Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Peace II

It seems that I have written of late and have covered the when and where’s of life – an important updating and stage setter I suppose, but I have not crawled underneath things very much. Last night I sat with an old friend – dinner and many drinks (no one drove) – and covered much ground, old stories / new events – the gamut. And as we talked I realized an interesting thing: I feel at peace. That is not to say that there are many issues and my plate is not overflowing. Maybe it is because of those issues – let’s face it, there is little you can throw at me to top the father of my grandchild being a jailed pedophile – but I think it goes beyond that. Maybe it is the self-acceptance and no longer fixating on returning to places I can never go. Maybe it is the bond of friendship that Carrie and I have – surviving family issues that either bring you together or tear you apart. I suppose in some sense all of the above.

Phil is dealing with some issues of late – implications of the closet he has so carefully built and finally having told his “other boyfriend” that he really isn’t. What particularly comes to mind is a comment that Stan used to make about his relationship with Phil: he used to say that Phil was his other half. It always struck me as strange, not so much that I had in a way supplanted Stan, but the implications of the comment in general. I think I have spent my life trying to be another half, to girlfriends and wives, subsuming all and defining myself as part of a couple.

Now, there is nothing wrong with being a couple and nothing wrong with a level of devotion but the implication of being someone’s half is that inherently you are not whole. And if they disappear you are left incomplete. I go into a new year with things constantly changing – the things that cannot even be predicted, finding the balance of friendship with Carrie while allowing both of us to personally grow, and the unpredictability of the relationship with Phil as he finely struggles with his own self definition.

And while I go into another year with changes yet to be revealed, I also go into it with a new found constant: a sense of wholeness which begets a sense of peace.

As I was saving this document I discovered that I had already written a post titled “Peace” back in December 2006. Then it was a greeting of Peace to the readers I used to have. Today it is much simpler, a lot less words: my own inner peace.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Joy & Sorrow

Thanksgiving came a little late this year, the product of scattered adult children. It may have been a Friday but a perfect Turkey, multitudinous sides and a coalition of the willing; what else does one need. It is the coalition which was particularly striking: Carrie and most of our children including Anna and her new addition (in what is now also their home), another daughter's in-laws and in what may be the strangest twist Carrie's ex, the biological to the step-daughters I raised. He comes with the new wife, a kid, a partridge... Alright, no partridge.

Carrie's house is getting used to it now that Anna is part of the mix, Anna and child. Her father, the ex, has become a regular and it almost seems normal. Stranger are the visits from the pedophile's parents. It is their grandchild also, distressing as it all may be.

Dinner goes well - whatever discomfort some may have brought to the table, forgotten in the passing of dishes. Carrie did the toast - it is her home- and did it well. But I had my own, for me and now for this page.

I still remember the lyrics of the first song I memorized - not because I was trying but based on the both incessant listening and the depth of the resonance in a fourteen year old’s brain:
"It’s no matter if you’re born to play the King or pawn
For the line is thinly drawn 'tween joy and sorrow"
(Paul Simon)

It feels like we - our family - have spent the past number of years testing that line, frequently surging into it. And every time we border on breaking through and testing sorrow verging on despair, we seem to bounce back. The Jewish liturgy has a refrain that God offers us life or death and daily reminds: "Choose life". It is really all any of us can do. And with all of the problems, all of the issues and setbacks, we still manage to embrace life, particularly our newest testament to the magic of creation.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Mid-Summers Nightmare

It was a long time ago, three years back, that I posted “Homeland Insecurity”, probably the most difficult post I had to write. The link is here but the story is simple enough. A daughter, an imminent marriage, a visit from the Fed’s… A soon to be son-in-law was being investigated for trading underage pictures. For reasons we can only guess, the problem went away – lack of the damning computer, issues of evidence: we don’t really know nor do we really want to. What we do know is that as time elapsed his family was quick to believe him, believe they weren’t really underage, a Playboy moment in the internet age.

Bill and Anna saw a therapist, talked, and to our horror decided to reschedule the wedding. Our family, immediate and extended, would have done anything to stop it but ultimately it was the choice of our daughter and concerned as we were, she is still our daughter. I can feel the cringing starting but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The wedding is rescheduled and we are troubled, deeply troubled. Time for a talk, not with Anna – she knows our views, time for a chat with Bill, a kitchen table talk. We sit across from each other and I express my concerns, my deep concerns. I don’t really accept that he was investigated for having pictures of buxom sixteen year olds. I tell him that the marriage is a big responsibility. He listens, sympathetically nodding; he assures me, he would never hurt my daughter.

I remain concerned, look him in the eyes and tell him “You can’t choose your orgasms.” I stress that what excited him once, will yet again. He listens, not so happy now. That night my daughter tells me that he was okay with our talk, okay except for that one comment, that one uncalled for comment. I back off – my point was made, no need for a war.

This summer was off to a quiet start and one week night while laying in bed with Phil the phone rings – yes, a late night call. It is close to midnight and it is Anna. She is in her newly purchased house after a day of work and evening of school, resting her pregnant body. Yes, she is with child, six months worth. And Bill is missing. Family is gathering, police are called: maybe a wreck on a highway. Bill is responsible, not one to disappear, not one to ignore his phone. Finally at 2 AM the police are there to take the missing persons report when they get some news – he has been arrested one county over. No word on why, the arraignment will be in the morning.

Now we are secretly hoping for something “easy” – drunk driving, disorderly conduct or the like. Hope as we do, I can only think of one thing: you can’t choose your orgasms. The next day we gather at the courthouse and get the word. A police officer saw a car parked in front of a school and went to investigate: Bill, pants down, in the act, a fifteen year old girl with him. A life, in an instant unraveled. No, many lives, so many lives, unraveled in that instant.

I would love to say that was the worst: it was not. A month later a second arrest: earlier in the summer there was a thirteen and fourteen year old, a drive back to his house, my daughter’s house, and a sexual act in the bedroom – in my daughter’s bedroom. No low bail this time, the courts seem to finally get it.

What is there to say? I am a proud grandpa, the divorce is in the works, the house sold, the bedroom furniture abandoned. Bill is in jail – a plea bargain in the works, presumably real jail time in his future.

Over the last few months, in different venues, I have recalled the kitchen table conversation and I have recounted “the” quote and the response. Looking back clearly it did touch some sort of nerve. But what has been most fascinating has been the reaction of others. Five simple words, a mere six syllables and yet such power, such discomfort. Carrie has suggested that I lose the story, clearly more trouble than it is worth. But I am loathe to acquiesce, to distance myself from what I hold to be such a basic truth: “you can’t choose your orgasm.” True for him, true for me, true for us all. For most of us a truth and a non-issue but for the sick few a sad truth that is inescapable.

Friday, December 11, 2009


It is almost four years since I started this blog and more importantly since I started my journey. While I no longer write often - pressures of time, sometimes too little to say and more often too much, it seems wrong to ignore an anniversary. Not so much wrong for you, anyone left reading, but wrong for me.

So where am I with my life? When people question where am I living I typically respond that I am a gypsy. I have my apartment in the 'burbs. It's been two years and I just signed on for two more. By the time the four years draws to a close maybe I will have spent a years worth of nights there.

And then there is Phil’s apartment in the City: another third of my life. (Let's be honest - an evening in a very quiet suburb or the center of one of the world’s great Cities. Throw in a boyfriend and the choice is pretty easy.)

And then, yes then, there are the weekends. The country "home", seeing the kids, time with family and of course Carrie. Now I would love to say she is the add-on, there because of the kids, not central to my experience. But that would be disingenuous bordering on pathological.

I do spend time with my children but at age thirteen, they come and go and as any parent should be, I am there but am also aware of the futility of forced face time. So Carrie and I share the house - her house - on the weekends. As I recently told a friend we share everything but bodily fluids.

As I started writing this in my head I realized that the gypsy description was broader than I first envisioned. I fear that I am an emotional gypsy, dancing in many camps yet not "all in" in any of them. Carrie would scoff at this saying I have it all. And she is correct, in most ways I do - Carrie who still allows me in her life, Phil who is learning to say the"L" word even without a few too many drinks and the many friends and colleagues who continue to accept me gay or straight.

So why the trouble with "all in"? I am the king of jumping feet first and assessing the long term consequences later. But I also have been a serial lover – always in love, always with one person, just not always the same person - but always one at a time. For one with my track record it may seem a bit self-serving, but there is an honesty to it all, one that allows me to look in the mirror with some sense of comfort.

As this post is written over the course of days, I share some of it with Phil who points out that I am “all in”, just with Carrie. I ask how that can be when she and I rarely touch. But he has a point; Carrie and I speak daily, the kids as the base but so much more in our lives (another post when I have real fortitude). I readily admit to loving her while accepting the inherent impossibility – I am gay and fear there is no changing and truth be told, not sure that I would if I could.

Phil is trickier. There are the structural issues. The eleven year age difference does not overly faze me.But he is semi-retired and as he eases into that world, he can float freely, time here but also time there, oh so many there’s, while I remain rooted – job and family. What will happen when he takes the “sabbatical”, a month in Florida, three months in Europe? I suspect there is a defense mechanism at work, hedging my emotional bets. Meanwhile, we also speak daily, share most evenings and even more nights. Sort of like the line from Fiddler – if that’s not love, what is?

I sit here – typing and thinking, looking for some magical words to elegantly end this post but uncharacteristically they do not easily flow… Four years is a long time and the words that come to mind are grateful and humbled: grateful for all that I emotionally have, “all in” or not, and humbled that I have it, considering how rough this road has been on so many.

As I do my final edit I realize that I glossed over what might be the essence of where I find myself emotionally – maintaining two "all in’s" simultaneously. It is so much easier to claim gypsy status than to address two “all in’s and the inherent instability that represents.