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.