It was back in September or October of 2004 just before the presidential election when my mother and I received an invitation to go visit a longtime family friend (whom I shall call Mary). Mary now lives on
Let me backtrack a little at this point. My childhood was a bit rough. My mother, through no fault of her own, ended up a single mother of 5 small children. I was the oldest. My mother was responsible for raising and supporting my 4 brothers and me after my father’s long and very horrible decline into the deep dark world of extreme mental illness. He went from being a successful dentist to a man that could barely function most of the time. My father’s painful journey took him through periods of near catatonic states, wild frightening tirades, and paranoid delusional behavior depending on the medication or lack of. Ultimately in-and-out stays at the
My mother is an amazingly strong woman who thankfully had a good college education and as a result a good job in the medical field that allowed her to keep her head above water and her family off the welfare rolls (do you hear that Rick Santorum?). And she had a cabal of strong (mostly women) friends that served as an amazing support system. Mary was one of those women.
Because I had 4 brothers my mother spent many, many of her nonworking hours on some kind of athletic field, either baseball or football depending on the season. It was there that Mary and my mother forged their strong and lifelong bond. My memories of these two women out there in the bleachers, screaming their hearts out in support of their sons while sharing laughter and camaraderie, still brings a smile to my face today. And after the games everyone would end up at Mary’s house for a buffet and an opportunity to discuss and analyze ad nauseum all of the plays of the just-finished game once again. I believe these were some of the happiest days of my brothers’ and my life. They were certainly the events that kept our lives feeling somewhat normal.
Mary had her own rough life story to tell, but she didn’t. Like my mom she took what life dealt her and made the best of it, with no complaints. Like my mom she was strong, optimistic, and amazing. I used to spend hours around her kitchen table, drinking iced tea, and listening to these women laughing and talking as though they did not have a problem in the world. I remember thinking that I wanted to be as good a mom as they were and hoping that God would give me the same kind of unbelievable strength and optimism to deal with life’s ups and downs as these 2 women had.
So when Mary picked us up at the
Because of the configuration of the seats in her van, I took a seat way in the back (there were no center seats in the vehicle) and my mother took the passenger seat next to the driver and off we headed to
The drive from the
Now I must digress again for a minute. This was back in 2004 and I was still grappling with my rather recent discovery that one of my sons was gay. I had not yet told any of my family about this, including my mother with whom I am very close. I had made a pact with myself that I needed to have everything worked out in my own mind and be totally at peace with everything before I started telling others. I did NOT want to be breaking down in tears as though I was conveying news of a tragedy, I just wanted to tell people in a “this is the way it is” manner that left no room for any response other than “oh, ok”. Also, I did not want to tell anyone until I had my son’s blessing, which at that point in time I didn’t have.
So when I heard Mary saying that Bush was going to save
Then a truly beautiful thing happened. My wonderful mom spoke up with the first words of wisdom I’d heard since climbing into the car. My mother, the unknowing grandmother of a gay grandson herself, told Mary that she had never ever bought into any of that utter nonsense. She said she had known many wonderful gay people and she absolutely, positively believed that none of them had had a choice in the matter. She also went on to debunk completely the myth that parents are to blame for their children’s homosexuality. And she summed it all up by saying: “… because if weak or absent fathers, or strong and as you say overbearing mothers are reasons for gay sons Mary, then I would have had 4 gay sons. I am truly shocked that you could believe that garbage. You know better than that.” And with that, the subject was put to bed for the rest of the stay. Unfortunately my sadness was not.
I think of that painful drive to