Tuesday, September 18, 2007

S.E.X., the in's & out's

This may be the most intimate I got in my book. Due to that, some of you may want to skip this one. Hopefully, it makes sense with the relationship aspect removed. Either way, it tells of two of the scariest months of my life and some views of sex, America, and religion that I still hold true.

Everything in life revolves around sex. This is true in America, anyway. I have never been anywhere else, so maybe it is different elsewhere. There is not one segment of the population that is not obsessed with sex in one form or another. Gay men want as much sex as they possibly can. Straight men want as much sex as they possibly can. The women I have talked to enjoy sex, but as I have no experience in this realm at all, I am just going to leave that topic well enough alone. There are strippers, porn stores, prostitutes, skin-flick channels, lingerie stores, novelty sex shops. People can not seem to get enough sex. Those are the obvious. There are whole other segments of the population that are equally obsessed with sex—those who ‘refrain’ from it or ‘monitor’ it. What are most of the topics that religiously conservatives focus on and worry about? Welfare? Education? Disaster relief? The best vacation spot? No, you silly goose. I set you up to get the answer right, it’s obvious. SEX!!! It is all about the sex. Well, except when it is time to pick the color patter of the sanctuary’s carpet, but after that? Right back to sex.
The world imploded when a breast with a sticky on it was exposed on national television. It scarred an entire generation of America’s youth. It created a sex-starved, women objectifying generation of young men. Many boys were so startled by the breast that they will never be able to look at a woman again--so that’s how gay boys are made! A whole generation of young girls will struggle with their identity trying to get one of their breasts to appear just as perfect as the one they glimpsed so many years ago while pretending to watch a football game. I don’t even know what a breast has to do with sex. And I am thankful for it!
God will send fire on America, I mean Sodom and Gomorrah, if gays have the freedom to marry the person they love. Children will be condemned to experience inadequate lives and be forced to be sex slaves if those child-molesting gays are permitted to adopt a child in need of a loving home. My teaching career should not be protected by anti-discrimination laws due to the fact that when I fell in love for the first time with was with Hew instead of Marissa.
Sex is all consuming. No matter what side of the fence you are on. Whether you spend all day trying to figure out how to get off or spend all night pondering how you can rescue your country from sexual depravity. All consuming.
I have been on both sides of this life force called sex. I was celibate and understood clearly how sex is dirty and evil outside of marriage. I did not even want to kiss until I was engaged. Like all good conservative boys, one day, I did a back flip and landed in Oz. I have experience getting naked with people whose names I did not know (I didn’t have sex with them, but still). I have experienced sex with enough people that I know what I like and what I don’t. Sex was something I could do with anyone I might choose to. I have learned the error of both of these philosophies. Sex is not something to be hidden, smothered, or taboo. Neither is to be treated like a handshake. The older I have become the more my attitude swings to the more romantic middle ground. If I eat out every meal, I don’t really appreciate when I have a five-star dinning experience. Having experienced sex with someone I love, I don’t want to settle for anything else. If I do, it is just sex and I am only reminded of what I truly want and am craving. There is a world of difference between having sex and making love. Once you have tasted making love, sex will never be as appealing as it was before. It will leave you empty and aching for what was lost and hopefully for what is to come.
I was eight years old. I was already scared that someone would discover my desire for Prince Philip in “Sleeping Beauty” and my lust after Princess Aurora’s hair. I did not know what “gay” was, but I knew what I was feeling was not what I should. I also had a strong desire to have kids one day. I did not quite understand how the whole process worked. I knew it had something to do with a boy and a girl. Everything else was a mystery. I also knew it had something to do with my Nippy (known to the rest of the world as a [dirty word, close your eyes] penis). I finally figured it out. There was only one thing that came from my penis. For months I did my best to urinate as infrequently as possible. I would hold it in until it hurt and I was sure I would wet my pants. With great guilt, I would to the bathroom and pee. I prayed that the children I flushed down the toilet would forgive me, and I took solace in the fact that I had held it so long. Maybe I had saved some of them and they could be born later. Gives ‘water sports’ a whole new outlook doesn’t it? Shudder.
As I knew boys were sexy from the earliest I could remember, I also knew that rubbing Nippy was a very enjoyable past time. I was lying on my back on the floor of our bathroom. Startlingly I felt an entirely new sensation. It caused my vision to go fuzzy for a few seconds and made me cry out a little. It kinda felt good and kinda not. What in the green Earth? I look down. My hand is soaked and sticky. Fear clinches my heart. I am dying. Either I am sick or God is punishing me for my close relationship with Nippy. All I knew is that puss is not a good sign. Puss equals infection. Infection equals one of two things: something falling off (our preacher’s wife’s sister cut her thumb on a tomato can lid, and it got pussy and fell off) or you would die. I cleaned myself off. Maybe if I never did that again the infection would leave. Ok, problem solved, ‘Never do that again.’ Yeah, right, problem solved. I worried incessantly. I was being punished and I was going to die. At least I would not have to worry about missing the rapture; I would be gone long before that. The determination to stay away from puss causing activities was short lived. Some things are worth death. Even a pussy death. It was years before I learned what was really going on and that I was not going to die and that I had been wasting a lot of needless energy trying not to pee.
“Well, you don’t have strep throat this time.” My doctor places the test trip in to the hazard bin.
“Well, that’s great. I am so sick of having that a billion times a year. I am glad I came in though. It is always best to know.
She looks up at me and takes a deep breath. “Most of your lymph nodes are swollen, your throat is inflamed, and you have a temperature.” She stops moving and looks me in the eyes. “Do you have sex with men or women?”
My throat constricts, I can feel my heart expand in my chest. “Men. I have a boyfriend.”
“Do you use condoms?”
“We have not really had that kind of sex much. But, no. He doesn’t like them.” What will I tell my mom?
“You are displaying all the signs of the early stages of HIV. I am not trying to scare you, but I don’t want to deceive you either. When was the last time you had that kind of sex with him?”
I count back in my brain. I remember the night. I skipped massage school to stay home with him and watch movies. “A month ago.” Tears are already making their way down my face.
“Ok, we won’t know anything for sure then for at least two more months. It can take up to three months to have a positive reaction if you have been exposed. Are you having sex with anyone else?”
“No, I have been with him for a year and a half. I have never cheated. I got tested before we got together. I was fine.”
Her tone is soothing and motherly. “Ok, we don’t need to panic, but it seem like there is a good chance that is what is going on. Does your family know that you are gay?”
“Are they ok with it?”
“No.” And this is why!
“I shouldn’t really tell you this, but my son is gay and he has HIV.” She continues to talk, trying to sooth me and let me know she understands. My consciousness fades in and out of the room. I will not be able to teach. I won’t be able to work with kids. I will have to take medicine all the time. Everyone will know. I will die. My family will know.
She draws my blood and labels it. “We will get this test back in a week. Even if it comes back negative, we will still have to test again in two months since it may not show up yet.”
I will not tell my family. Not until I am too sick to hide it. They don’t need this worry. This shame. I knew I was going to get this.
“Are you going to tell your boyfriend? It would be a good idea for him get tested.”
“Yeah, I am going to tell him. If he doesn’t have it, then I know that I don’t have it. He is the only one I have been with in a year in a half.”
“If you need anything tonight, call here. We have a counseling line. If you need it, you can even get in contact with me. Her kindness is genuine. I can sense that. I don’t want it. I don’t want to need it. I am destined for great things. Everyone has always said that, and I know it is true. This will ruin it all.
I slide off the chair and find myself in the driver’s seat of my car. How did I get here? I turn the engine over and put the car in reverse. I slam it back into park. I break down in the parking lot of the hospital. Life as I know it is over. After I get my emotions back into control, I call Carlos. “Hey, it’s me. Can you meet me at home? I am skipping school tonight. We need talk.”
I am not sure how I am going to tell Carols. How do you tell someone they probably have a terminal disease? Well, shit, I just got told. Learn from example.
He is already home when I get there. He is on the couch watching TV. When I come in, he turns the TV off and turns towards me. He knows something is wrong. Of course he does, I didn’t really prep him for exciting news.
I sit down on the couch next to him. I look in his eyes. I have no idea what he will do. “I went to get my strep throat checked out today. My doctor said I don’t have it. I want you to remember that I have never cheated on you, even though you always think I have, I haven’t.” Deep breath. “She said that I am displaying all the signs of HIV and seems to think that is what is going on. Her son has it, so she is familiar with what it looks like. I got tested before we were together. So, if I have, you have to have it too, because I would have gotten it from you.”
I was expecting him to fly off the handle. Accuse me of cheating again, call me a whore. He doesn’t. He just sits there, lifeless. It feels like a funeral in our condo. Silent. Still. Dead. We have both just been given a death sentence.
“When will we know?” He finally comes back to life.
“She will get the test back in a week, but we won’t be sure either way for two more months. What is your gut feeling on this?”
“It’s not good.”
We sit on the couch, holding hands. Both of us have silent tears running down our faces. I thought I would be angry at him. I’m not. I’m too scared. He looks at me again, “Well, I guess this means we really will have to stay together. No one else will want us.”
I don’t say anything. I can’t. This thought has crossed my mind too, and I had thrown it out already. I would rather be alone than be with anyone because we are both sick.
We sit together in a daze for hours. I pretend to eat dinner and watch TV. Neither of us wants to be alone. We sleep in my bed together that night. We held each other. We were a million miles apart. “I am going to the free STD clinic tomorrow. They can test me and we can find out in fifteen minutes. We will still have to wait two more months, but at least we can get the first part over with. Will you come with me?”
“Yeah, I will.”
It was a long, slow, painful night.
The next day, we went to the clinic. We sat in the waiting room surrounded by people who were dirty, obviously high, obviously diseased, and others who resembled us. Some were gay, most were straight. Finally, they called me in and I got tested.
I meet Carlos outside on a bench by the clinic. He looks up at me. “Well?”
“They said that it came back negative, which is good. We still have to wait two more months. I could have it and it just is not showing up yet.”
He nods his head. Neither one of us is really relieved or feels any better. Just because the test came back fine didn’t take away all my symptoms that I was displaying.
“Would you please do me a favor?” I reach for his hands. “Would you go in and get tested. They said they would make time for you today. We can get rid of the worry. If you have it, it would already show up and we would know that I have it. If you don’t then there is no way I have it, so we could be done with it.” I feel relief. Why had I not thought of this before? Even if I have it, I will know. I am going crazy not knowing.
“No.” He shakes his head. “I can’t do it. I don’t want to. I don’t want to know. This scares me too much.”
“What?” I was dumbfounded. “We can get this over with right now. It only takes fifteen minutes. Then we can get on with our lives, either way. Please.”
“Carlos! Please take the test. If not for you, then do it for me. I can not live like this for two more months, not knowing. Please.”
“I said no. It is not fair for you to ask. Quit being selfish and only thinking of yourself. You might want to know, but I don’t!”
“Either way you are going to know. I will tell you in two months. Let’s just get it over with. Don’t make me go through this for so long!”
“You are the most selfish asshole!” He storms off to the car.
The next two months were consumed by terror. I begged Carlos several more times to take the test. I did not tell anyone, which is very unusual for me. The first thing I do when drama happens is to call one of my friends. I didn’t want to scare anyone and have to make them wait. I didn’t want them to look at me like I was dying or treat me differently. I knew I had it. From the minute the doctor asked if I slept with men, I knew I had it. This is what happens to gay men. This is what happens when you don’t use a condom. My doctor said I had all the symptoms. I was waiting to hear that I was dying. I began to play with ideas of what I could do for work when I got the news. I would drop out of massage school for starters and then find other employment that did not involve kids. Maybe I could go around and speak about AIDS and sexual disease prevention.
Two months passed and it took two years of my life. The test finally came back negative. I did not have HIV. I didn’t believe it for awhile. Then I cried.
Carlos and I stayed together for six more months, but I never slept with him again. I know he was afraid, and I know he was hurting. He also knew what misery I was in for two months. He could have spared me every minute of that. He didn’t. He sat back and let me plan my death because he was afraid. I may not deserve someone who loves me like they do in the movies, but I knew I deserved someone who would at least try to alleviate my suffering when it was in their power to do so—required no effort on their part to do so. And if I didn’t deserve someone like that, I would be alone.
Looking back, the experience has probably saved my life. If someone will not have sex with me if they have to wear a condom, then I won’t have sex with them, because they obviously don’t give a shit about me.

We didn’t talk about condoms or STD’s in my small Missouri town of three thousand Bible-belt souls. I knew that if you have sex outside of marriage, with people of your same sex, or certain farm animals that you would get pregnant or get some kind of sickness that would announce to the world that you were perverted and people should keep their distance. I had heard of condoms and birth-control pills, but I knew if you were living how you should, you wouldn’t need such things.
I never really met anyone that was gay. They were like the allusive unicorn. We did have two such people, one and a half, actually, in our town that were allegedly gay. One was Billie-Dean Montgomery. Supposedly, he was always a fairly stand-up guy. Always a little left of center, so they say, but still, a stand up guy. One day, Billie-Dean was in a horrific accident. He suffered minor brain damage. All the bricks never quite went back in place on his chimney. He couldn’t hold down a job anymore, even struggled to hold down a conversation. The interesting side-effect of this new brain orientation was that on certain occasions, Billie-Dean Montgomery would become Sheryl-Ann Moon. ‘She’ would don a dress, a horrific wig, and high heals. The truly fabulous thing about Sheryl-Ann is that her breasts were always lop-sided, and they would take equal turns sharing their positions. At times, her right breast was nearly touching her neck and the left was drooping over her belt. At other times, her right breast would swing slightly low and position itself on Sheryl-Ann’s side while the left felt perky and stayed where most breasts call home on a female body. Too much information alert, look away: the rumor goes that Sheryl-Ann would lightly cut herself once a month to keep ‘her cycle’ regular. No one could argue that she was not a full woman.
Our other local trail-blazer was an older gentleman named Clyde. He lived with his elderly sister, Pearl. Pearl was one of the cornerstones of our church. She was there every service and knew everything about everybody, and felt free to share her wealth of knowledge. The truth be known, she was truly a glorious, loving, caring woman. If you were hurting, she would go out of her way to let you know she was willing to do whatever it takes to help you out. Due to her brother, she probably had more insight into me than I did, or anyone else, as I was growing up. Clyde was rarely seen outside of his home. It would have been risky to be seen very much in our town when you are known as the local fag. Southern hospitality and Christian love only flow so far. Stories abound about him occasionally making appearances when someone was sick in the hospital; old Clyde would make a social call to show his support. While he was there, his eyes would inadvertently be drawn to the legs of the men who would happen to be wearing shorts. Seventy years of being whispered about, threatened, condemned, living with your old-maid sister and never even being able to act upon the desires that damned you in the first place. There are fates worse than heart-break.
Needless to say, I never experienced any positive gay-role models growing up. It would not be until I joined my second support group that my therapist lead (support to overcome my gayness) when I was twenty-three that I would met a man, who changed my life—in many ways saved it. He was seven years my senior and is, to this day, one of the most stunningly handsome men I have ever seen. It was about six months into our friendship that I discovered that Tyler had been a fairly famous minister. I even found out that some of the Christian CD’s I owned had his name listed in the acknowledgments. He was gorgeous, ruggedly masculine, opinionated, moral, caring, intelligent, and courageous. He was everything I had learned that a gay man was not. He, just as I, was struggling to not be gay. His boyfriend, Jorel, (also disgustingly beautiful) was struggling with the same thing. Let me tell you how fun it is to go out with those two. The three of us walk into a room. Everything disappears—including me. The universe fades away and only Tyler and Jorel remain. At times you can hear the gasps and murmurs of appreciation of the transfixed masses. Jasper and I became friends as well, and it was he who eventually introduced me to Douglas. The four of us would spend a lot of time together. We would go over our life stories, struggles, issues with God and family, and do out best to hold each other accountable to be strong in the face of temptation. We were going through a war together, and we will always have a bond that all people do who look life and death in the face hand in hand.
I found people who knew me and loved me, and more than that, completely understood all my fears, hurts, and struggles. I also discovered that not all gay men turn into Sheryl-Ann Moon. Maybe I could be gay and not be a complete and utter disaster. Four attractive adult gay men, swimming through the struggles of late-onset adolescence together. God provides in truly amazing, silly ways. It was during the times with these three men that I began to leave my childhood behind and become a man.
“Faggot! Hey, Faggot!” I shoved by them and kept walking down the hall to my locker. Everyday, I don’t know how much longer I can take this. This has gone on for months.
When the seven of us came over from the Christian school, we knew it was going to be rough. Having grown up through 8th grade in private school, my whole class had to transfer to the public school for high school. They were not too welcoming to us. My cousin, Fredrick, was one of my classmates that came over with us. He was very tall, slender, blond, and musically talented. He immediately got labeled at a fag. I have no idea if he is or not. Those kinds of things never came up in conversation, unless we were talking about all the sinners and whatnot. Back in those days, I had a temper that matched my red hair. When people would call Fredirick names, I would tell them exactly where they could shove it, how they were the ones that were corrupt, and that they were in the danger of the fires of hell (I was a good little fundamentalist). Well, if you take up for a faggot, then you must be a faggot. So, I became a faggot, and one with a big mouth, which made it even worse. Most of the focus got shifted from Fredrick to me.
Cletus, who was about six foot tall and two hundred and twenty pounds our Freshman year, elbowed me in the chest, knocking me against my locker. He put his mouth close to my ear and ever so quietly, “Watch where you are going, faggot. Remember your place.” He kept going on down the hallway, people quickly making a path for him.
After school, I was down at my locker with my friend Betsy. It was just the two of us. My locker was on the lower floor. I feel pressure on my back and my face makes intimate contact with my locker. I spin around. Cletus had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. I glance over, only to see Betsy’s feet disappear as she runs up the stairs to the main floor.
“Hey, Faggot, why didn’t just stay where you belonged, at the Christian school?” His face is inches from mine. It doesn’t seem the time to tell him how little sense that question makes. He shoves me on the chest this time. My back collides with the locker. My head swiftly follows making a loud bang. He pulls a seven inch hunting knife out of his back pocket. (This is pre-Columbine, in Missouri. Some of my classmates had hunting rifles prominently displayed form the rear windows of their trucks in the school parking lot.) He waves it in front of my face a few seconds and then pulls it back. He slams it into the locker, his eyes never leaving mine. We stand there for a few seconds. Just staring. He puts the knife back, turns around, and walks out the door to the parking lot. Betsy comes running down the stairs. She had gotten Jeff and Mike, who were following her, panic in their eyes. All four of us were in show choir together. I almost wish they would have been thirty seconds earlier. I am sure Cletus would have gotten a great laugh out of the entire situation.
While never threatened with a knife again, the harassment continued through my sophomore year. During that year, I took Jesus’ teachings at face value and began to be kind to those who were cruel to me. It worked. I went from being the second least popular and hated boy in school to being one of the top ten most popular and loved boys my junior and senior year. Those years were hard on my parents too. I remember dad crying because he saw how hurt and afraid I was, and he could not stop it.

Monday, September 17, 2007


My Grandpa died when I was twelve. My grandma (Mom’s mom) died when I was thirteen. My grandpa (Mom’s dad) died when I was seventeen. My Grandma died in November of my nineteenth year, while I was a sophomore in college. Around five years before, during a routine doctor appointment, they noticed something strange in her mouth. It turned out to be a cancerous growth, caused by second hand smoke. They were able to remove it all and felt that they had removed all the cancer. Still, out of the desire to make sure the cancer would not return and eke as much as remotely possible out of her insurance, the doctor decided that it would be best to undergo radiation treatments.
The radiation treatments worked. The cancer of her mouth never returned. Modern Miracle! However, within those few years, another growth of cancer was discovered. It was directly behind her right eye. This cancer was not caused by second hand smoke or first or third hand smoke, for that matter. It was determined that this growth was caused by the radiation that was used to kill the original cancer. It only makes sense. Once, so I hear, a woman swallowed a fly. She was kinky old bitch who couldn’t quite get up the nerve to experiment with gerbils, like normal people. The fly tickled her fancy for awhile, but soon she tired of the ecstasy that only insects can provide. The obvious solution? Move on to arachnids. She (stop me if you’ve heard this before) swallowed a spider. The spider did its job and rid her of her horny little fly. The eight legs caressing her from within sent her into spasms of pleasure. As with all things, this pleasure grew common place, so she transferred her desire to feathered foul. Of course she continues in this vein, consuming larger and larger living beings into her ever passion craved body. If only she had stuck to a gerbil. You see, there is always a cost. Always. Nothing is for free. They say the sun and the air is free. Don’t buy the lie. Suntan lotion gets expensive and the doctor bills brought on from the consequences of pollution and second hand smoke can be astronomical.
My Grandmother’s cancer was no small news in my old little Missouri town. Everyone had nearly worshiped my Grandfather, who had died those six years before. To now have his beloved widow stricken in a similar vein was a tragedy. Not to worry, though. While we do not pray in tongues or sing praises to God while serpents coil about our bodies, we do believe in Healing—not in the Benny Hen, send me all your money and God will heal you kind of why, but in the Moses parting the red sea kind of way. Ask anything in true believing and it shall be accomplish was our motto.
The church (and people across the country, honestly) united in prayer and believing for my Grandma. They prayed, anointed her head with oil, laid their hands upon her, were assured that God was going to show his power through a mighty miracle that would show his abundant love and grace so that many would come to believe in Him.


It was while I was in my bedroom at college when I heard God. I was praying earnestly for Grandma. I was begging for her to be healed. I was praying for God’s will to be accomplished. I was asking for assurance of what would happen.
‘You don’t have to worry. I am going to heal your Grandmother. Everyone will know that I have worked this miracle. Your faith has been seen and honored. I will take away her cancer.’
It was like He was in the room with me. I heard it as clearly as I have ever heard anything in my life, before or since. I called Ashton, who still lived in Missouri, to tell him the amazing news. He was happy for me.
“I want your Grandmother to be healed too. She is your last grandparent and such an amazing woman. I know that it is in God’s power to heal her. However, I don’t want to make you mad or hurt your faith, but. . .”
“Ashton? What are you saying? But what?”
“But, what if He doesn’t heal her, or what if His way of healing her isn’t the way you picture?”
Meaning death. “No. That is not what He meant. He was very clear. He is going to heal Grandma.”
“What if she dies?”
“Well,” I pause, thinking. What if He doesn’t heal her? That isn’t even an option. God does not lie. “If she dies, then, I won’t believe in God anymore.”
“Whoa, that is a big statement. That is what I am worried about though. I don’t want this to hurt your faith.”
“It can’t. He will heal her. I know I heard him and I trust that. I know you are just trying to protect me, and I love you for it, but, wait, you’ll see. Everyone will!” I didn’t doubt it. Never. Not once. There was no more question about what he said than if he had stated that I had red hair. Anytime anyone would ask me about my grandmother or say how sorry they were, I would tell them to not be sorry. She was going to be healed. God had told me so.
The last time I saw Grandma was on a long weekend from college. Dad and I flew home to Missouri. I don’t remember why Mom and Tristan did not come. (was it for j.i.’s funeral?) Dad dropped me off at Grandma’s house while he went to get some work done at the factory he still owned in our little town. I walked into her house. Grandma was sitting in her living room in one of the overstuffed chairs. She had her eyes closed and had both of her elbows resting on her knees. Clutched in her hands was this tiny, plastic cylinder type tube. In the middle of this tube was a black box with a nine-volt battery attached. I walk over to her. “Hi, Grandma!” She glances up at me and smiles. “What are you doing?”
Her smile changes to one of embarrassment and she slowly shakes her head. She looks good. Tired, obviously, but good—not at all how Grandpa had looked. She looked like the same strong woman I had always known. “Oh, it is silly, really. Sherry-Lyn brought this over the other day and made me promise to use it. She hands it to me.
I turn the contraption over in my hands. On the battery box is written some Bible verse about healing. I can feel the buzzing current from the battery as I touch either side of the plastic cylindrical handles. “What are you supposed to do with it?”
I hand it back, and she resumes her position by grasping both handles and resting her arms in her lap. She laughs lightly. “You are supposed to hold it like I am doing, the battery current is supposed to do something to the cancer, and you focus on the Bible verse and trust in the Lord for healing.”
“Grandma! Are you kidding? That is ridiculous!”
“I know. But I promised her I would do it thirty minutes to an hour a day. Lots of people have brought such things.” She waves her hand at a pile behind her chair. There are several books, tapes, pamphlets, and other items similar to the one she was holding. “They are just wanting to help and wanting me to know that they have faith that I will be healed.”
I am willing to bet these are the same people who came up to us and told us not to be sad when Grandpa died. ‘He is in a better place.’ ‘He is happy now.’ ‘God gave him the ultimate healing, be thankful he is not sick any longer.’ Yeah, well, Fuck you! and stay away from my Grandma!
“I wish you wouldn’t waste your time and energy on these things. They don’t do anything! People are just trying to make themselves feel better by convincing themselves they are helping.”
“Oh, sweetie, I know. None of these things will help, I know that. I do it just to be polite. God doesn’t need any of these things to heal me.”
“Grandma, you are going to be healed. I know it. God told me. And, I don’t mean by dying. He is really going to heal you!”
She looks directly into my eyes, seriousness enveloping her features. “I know he will. He has assured me as well. This cancer will not win.”
Soon, we are sitting on the couch. I had gone down into the basement and retrieved a huge pile of old photo albums. I have always loved pictures. Grandma takes me through them, picture by picture. Grandpa in his old army clothes. Pictures of them when they were dating. Pictures of their first vacations. Pictures with them and several other couples who used to do thing together. Pictures of my dad as a little kid, and then pictures of his brother later on. Photos of Grandpa on one of his many hunting trips. Pictures of Mom and Dad getting married. Pictures of me as a baby and as a fat little kid. “Grandpa would be so proud of you seeing how you turned out. His world revolved around you.” She patted my legs. We went through pictures of Tristan’s birth, and of our little cousin.
Half way through the albums, Grandma flinched and whipped her and towards her face. She let out a little yelp. “Grandma, what is it?”
“It is just the growth. The pain comes and goes.” Tears are making their way out from under her hands and running down her neck. “I don’t know how long this one will last. It feels like it is going to shove my eye right out of my head.” Her voice was weak and strained. She was barely able to catch her breath. “Pray, Sweetie, just pray with me.”
I place my hand on her leg as she rocked with the waves of pain. We prayed. Minutes pasted. She continued to groan and cry out occasionally. We continued to pray. Gradually, the pain subsided. She was trembling and tired. “I am sorry. I need to lie down.”
We go into her bedroom and she lies down on the bed. I sit beside her. She talks a little more about Grandpa and then about Tristan. “You and I should go on a trip to celebrate this summer when you are off college.”
“Ok. That is a great idea. Where do you want to go?”
“We could go anywhere, but I have always thought it would be fun to take a cruise to Alaska.”
“That would fun. Let’s do it. That will be a wonderful way to celebrate your healing. Just the two of us.” We both said it matter of fact. Neither of us was pretending or trying to be brave. We knew she would be healed and that we would go on our trip.
“I love you.” She patted my hand.
“I love you too, Grandma.” It is the only time I remember telling her that I loved her. She is the only grandparent that I spoke those words to. Neither of us said those words as a good-bye, even though that is exactly what they were.


Mom, Tristan, and I were all in Tristan’s bedroom. Dad was back in Missouri with Grandma. She had been doing worse. It was the weekend. Mom was reading a book to eight year old Tristan, I was listening. We were awaiting the call that would let us know that Grandma had died. Well, in theory, anyway. I was awaiting the call that would say that the miracle had happened and Grandma was healed.
The phone rang. Mom answered it. I held my breath. Her voice was calm, quiet. “She did? How long ago? When is the funeral?”
I didn’t cry. I couldn’t. It made no sense. I didn’t really believe it. God had said. What about what I heard? What about how Grandma knew she was going to be healed too? What about our trip? What about the promise?


I was honestly going to try to make the first few entries from my book be more light-hearted and whimsical. There are a couple of those, really. However, last night, I had one of those dreams that spans the entire night. Even after you wake up and fall back to sleep, it starts right were you left off. Without much detail, it was a dream that made me face the humanity and impending loss of my parents. Honestly, that thought terrifies me more than any other. I would rather face my own destruction than face this life without their constant presence. Consequently, death has been my companion throughout the day. The two entries that follow are two of the most impactful events of my life. The one in this entry, my greatest shame. The one in the next altered my faith and outlook of life irreversibly.
I wish I could say that every time I made a mistake throughout my life I did not know what I was doing or that it was simply a lapse in judgment. Sometimes, however, it has been due to a lack of my own moral fiber. Even so, there are very few moments in my life that I would actually go back and redo. I am a firm believer that everything that has ever happened to me, and every choice I have ever made have been essential to the recipe that makes up who I am today. While that person is far from perfect and has many flaws and idiosyncrasies, I like him, and I would miss him if he were someone else. It is not every brilliant and saintly moment in my life that makes me who I am, it is also the stupid, deliberately questionable, and less than honorable instances that give me spark and flavor—not to mention a few grains of wisdom. In fact, I can count the moments on fewer fingers than are on my left hand (there are just five, that part of me is normal—would I have kept such juicy details from you for this long?) that I would give anything to go back and change.
My grandfather (my dad’s dad) was the definition of the perfect grandparent. He adored me. He nearly worshiped me. He completely and utterly spoiled me. He completely overlooked my girly tendencies. He even walked in on me when I was nine or ten practicing making out, with my fan! and never said a word, although I am sure he spent countless hours in prayer for me afterwards.. (Don’t get stuck on trying to figure out why someone would practice kissing with a fan, you will get hung up on that mystery for eternity and come no closer to enlightenment. I said I had idiosyncrasies. Why are you judging? Grandpa didn’t!) Anything I wanted, he got for me. There was nothing too good for his cubby, red-headed grandson. He is the reason I love Christmas so much. For over a month before Christmas, Grandpa would start preparing (of course, so did Grandma and my dad and his brother—we are a very Christmas family). Everyone loved my Grandpa. He was a martyr for many people. Truth be told, people took advantage of his kindness and his generosity. There are worse faults to have.
Grandpa came down with cancer around the time I was ten years old, right around the time my little brother was born. He would battle it for two years. Chemotherapy, prayer, Chemotherapy, faith, Chemotherapy, believing in healing, Chemotherapy. His death when I was twelve would begin a period of thirteen years where six vital members of our family would die, and several other extraneous members as well. Death has become as familiar and well known as the face staring back at me in the mirror. If I had Death’s address, I would feel obliged to send him a Christmas card.
Near the end of his battle with the disease, my entire family went out of town to go to dinner. I was excited because Grandma and Grandma had gotten me a set of fuzzy animal watches I had been wanting. Pastel pink, blue, yellow, green fuzzy watches shaped as frogs, lions, flamingos. I know, I know. How did my family stay in denial about my sexuality for so long? We all sat down at long table on the second floor of the restaurant right next to a window looking out over the downtown. Grandpa sat by the window next to grandma and my dad’s younger brother, who was not married at the time. I sat at the head of the table. Mom and Dad sat on the opposite side of my grandparents, with my little brother in a highchair between them. We were nearly done with the meal. We had had appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Grandpa had already sent his credit card back with the server and we were just waiting for the receipt for him to sign. My Grandpa’s weight had greatly decreases over the past year or so. He went from a robust handsome older man (you should see pictures of him from World War II—Hot!) to a frail, weak, skeleton with thin, translucent skin as a covering. It hurt to look at him. I did not really know who this man was. It was not my Grandpa.
All of the sudden, Grandpa let out a strangled sound that was something between a belch and a gasp. His hands grasped the edge of the table as he lurched forward. A thin, watery stream of white vomit poured out of his mouth, down his face and pooled on his shirt and the table. Everyone else in the family stood as one in a near panic and reached out to him to help. Grandpa steadied himself with the table and weakly turned his head to the left towards me and looked into my eyes out of the corners of his. “I am so sorry.” It was a barely audible whisper. In fact, maybe he only mouthed the words to me.
Revulsion filled my face. I was completely disgusted and sickened. Don’t forget embarrassed. It was not intentional, just my honest, real emotion at the time. I looked back into his eyes with my upper lip pulled up into a grimace and my eyebrows knotted in scorn.
Hurt filled his eyes. He looked down at the table, shamed.
I am sure there had to be other events after this, but, if so, they have left my recollection. This is the last memory I have of my Grandpa and I before he finally died. There are moments and aspects in life that are burned into your mind for infinity, ones that will flash before you when you close your eyes. I will see the look in his eyes as clear as in the moment for the rest of my life. There is a world after this one that we go to when we die. The people who are already there can see us and they know our thoughts and feelings. I have spoken aloud how much I miss him and how much I love him so many times. I know that he is assured that the last emotion I showed him is not what is in my heart for him. If this is not how it is, if you have proof that this is not true or not how the world works, keep it to yourself. How can I face myself everyday, if he is not assured of my love for him? If the last sentiment his adored grandson gave to him was one of disgust?

Sunday, September 16, 2007


My earliest memory is in pre-school. Some time in 1981. I am standing in the corner of my classroom, crying my eyes out. All the other kids are around me. They are not laughing or pointing or being mean—just there. I feel close to panic, such a deep, deep shame overtaking my being. I try to cover up. I fold my hands up into my armpits and squeeze my arms as tightly as I can. Still I can not cover up. Mom had sent me to school with overalls. Overalls!!!! With no shirt!!!!!!! NO SHIRT!!!!!!! I was naked, in front of everyone. Naked! Everyone could see me and I was naked. I don’t remember how that situation ended. Probably with me passing out or ripping my teacher’s blouse off to cover my shame. Looking back, I can see why my mom chose such and outfit. I was an adorable little kid. Adorable. Oppie Tailor had nothing on me. Well, until I get fat, but that’s later.
I only have two more memories from that period of my life. One is of my parents and teachers trying to get me to see Santa Clause when he came to school. Screaming bloody terror! I never understood how people felt safe being with creatures who were all dressed up and in masks. Even today, if Santa ever came close to me, I would slaughter the bastard.
The other (now write this down, you might have to use it) is about personal hygiene. My teacher bought into the whole cleanliness is next to godliness thing. We needed to report if we had brushed our teeth that morning or not. Well, come on! We were three. How were we supposed to remember what we did an hour ago? So, we would have to cup our hands over our mouths, exhale, and breath deep. If stinky, no sticker. Standing in a corner, my red hair bouncing from the sobs that rack my body as I try to cover my nakedness and smell my un-brushed breath—Santa waiting, just beyond the next corner.

Father's Love

My parents are amazing cooks. My dad was the one that taught my mom to cook. In return, they both taught me. Between them, they can make anything. One of the simpler things dad makes is French fries. They are perfect. Just the right thickness. Just the right crunchiness. Just the right amount of salt. Whenever we sat down at the table for dinner (we ate dinner together every single night of my life) and had French fries, before Dad would eat any of his food, he would take my plate and sit it before himself. He then would arrange my French fries into rows on my plate. With the catsup bottle, like the red plastic ones you find in diners, he would then proceed to decorate each individual French fry with a design, each as unique as a snowflake. Whenever I eat lunch with my kids that I teach and we have French fries and I am moved to demonstrate how much I love them, I decorate their French fries with catsup.

Upcoming Events

So, as I may or may not have mentioned (I honestly don’t remember) when The Big Break-Up (you may have heard of it. . .) happened in July of 2006 (which was why I started this blog), I sat down and wrote a couple hundred page book (put in book form it would have been nearly four hundred pages). I chronicled each factor of my relationship that had just ended. Interwoven were aspects and stories and diatribes of me growing up, past relationships, and my current (postmarked ’06) views of the world. It was a huge labor of love and self-therapy. It greatly helped me grasp some truths about why my relationship ended, and even more so, gave me closure and clarity on some of the things that happened when I was growing up. I am never going to publish the book, there are too many details that should stay between the people involved in that relationship, but there are certain stories that I told from my past that for some reason I still want to share. Most, of course, focus on the sad or angry times in my past (since that was the space I was in when I was writing the book—you may remember some of those from the blog as well), so please don’t think these stories are the only ones I have from childhood, but they do make for better writing. Pain begets art. All the stories are completely true, however, I changed people’s names when I wrote the book, and I will keep those changes for the blog. I will intersperse these stories and thoughts throughout my blog over the next while. Partly because I don’t have time to blog as much any more, and partly because I feel a need to revisit some of the things I wrote back then, they have been on my mind lately. Maybe for a reason. We will see. I will start with a short one. A happy one. One of my favorite memories. And then my first memory. Those of you who know me will laugh. Those of you who don’t, may find it rather sad/disturbing…

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Juggle Jingle Jangle

Ridiculous. Absurd. Ludicrous. Astoundingly preposterous. Such is life. Such is love. Such is money. Such is I. Yes, I know, it should be ‘such am i.’ I know that. I was in a flow. Go write your own blog.
Tonight is one of the first nights I have had to myself in weeks. I honestly don’t remember the last time this happened. When I am not with Chad, I am off with my family, off on camping trips with the kids, or at work. Tonight, Chad is at a concert. At a concert so late that he will not come over afterwards, as I have been passing out around 9:30 or 10:00. I wish I was exaggerating. One of the few ‘complaints’ I have had about being in a relationship was that I have lost all time to myself. Time to write. Time to watch endless hours of TV on DVD. Time to read one of countless Vampire novels. So, what have I done since I spoke to him on the phone at 5:30? Well, I made it to about 7:30 (after my second episode of Charmed—the final season [never saw it before {very excited}]), before I started watching my phone and wondering why he forgot that I existed. Did he consciously choose to overlook that he has a boyfriend? Or were thoughts of me simply lost in the glitz of all that is without me? I took the dogs on a walk, reminded myself that sane couples can breathe when they have not had contact in less time than it takes to boil the milk and butter for instant potatoes. I decided to write about my feelings of not being thought of every second of every day. You know, try to work through my neurosis by condemning you to sort through the pieces. No sooner had I sat down to begin this very outpouring of self-reflected therapy at 8:17, then Chad texted telling me the concert was getting ready to start and that he loved me. Way to ruin a perfectly good opportunity to muddle over this impossible conundrum! Now I am back to being contented by insecure ego fluffing. Thanks a lot, babe!
While we are on the subject of the insane and unstable, let me tell you about one of the issues of moral dilemma that is the life a teacher. I have a wonderfully textbook example of SIED (significantly identifiable emotional disability) in the form of a sixth grade boy in my classroom. He constantly is mean to other children in the class. Ninety-five percent of our interactions are of me getting him into trouble. They say that for every negative interaction you need to have at least two or three positive. Well, unless someone ties this boy up and stuffs a sock in his mouth, I simply do not have that many hours in the day to be able to begin that particular upward ratio. After presenting him with a referral, he chose to continue to increase his abusive behavior to other hapless souls under my care. Thus, I was forced to call his father. His giant of a father arrived within fifteen minutes of my school ending. Even though I interjected as many positive aspects of his son (believe me, I stretched better than elastic) the only part the father heard was the negative. He assured me that this type of behavior would end tonight. While there is no tangible proof (nor will there be) there is no doubt in my mind that his manual for rectifying situations of such nature is vastly different than the one that I subscribe to. With a glance at the clock to determine that I would be staying over an hour past quittin’ time and tears in my eyes, I turned and entered the classroom that connects with mine (the younger SIED classroom) to assist with the eight year old who’s behavior required the presence of a policeman who was now discussing things with his tearful, tired, and overworked mother.
Later, after my first workout in more time than I recall (which used to a ninety minute process and has now shrunk to 20 minutes), I came home, shoved in my DVD’s, ate two of my pre-made frozen dinners, and began obsessing over the deserted desert (interestingly similar words, eh?) that was my phone. Dessert anyone?