it starts to feel normal.

The summer is drawing to a close and a weekend day, clear sky, humidity dripping, Phil and I together. Let’s go to the beach! Jones or Robert Moses? What’s that – Jersey shore he suggests, something new. And it all comes together. We cannot go to Jones or Robert Moses. Stan is going to the beach and he may be at Jones or maybe the parking lot will be full and off to Robert Moses. We end up on the beach with the kids. Now as a practical matter, I am actually not upset, these are the beaches I grew up on, where I take my kids, not too crowded, my comfort zone. But that does not change the “why”, the fact that my choices are limited, impacted by choices of another who has no place in my life.

Now I am sure there are comments to be made, conclusions to be reached but ultimately the joy of weekend update is giving the story. The audience gets to make of it what they may. While today looks like summer, it is truly autumn and there is much time before the next visit to the beach.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


There have been many posts lately, just in my head and not on paper, and they are beginning to pile up like one of those chain reaction collisions in the fog. And when there is so much to say the tendency is to say nothing. The summer has drawn to a close – to me yesterday was the official ending – a summer that would normally be considered quite nice – beach and country, family and Phil (though not together). But there were the sub-themes. Of course the overriding one being my daughter Anna celebrating the first anniversary of the pedophile’s (her soon to be ex-husband’s) arrest. The carnage is unimaginable and are a few of the posts littering my brain.

The summer was also marked by yet another choice, another stab at competing values. Saturday was a strange confluence – Phi’s only daughter being married and Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. The wedding alone would have provided enough of a theme for the summer. Having watched my coming out damage my weddings I realized that the whole topic of Phil’s coming out would need a vacation. A subject dear to my existence – while ultimately his decision and problem I am more than a passing player in this drama – taken off the table until the lucky couple are wed.

When I realized the conflict – the celebration and the holy day – I made an immediate knee jerk decision. If Phil was out to his family I would come – how could I as a member of sorts skip it – and if not, well then should my religion not win out? Of course it is not really about religion, I am not overly wound on such things. No, it is about family, about having celebrated this day with my family – Carrie and kids – for two decades now, and specifically about having had the traditional end of holiday break fast with them each year.

After months of thought, annoying good friends, the angst which once was and still can be my comfort zone, I consult Carrie. She sees it pretty clearly – Phil is my boyfriend, a wedding is hopefully once in a lifetime – I should go. Once again instead of making a decision, I have asked her to make one for me, and once again she has acquiesced. I will have dinner the night the holiday starts with my family, Temple in the morning and then – can you spell awkward – off to the late afternoon wedding.

All in all it is going well, but I did mention the soon to be ex-husband – the pedophile. The divorce is dragging, his parents claiming compassion but squeezing out every clause, every last nickel. A quick early afternoon phone call to go over the “last points” and it all boils over – screaming matches on the phone, particularly Carrie after a year of holding her tongue letting loose. It actually was a good thing, a necessary thing, but now the phone call is over and rather then sitting around for a few hours for the usual combination post-mortem / strategy session, I am off to a wedding. I was steeled for awkward, but this was a different level, a moment where I really did have to go – weddings come with a start time, and really had to stay – the level of distress was great.

I realize I started typing with thoughts of the wedding, but they may have to wait another day. The thing is that Bill, the soon to be ex, is in jail – coming out soon, but in jail. His career lies in tatters and his earning power damaged at best, ruined at worst. Anna is now a single mom – working but with limits based on many factors. Child care is not cheap and Huggies have pretty packages with bar codes that ring up real dollars. So when every nickel is being wrung out, it does matter. And it not only matters to Anna, but to Carrie who is on the front lines every day, World War I style front lines – trenches with hand to hand combat, or so it feels. And it impacts on me, the wage earner in all of this. Clearly the child will have those Huggies, a roof over her head, food to eat. But it all takes a toll.

I check in with Carrie as I drive home from the weekend, the wedding in the rear view, literally and figuratively. She cannot talk to me, the trenches are claustrophobic and the other side is lobbing the canisters of mustard gas. She knows I will foot the bills – as best as I can which is far from perfect at this point – but the trenches she bears alone. And I want to help, want to man the barricades, but at this point I don’t even know where to start.