The contribution

As we pulled out, I waved to my family. My aunt commented that my mom was really crying, and she seemed surprised that it was that hard for her to see me go for two weeks. I hadn’t been away from home for more than a night before that.

I was going to stay with relatives for two weeks and come back to our family reunion with them. It was the summer between 6th and 7th grades. We didn’t have middle school then, so the coming year was the first of junior high. I had kind of been manic in the latter half of the school year, though it would be years before I knew that’s what it was. It was kind of good in that it broke me out of my shell. I was always very shy and quiet. Unfortunately, that returned by fall and lasted for a few more years.

So, we were off, amidst the tears. I realized years later that my mom was crying because she felt so bad about my brother not getting to go too. My aunt had called my mom and made the suggestion.  I guess there wouldn’t have been enough room in their car for everyone on the way back with luggage and all, so only I was going.

It begs the question, why extend the invitation at all if it was only going to be for one? Then I thought maybe my mom should have declined the invitation. I guess she didn’t want us both to miss out. My brother and I were just 14 months apart in age, he the older one, and we did everything together.

My brother was gracious about letting me go. While he was close to our cuz too, he knew that I always had a special bond with him. I’m sure he still felt left out, though. We didn’t get to do a lot of things, or go places, because we didn’t have the money and my parents didn’t get much vacation. I don’t know if they had any paid vacation. My mom was working at a blouse mill and my dad worked at a hardware store.

Once at my cousin’s house, I had a really nice time. It was early in the summer, and the weather was great.  As I said, my cousin and I had a special bond. We only saw each other once a year, but we always picked right up where we left off. They lived in a city, and we went to museums and other fun things.

We also ate out two or three times. Near the end of the trip, my aunt asked me for money for those times we ate out and they had paid for everyone, including me. I was surprised that she was asking for it, but being only 11, I didn’t protest. The problem was, that I had only $13 at the start of the trip, some of which I had spent on a puddle jumper at the Children’s Museum.

My aunt’s response to that information was, “You mean your mother sent you out here with only thirteen dollars?”  Instead of feeling angry at her, I was embarrassed and ashamed. I felt inadequate. I was aware that my family was poorer than most everyone else I knew, but this was kind of a painful reminder. And, she still took the my money. I had wanted to get my brother a souvenir of some kind. My aunt said I could pick something out of a box of items she picked up here and there for our annual Christmas gift exchange via mail.

I selected a fancy plastic ruler with “wood” grain through the middle. I’ll never forget the disappointed look on my brother’s face when I presented it to him.

Well, that was more than three decades ago. (Is that possible?) I must admit I still feel resentment when I think of that incident, but I have forgiven it. I remind myself of her good qualities, which I’ll share with you now. She was fun to be around and had an infectious laugh.

My uncle worked for the post office and he used to joke that she gave him job security, because she sent cards to everyone for birthdays and anniversaries and such. She was very good about that. She kept track of everything. She worked hard selling Tupperware to help support the family. She actually won a sales contest not long before my visit. The prize was the station wagon we rode in.

She also had diabetes for as long as I could remember. She was on dialysis for the last ten years of her life, until heart complications took her too soon. I think she was 72, so she made it pretty long, considering. We all still miss her.

Mental health update, 7/30/18

I’ve had technical issues and other distractions, but I wanted to give another update on my sister.

She came home after about a week.  As predicted, the insurance company decided to send her home early, against the doctor’s recommendation and the social worker’s protestations. There was not even enough time to bring medication changes to the full dosage. Fortunately, she was well enough this time to stay stable in the meantime. She continues to do well. I just had a nice talk with her.  We’re both trying to lose weight and we trade successes and challenges on that front, among other things.

We can also talk about mental health issues, since I have bipolar depression and anxiety myself. I have pretty good insight into what she goes through.  I like to think I offer some help in coping from what I’ve learned.  And, I’d like to share more about that in coming posts.

I’m relieved she’s doing well, but I still worry about the coming years. There’s the financial issue, and the social. It’s hard to meet and keep friends when you have a serious mental illness. It’s even harder to meet a significant other.

I have to admit that she drives me nuts sometimes when she chatters incessantly. She also tends to turn the conversation back to herself a lot. I hope that I can help her to see that, and maybe learn to listen more. It’s not totally her fault. Her mind races and it’s hard to keep it all in.

It’s a hard knock life.

 

A Closer Walk, Part III

A brief intro for those who didn’t see Part I and II, in case you don’t have time to go back and catch up on them. As a gay Christian, I’ve had a hard time reconciling what I was taught with the reality of who I am and knowing that this is the way God created me. After a long gap from church attendance, I started going to a gay friendly church a year and a few months ago. I never got around to telling my parents that it was a “gay church”. Couldn’t seem to find the right time, or didn’t feel like “getting into it”.

Back in November, the pastor of my church had an article published in the local paper, which she does from time to time.  The article mentions her female spouse. My mom saw this article, so the cat was out of the bag. She wrote me a note, speaking for herself and my dad. She also included some scripture references which I’ll include at the end of this post.

First, I’d like to point out the irony that the article is entitled “Desperately seeking unconditional love”. My pastor cites a line from the writings of Parker Palmer in “A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward the Undivided Life”. The excerpt in part: “the people who help us grow toward true self offer unconditional love, neither judging us to be deficient nor trying to force us to change but accepting us exactly as we are.” You see the irony, right? Funny thing is, I missed it at first because I was so focused on the scripture references from Mom and eager to find my own to refute them.

Perhaps I am desperately seeking the unconditional love of my mother. She says in her note that “nothing could ever dampen our love for you, nor could we remove ourselves from your life” but that they were responsible as parents to “speak the truth” to me.

I mentioned in Part II that I wanted to write a letter in response. A friend of mine commented that we should just agree to disagree. That is likely to be the outcome, but I think I need to have the conversation.

One reaction to the note from Mom was, unexpectedly, anger. I feel insulted that she (they) think I’m somehow being sinful or disobedient, or that my soul is in danger. I am saved. I don’t need to be “snatched from the fire”. Jesus already did that. How dare she condemn me? I needed to get that out.

Now to the details. As I expected, the first scripture cited was Leviticus 18:22: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman. That is detestable.” Leviticus also forbids tattoos among many other things and says women should separate themselves from the community when they have their period. Those are the old laws of the Old Covenant (another word for Old Testament). Jesus died and rose again to set us free from all that. He is the New Covenant.

I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I’m pretty sure Jesus never mentioned homosexuality or being gay. The scriptures Mom cited from the New Testament are all about general morality. Some kind of disprove her own point, like Romans 8:38-39. ” For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Being gay, then, does not separate one from God.

The good thing in all this is that I still see my parents often. They and my sister visit at my brother’s and my house often. We’ve always been a close family, and a matriarchal family. I still enjoy talking on the phone with my mom and I know if I write her a response, she will read it. I just hope she reads it to absorb what I’m saying and not just to find points to contradict. We’ll see.

I’ve already received suggested readings from friends. Your comments are welcome as I ready my response to “the note”.

Below are the scripture references:

Ephesians 5: 3-7 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

Colossians 3: 5-6 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

I Timothy 2:19   Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

II Timothy 3: 16-17   16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a]may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

John 17:12   While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by[c] that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

Romans 8:31b, 37   31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us,who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns?No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

II Timothy 2:25-26   25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Jude 20, 22:   20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

 

A place to lay your head

Between last fall and this spring, I helped 3 people move.  Each was a different situation, and each gave me things to reflect on.

First, the good thing: I got new furniture and decor out of the deal, but I earned it.  So there ya have it.  The selfish end of things.

The first move was last November for my sister who moved to her own place for only the second time in her then 47 years.  The other time was a good ten years ago and only for a year.  She has personal things to cope with that I won’t go into for the sake of her privacy, but she lived with my parents in an apartment at the time of the move.  It was a big step to go out on her own.

The first time she went on her own, she was urged to do so by those around her, but she wasn’t really prepared for it, nor did she really want to go.  This time, it was her choice and desire to have a life of her own as we watch our parents advance in years.  They won’t always be here.

It was a triumphant and encouraging event, and I was very glad to help. I gave my sister things I wasn’t using and I call her and try to encourage her as much as possible.

The next move was my parents in January, precipitated purely by financial needs.  My dad was 83 at the time, 84 now, and my mom is 76.  My mother has arthritis – spina stinosis. Her back, knees and leg make it hard to be on her feet for long.  My dad is in remarkable shape for an 84 year old, but he did have heart surgery more than ten years ago, and he is definitely slowing down.  Fortunately, they belong to a church whose members helped them tremendously.  I helped as much as I could after work and on the weekends getting ready for the move.  The day of the actual move, the good church folks had the majority of the work done by the time I got there after work.  There were still quite a few more trips with the minivan that evening and subsequent days, but the big stuff was moved and most of the furniture even in place.

It was great that they had good help since neither my mom nor my dad wanted to make the move from the comfortable apartment they really liked where they had become friends with the landlords and their toddler son.  With my sister in her own place by this time, they were adapting to an empty nest for only the second time since a year and a day after their wedding.

So when I go there, I feel somewhat at ease that they have adapted to their surroundings, but the place is so small.  So very small.  I can’t help think about all the wealthy estates with so many rooms, they never even set foot in some of them and have amenities they never use.  Nevertheless, my parents have all they need and all they can really take care of at this point.

The final move was my cousin who had to move from the house his grandfather built and his mother grew up in, which he lived in for the past 22 years.  The move was forced by his siblings wanting to sell the family home out from under him.  Fortunately, he was able to move in with his fiancee at her apartment.  But, as with my parents, it was a downsizing.  He put many items to auction and gave a lot to my brother and me who helped him with the move.  That worked out well for us.  Indeed, we made out well between the things my parents couldn’t keep and the things my cousin couldn’t keep.

I reflect on all this in my own home that I share with my brother and love very much.  It’s 100 years old this year.  We’ve done a lot of personalizing and improvements.  One thing we didn’t have to do, because it was already here, was to install a deck.  It was a major selling point with a great view of Bethlehem.  I am so thankful for everything I have and for a loving family.  I would do anything for them.

I still wish my parents had a little more room, but we all have what we need: a place to lay your head.

 

 

Father’s Day

Yesterday was Father’s Day.  I had a lot of people tell me Happy Father’s’ Day if you’re a dad.  I’m not and they’d say enjoy your day anyway.  I sometimes wish I could have done the “normal life” thing, getting married and having kids.  Being gay doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do that anymore, but I don’t think I could handle kids.  Having enough trouble handling myself.  The Bible says something to the effect that God won’t give you more than you can handle.  But then he made me responsible for myself.  A little joke I came up with.  Thought about using that for a t-shirt idea when I was starting my t-shirt web store.  (That’s done now. Another story.)

But enough about me.  I was looking for a card at, you guessed it, Family Dollar, and saw one that the front design really caught my eye.  As I read it, though, it didn’t fit.  It said thanks for all the advice and guidance you gave me.  My dad never did that.  I used to feel bitter about that when I was younger and looking for that annual card.  Also on his birthday.  I felt like he didn’t do anything to help me, and didn’t spend a lot of time with us (1 brother, 1 sister) doing the dad stuff like playing catch, or fishing, and the like.  I love board games and would try to get a family game going.  He usually abstained.

As I got older, particularly in my 20’s, I began to see my parents for the human beings they are.  We all have faults, and strengths and weaknesses.  I think around that age, you start to turn into your parents and gain understanding about them.  My dad just didn’t have it in him.  He lacked energy and vivacity for doing things, not just for us, but for himself.  He did play with us when we were real little, giving us “horsey” rides, despite his weak back.  Also, piggy back rides, or putting us on our shoulders when we were at a fair or fireworks or something.  I understand that lack of energy and enthusiasm for life.  It’s called depression.  I do have a great enthusiasm for life, but sometimes have no interest in anything.  I’m glad I have bipolar and not just plain depression.

As for the advice giving, well, he’s just not an insightful person.  He learns things the hard way himself, so it can’t really be expected that he would be proactive in imparting wisdom ahead of new experiences and challenges that I arrived upon.  He could have used some advice himself from others on things, but nobody wants to help the misfits.  They hold back their knowledge and experience, perhaps to feel better about themselves while they shake their heads at someone else.  It would have been nice to receive guidance throughout the growing up years, but it is what it is.  I love my dad.

I can’t leave this post without pointing out some good stuff about my dad.  He’s very generous and considerate.  He has no guile or hidden agendas in his dealings with others outside the family or within.  He likes to joke around and is very warm and loving.  I admit I felt emotionally neglected at times through the years, but I never had to doubt for one second that he loves me.  I’m thankful for a stable home with both parents there.  I can’t imagine having divorced parents living seperately.  My parents’ 47th anniversary is coming up in a couple weeks.  I hope to have my dad with us for their 50th.  He’s 82 now, and doing well.  But he had quadruple bypass about 10 years ago.  He married a younger woman (gotta give him credit on that one). My mom is 73.  An interesting side note: they met on a blind date, set up by friends.