Friday, April 16, 2010


As Mark Twain once remarked, the rumors of my demise have greatly exaggerated. I'm not dead yet, fellas.

But others are now. Others who have meant more to more people than I could ever hope to.

Soon after New Year's, my grandmother finally gave up the ghost [or, to make it sound less familiar, yielded up the spirit, though it does live on in us]. My other grandmothers died many years ago [in 1959, 1974 and 1981, and yes, that makes four of them], and her life for all the years since has been nothing shy of a miracle.

Anyone who is closing in on 100 has a right to die whenever she damn well pleases, but the fact is that we had been preparing ourselves for the possibility of her death for so long that we no longer really believed it could happen. And then it did. Almost three months ago.

Many, many things have changed since then, some at a dizzying speed, and not just the fact that she's not here to watch over me while I slave away at the project that keeps on giving.

Things long held back as the private things in her life are now laid out in the open; people, especially those she put up with out of politeness, people I could never stand and still can't now, feel free to talk about her as if they had known her better than anyone. Or, more galling than that, they fix me with an "understanding" look and tell me that my loss must be dreadful. It is, but to tell the truth, there are people who don't know what truth is, even when they utter it. And there are people from whom you don't want to hear the truth unless they do recognize it when they see it. What is it about those people, and why do they always have to wade in and weigh in with their grating goodwill? The people who really have something to offer are the people who listen first.

Here's a truth for you: Truth is never a platitude dressed up in a veneer of apparent goodwill. It's harder and hurts more than that. I don't think it's just me and my experience; I think there's some kind of law at work there...

But life does go on.

Deadlines do not move around just because the life of the someone tied to a project has fallen apart. So I get up, I drive back and forth, and live on the goodwill of the Goat, who has risen to the occasion in the most commendable way [wine, cheese, food, bed--see below]. It is strange, when my world has been shaken to its foundations again, that the outward appearance of my life has not changed much in the last four months at all--I am still driving up and down, spending two nights on my own, a night or two with the Goat, and then starting all over again by driving up again at 6 on Monday morning. But it's beginning to get old.

The Powers That Be seem to have realized that there was no way we could make our deadline with just me beavering away at it, so I now have a staff of five part-timers moving in and out of the office all week long, which makes it harder for me to get anything done, but does move things along at a better clip. And makes life for me less lonely. I meet new people, some of whom--even if they have no power to do me any good--really like what I've done. The Powers, though clearly not to be numbered among those new people, did decide to come up with the extra cash to finish the project RIGHT, rather than pulling the plug on the whole thing in April.

Other things have happened as well: I've been to Vacationland with the Goat and spent the entire three weeks as sick as a dog. As a result, however, I had an unimpeachable excuse to lie around once I got a little better, and inhale the sequels to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I don't know what your tolerance for trash is, but The Girl is Great Trash. Really the best. And the sequels are, I think, maybe even better. Like Toy Story and Toy Story 2. And now I'm back, trying desperately to get things polished off by Thanksgiving. What I am going to live on and how I am going to find health insurance after that is anyone's guess, but it will bring a two-year stint to an end, and that's probably a good thing. It all feels different now...

By then the Goat will have had a few months to get used to retirement, if he does indeed retire as he keeps threatening to do, and maybe we can do something really frivolous like buying a house big enough for all our, ahem, "stuff."

You know what I mean... or at least I think you do...

I have spent so much of the last four years watching the world as I knew it fall apart, only to see it take on a new and unexpected form. It's happened over and over again. Death brings many things in its wake, including new beginnings, if you can see them when they come. So far, all I can see is that most things are suddenly different. But it's pretty clear that death doesn't get the last word.

So we tiptoe along while Easter comes pressing in on us, and wait to see what it brings. Maybe that's why Easter itself passed me by this year--I'm not in a place where any regular calendar makes much sense to me. I just have to take the truth as it comes...

Hang in there, all of you. I'm still here, I'm just up to my ass in alligators for the next six or seven months, and will not be posting much. But maybe you noticed that...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


You would think that after four months without a post here, people would have stopped worrying about my ragged-ass life and moved on, but apparently that's not the case. But then, I was the Nervous Nellie who would e-mail people who hadn't posted anything in a month or two all atwitter with concern--now I know: sometimes life moves on, and sometimes it just gets a little too hectic. Since the summer, I have been working out of town four days a week, and usually commute up one day, down the next, to get my Goat fix. Every once in a while, I just can't face the drive, so I stay up "thar" four days in a row and turn into what my hero Betty MacDonald called "a Big Saddo."

What really gets me down is that most weeks I don't spend any two consecutive nights in the same bed. I hated living out of a suitcase when I was being paid a ton of money to do it... and now I'm definitely not being paid a ton of money.
The One Called Bigg, who seems to spend most of his spare time reading my mind, has hit me up with a "meme-thingie." Now, I'm not really into memes, or, for that matter, the word "thingie"--it's one of my little crosses to bear these days, as the Goat is constantly using it or other shorthand language like it... However that may be, I owe Bigg a lot, and meme-fulfillment doesn't really seem like that much to ask. It's kind of the least I can do, if you know what I mean. So here goes:

1. Number One is not something I now have to enjoy.

But it sure as hell is something I look forward to having: a place big enough for both the Goat and me to live together, and not a hundred miles from where I work. We currently have three places all within a fairly short distance of each other, and none of our "places" is big enough for two people. Well, I could fit in, around the edges, at least, but there is no room for any of my "stuff." Moral of story: get rid of your stuff... I haven't quite managed to pull that one off yet.

2. Number Two is: spending time with my grandmother.

There are not too many 58-year-olds who still have a grandmother, let alone one who insists on cooking for them--and who cooks really well. What can I say? She can't drink anymore, but there's always a bottle of wine out, and we sit and talk, or just sit and "be" with each other. There's something wonderful about having a 98-year-old friend to hang out with... and this gets to bump #3 only because every time I leave her house to head "home," I realize that there is a perfectly good statistical chance that she will not be there when I get back.

3. Number Three is: sharing a meal with someone I love, or even just enjoy.

Now I realize this bears a striking resemblance to #2, but that's just the way it is. The Goat often yearns for his days in the restaurant trade [the fact that those days were in his freshly "out" youth is the only explanation I can think of] and so sets out to welcome me home from my days away with a good bottle of wine, good cheese, and, usually, a great meal. We have been known to take some herbal supplement and some strenuous exercise before starting dinner prep--OK, that's pretty much the standard set-up, I confess--but that doesn't impede our appreciation of food, wine, or each other one bit.

It works just as well without the "happy hour" ingredients, of course, but they don't do any harm. I can enjoy most food and most people on their own, let alone the Goat... and I am nearly as fond of having dinner with my mother or my kids or several of my very good friends or, in days gone by, with the One Called Isis. It has been my fate throughout life to land in relationships with people who love food, which even if it has ruined what was never a terribly good figure to begin with, does make me think [a] that God exists, and [b] that he loves me...

4. Number Four is: sharing a movie with someone I love, or even just enjoy.

My Favorite [and only] Daughter and I have a bad habit of running off to the multiplex to catch whatever piece of silliness has just come out. We saw both Public Enemies and District 9 this summer, and will probably pick up where we left off while she's home from college in early January. I am praying she will forgive me for planning to catch Avatar in IMAX-3D on the Goat's Christmas vacation before I see her then... and if she doesn't, that's OK, too. The Goat and I try to watch a lot of movies together, but our taste only overlaps so far [what is it about people who use "Hollywood movie" as a putdown?] and he has trouble staying awake through anything I want to see. To be fair, he has trouble staying awake through anything he wants to see, too, so I can't bear a grudge.

5. Number Five is: taking the time to curl up with a good book.

Or with one of the Approved Magazines [I have been a New Yorker fanatic since before I understood anything between the covers beside the cartoons]. The Goat is a guy who has to spend a lot of time outdoors doing stuff, and unlike my previous partner, has no trouble doing it on his own. So we both often get what we want... which is not to say that renting the wood-splitter and chugging through a winter's worth of wood in a day wasn't a blast--it was. It's just not something I lie around wishing I could be doing. For him, it is. I guess opposites attract.

Followers of Bigg's blogs will note that there is no mention here of making a home for my lover, or laying out outfits for him every day [though I do wash and fold all the laundry and wash almost all the dishes, unless he's decided it's "relaxing" to do it himself]. Or about work or learning. I'm not a home-maker, but give me the choice between a chain saw and a Cuisinart, and I don't go play lumberjack. I'm still "OK"--I'm just the Great Indoorsman. The positively amazing thing is that the Goat doesn't care. When we first got together, I was a complete mess; I am still something of a mess, but then I was a real mess, and he said quite placidly that he loved me just the way I was. I used to think it was just something he said to all the girls, but it has been borne out over time, and he finds the most astonishingly attentive ways to make it clear that he means it. Anyway, aside from the commuting, my life looks pretty good right now.

Thanks to the Greedy Maelstrom for this link: I liked it a lot, though it took time to wade through it all...

Hang in there, guys.
We must all hang together or we shall most assuredly hang separately...


Sunday, August 23, 2009


We're back on the East Coast, and we had a wonderful time.

It did involve seeing more people than I could really handle in two weeks--new faces almost every day, usually at lunch, and then off to one show or another most evenings--with the result that I came home exhausted from vacation, as I tend to be, and really wanted to take a week off to recover, as I tend to do.

I also lost my temper with the Goat on the last day, for something that was only partly his fault, and which I should have been able to deal with, but I had just walked into what I had thought would be a lunch on a lake and had turned out to be a work-day at the lake with a lunch break...

So I wasn't at my best...

And then yesterday morning, as I drove north from the Big Woods, I realized that I had just let my sense of responsibility towards my mother and my daughter lead me into spending the last weekend before school starts away from the Goat. Which I would never have done if I'd thought it through. When I finally got around to calling to grovel and humbly abase myself about it--not really something I could do with either of the ladies around--he seemed pretty calm, but I could tell he had not been too pleased to begin with... He deals with things better than some people I could mention.

I had a really vivid dream the night before I left the Big Woods: all that happened in it was that Isis had a perfectly friendly, normal conversation with me. However, when I swung by to pick up the Favorite Daughter, she and Isis were loading a half-size refrigerator onto the top of the cellar stairs. I got out of the car to help when the FD went in to get her things, but Isis had gone down the stairs into the cellar as soon as I drove in, and stayed there until I left.

There are dreams... and then there's reality...

I did get things done around the place for my Mom this weekend--like beefing up her screen doors to keep the squirrels out of the birdfeed--but if nothing else, I saw to it that my daughter spent some time with her, as she has been promising to do all summer, but hadn't done yet. But none of it weighs very heavily in the balance compared to how terrible I feel about not having been there for the Man I Love.

Why am I so consistently stupid?
Is there something to do about that?

Well, there's always the next time. So far, at least, he seems to find it all worthwhile. I guess we all take some putting up with.

Hang in there, all.

Friday, July 31, 2009


One more proof that geometry does indeed have some kind of real-world reflection: parallel lives? parallel lines? Well, in any case, though Bigg and I have never even tried to meet, we just keep walking along side-by-side... which is a long, round-about way of saying that I am finding, yet again, that everything he posts [click here] seems to have been written about me. First there's this:
I have less than nothing to say. It's hot for the first time all summer. Everyone around me groans about how cold and rainy it's been and mutters darkly about global warming. I LOVE it. I am happiest hiding in the dark like a slug under a flat rock, so this entire cool rainy summer has been marvelous to me. The minute it went over eighty degrees I started to suffer...

I was sitting with my guy just watching some random show we downloaded...
when I looked over at him and was struck by how beautiful his profile is, how very well drawn his features are... And I felt this huge surge of love for him that frightened me.
That's funny enough. But then there's this, and frankly it begins to creep me out a bit. OK, so we both have a narrow range between unbearable cold and unbearable heat where we can bear anything at all. OK, so we both are batty about guys though we can't quite understand how we wound up with them. I can live with that, but then there's this:
I've come to see that the world is just like that: we're happiest when we accept that we're just broken, fallible creatures who are only here for a little while, and that's the only basis you can accept someone on if you don't want to get hurt by your expectations. My children are less than perfect, my friends are less than perfect, I even fall short of perfection although of course by a smaller degree than the rest of you grubby mortals.
This has been on my mind for a long time, as some of you will know. Though maybe there is a difference there: Bigg goes on to declare his lover the perfect one, and I still think, much as I am drowning in gratitude for the Goat in my life, that he's no closer to it than I am. Maybe it's because the Goat isn't the same age as my children... who knows???

Actually, it's cold this morning even for my understanding of the proper balance of nature. And it's been raining forever--we had over two inches the other day, and I could feel every millimeter of it drumming down on our heads (we sleep right under the roof, out in the Big Woods.) On the other hand, today is my last day of work before we take off for the West Coast, so I am happy as a clam and not particularly focused on the things I should be wrapping up before I go. That Friday afternoon feeling, starting at 7 in the morning.

Hang in there, guys.
It's cold outside.

Friday, July 10, 2009


My old buddy Bigg [now at Bigg on Life, click here] posted a wonderful contemplative piece about the feeling of going through the Looking Glass--or at least, that's how it hits me. It includes his wish that he could in fact spin straw into gold, and a wonderful hymn of gratitude for all that he has, which he celebrates as only someone who has once lost everything he held dear can do.

I resonate to all this like a tuning fork [just as I do to UP, with its story of adoption and the appearance of a mysteriously loving grand- parent] and I don't have to go far to find the reason: we both had a lot invested in what we thought our lives were about, with marriage and fatherhood pretty far up the list. I can't speak for Bigg, who seems to have figured things out a little earlier than I did.

But I do know that when I left home I fully expected never to feel the kind of love that had made my life worth living for so many years. And here I am, so deeply in love that it's hard to keep my eyes from crossing.

Things are different: I once made the mistake of thinking someone had no faults or limitations, which was unfair to both of us, and I won't [can't] make that mistake again. I once thought I knew what made me tick and what made me sing; I now wait to find out what else I don't know--a very weird feeling now I've reached the Heinz old age of 57. And I find that I am at odd moments so grateful for the reappearance of love in my life that I can hardly breathe. Yes, the sex is great, and God knows that helps smooth out some of the bumpier bits.

But it is the infinite tenderness that completely undoes me, and has from the beginning, when the Goat reached out and offered what amounted to a one-night stand for what was left of a man.

What strikes me is how what I had really lost was my faith: I knew what God wanted, and I had walked away from it. How could I not pay a price? Well, the answer is that I did pay a price, and as Bigg says, it was giving up everything I held dear, including my idea of myself, at which I had labored so long. Where my failure to believe comes in is that I could not believe that God had something good up his sleeve for me, several somethings, in fact. There was the not inconsiderable item that He [sorry, girls] really did love me exactly as I was--"without one plea." Now I had never doubted that, but I had never experienced it in such an obliterating, vivifying way. And there was the idea that He could grant me the one thing I thought I would never see again: a love worthy of the name.

Having had it and having walked away from it when I felt the price demanded for its continued life was too high to pay, I thought for sure that I lost all claim to love at all. Sure, I set about trying to remake myself as a gay man, down to furnishing my bedroom with two bureaus, two bathrobes, all the stuff the Ann Landers contingent advised in making a man welcome in your home as well as your bed, and then some--I have never done things by halves. But I never expected to find anyone as beautiful, funny, talented in the kitchen as well as the bedroom as the person I had had and chosen to leave. How could I "expect" to be struck by lightning twice in my life?

And yet, the thing I have to admit, the thing that drives my gratitude into high gear, is that I have been continually struck by lightning, my whole life long. From the moment of my birth, I have been loved by somebody or other--I have never had to live in the awareness that there was no one who cared for me. It makes a pretty big difference in the way you walk through life; yes, you can ignore how lucky you are and take it all for granted, but I rarely [dare I say never?] fell quite that low--it was all just to clear to me from the way I reacted to others: I responded with affection when in fact little or none was on the table to begin with. I got kicked in the pants a few times, but who doesn't? The fact is, I have always been blessed, and most of the time have managed to be grateful. That makes walking away from the sources of that blessed happiness all the harder, and makes imagining happiness on the other side of it nearly impossible.

Other than all the above, what struck me about Bigg's post is the way Walt Disney's heavy hand has landed on all of us. It's nothing personal, it's just that he roots in the real American religion that substitutes hope for faith, and nature for God--even priests and ministers in America wax eloquent on nature to the point that you wonder if it has ever occurred to them that the God of the Jews created us in time, not space. Look at the images Disney chose to accompany "Ave Maria" in Fantasia: shapes that look like nuns in habits but aren't walk through a grove of trees whose limbs somehow form Gothic arches without being them. And then there's the poisonous drivel that makes us all think that we wish for something hard enough, the Blue Fairy will deliver it. Ha!

That would make as cynical a sentence to post over the gates of Auschwitz as the actual "Work will set you free."

Hope requires you to know what you wish for; faith hopes for things "unseen," things undreamt of, unwished for yet. Faith calls upon the future to break into the hell which half of the present always is for some of us, and redeem it. Wishing upon a star means that if you know what you want, and want it hard enough to "deserve" it, you'll get it--but I would not advise most of you to hold your breath...

God's grace, on the other hand, which is the response to any degree of faith [and I mean faith in anything, my agnostic friends, even faith in a Disney song], is always undeserved. Which is what makes it so overwhelming if you open your eyes to see that is not your wishing that "makes it so."

So here I am. My comment in response to Bigg's post was not as eloquent as it should have been, and while I can't exactly improve my eloquence, I can at least fiddle with the words. What I came close to saying was this:
Everything of value can be lost; everything that has life will someday die. The only things that cannot die are those that were dead to begin with. Real life begins when you take that on board and live in the knowledge that everything you treasure will, indeed must, at some point slip away. So, live life while you can--make life worth living. Know what you have been given, what you can give in return.

Or, as the
Goat is fond of saying: carp that diem.
That's my message for the day, guys.
In fact, it's my message for pretty much every day:
Carp that diem.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


I haven't posted anything recently.

It's partly that it's been raining since the dawn of time and my chlorophyll levels are down to nil, which means that I barely have the energy to get out of bed in the morning.

It's partly that I am now working out at the college job four days a week and commuting back to the Big Woods to sleep four nights a week, and keep thinking I am going to meet myself coming and going on the highway.

It's partly that what between the wedding and trying to meet a few deadlines on time before the Goat and I take off for the West Coast, I feel like I don't have the time to breathe. I do, I just feel like I don't. I waste enough time on the internet to get most everything done; guess how I spend the time...

New deadline on semi-new job next weekend... aaaaaaaaaaaaargh!

Anyway, it's not that life doesn't go on. It's just that as it goes on, I get shorter of breath all the time. Must be something about being Beyond Fifty-Five...

We had dinner with a bunch of very nice thirty-somethings the other night, and I felt like such a geezer I probably made more than one remark too many on the subject. Also tried to explain things to people who knew more about them than I do--and how I HATE it when people [no names, please] do that to me.

Do you think I could still turn into my mother before I die? God help us all.

I went and saw "UP" again this evening, after dinner with the Favorite Daughter. I still laughed out loud. And what I really love is the way Pixar stories are constructed down to the millimeter.

As Ibsen is said to have said: if a gun is hanging over the mantle in the first act, make sure it goes off in the last act; and for God's sake, if a gun is going to go off in the last act, make damn sure you hang it over the mantle in the first act...

"I do not like the cone of shame."
That about sums up my life, come to think of it.

Hang in there.
And keep breathing.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I realize that the last time I ran posts about having “Second Thoughts,” I was quoting advice from [not around any more, and what does that mean?] about the reality of gay sex, and how the [male] human body is not in fact built for either of the classic items at the top of the menu.

Something about a gag reflex at one end [click here] and involuntary clenching of muscles at the other [click here]… you know what I mean.

[In actual fact, the first is only a problem when one of us gets carried away, and the second, I am constantly assured, takes years to overcome—another cheerful note from my “little Goat music.” I’m not entirely sure I look forward to life without a functioning escape hatch, but at the rate I’m going I’ll only have to worry about it for a few years before I die, at which point lots of things don’t work. And to be frank, nothing has really functioned at 100% since I turned 40…]

This time, however, my ruminations are on a plane more metaphysical than merely physical: I have [no surprise here] been thinking about the wedding and its fall-out.

There was only one thing that made the wedding a sad experience for me, and that was Isis’ inability to treat me like a human being. Now, I know I am a rather impatient person, and that I was ready for everything to be just fine between us a year after I left home. I know that was premature. I almost knew it at the time… But not even being able to say “hello” after three years seems a little much; she avoided me so assiduously all afternoon that I didn’t even try to say goodbye. My little attempt at congratulating her on a wonderful event produced only the well-known facial paralysis and the shortest possible reply.

Well, much as she may not have wanted me or my family there, she rose above all that and invited us anyway. Gold Star Number One.

And she, who had so carefully kept my family at bay for three years had to see all of us not only back at the house after three years of exile, but cheerfully reunited with the surviving members of her family; the Happy Event ensouled what might have been only chatter, and the good cheer was palpable. It’s true that everyone was on their good behavior, on better than their good behavior:

I just found out that Big Brother had sat down with the weirder of Isis' Three Sisters, who would usually [in Lewis Carroll's immortal words] “try the patience of an oyster,” and not only managed not to lash out at her, but was actually nice to her. Gold Star Number Two and wonder of wonders!

Aside from the beaming happiness of the newlywed couple, and its reflection on the faces of everyone else, but especially Son B’s two beaming siblings, and the presence of all Isis’ family after years of internal strife, the fact that the two families sat down in happily unarranged confusion and just had a good time together in the mingled seating was the thing that moved me most. It bowled me over, actually. What a happy event, and what a happy outcome!

So, I’m not complaining. I got to talk to Son B’s godmother, who has always taken Isis’ part like the mother tigress she otherwise does not in any way resemble, and she seemed genuinely glad to see me. I got to talk to Isis’ eldest sister, and she seemed either glad to see me or just very good at maintaining a professional exterior. If that’s what it was, I took it as friendliness, which I am quite unable to do with Isis’ professional exterior, which is all I get to see. [Now, I’m not stupid. I know that she is using her shell to protect herself from feelings that are still too close to the surface to tolerate; I saw that all too clearly when I met her at her office in town.] I got to talk to most of my nephews and nieces, including the ones that are supposedly no longer mine.

I guess what moved me so much was that we all got back together, not as though nothing had happened, but as though we still belonged together. Poor Isis. It must have been hard to sit and watch: despite all her best efforts to retroactively deny twenty-five years of belonging together, those years rose right over those efforts and put everything in a very different perspective. No one asked for forgiveness, no one granted it. But there was a clear understanding in the air that twenty-five years is too solid a foundation to yield to even the most determined efforts. None of it would have been possible, I think, had I showed up with the Goat on my arm. I understood the fact that he was not invited, even if he did not; Isis’ ability to give had limits, and opening her gates to the enemy as she did by inviting us all to the wedding probably pushed her as close to them as she could bear.

I said as much to Son B’s godmother, who is one of my favorite people in the world and someone I had been shy of contacting—after all, she had spent plenty of time taking me to task over my shortcomings as a husband long before things finally came apart. She could obviously see how happy I was that the event should have come off at all, let alone so well, and how hurt I was that Isis felt the need to continue stonewalling me [now there’s an irony of language for you]. With the remarkable gentleness that marks her, she said that things would have to get better now: surely this was the hardest event for Isis.

I should have nodded and smiled and called it a day; instead I demurred and admitted that the Goat might come along for the second wedding day at the bride’s home next year. You could almost hear the thought arriving in her optimistic nature like the stink-bomb it was. Oh well. Telling the truth has gotten me into plenty of trouble, but nothing has ever gotten me into so much trouble as lying. So, I just put it out there. To her credit, she was still friendly when we said goodbye.

On the other hand, after my attempt to make sure that Isis and I weren't talking to each other for the first time on the wedding day, and the subsequent awkward--not to say "dreadful"--meeting in her office, Isis never spoke to me at the wedding at all, except once in answer to a direct question and under duress.

You know, if I had been clever enough to consider the high probability that she would not have budged much since Son B's college graduation two years earlier [when I first got the full Mount Rushmore treatment], I could have saved both of us a great deal of pain. But that's me all over:

always trying to do the right thing and winding up with my foot in my mouth or flat on my ass, over and over again. It makes you think.

You know, sometimes things do just go on getting better.
Sometimes things turn out to have been darkest just before the dawn.

If I could just learn how to be patient, my life would be easy.
Easier, anyway.

Hang in there, guys.
I’m doing the best I can.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


It's true I came home high on the event,

My heart so brimming full I had to speak,

But I had left that place where my poor heart had filled,

And drove away to be with you.

I'd hoped you could come with me but I went alone,

Found pain and joy both at their peak.

I called to have your voice at least take part,

Then left my children to give you your due.

Forgive me: in my joy I was relentless,

Little thought your own soul was so bleak.

I talked on till you loosed that little dart,

Hurt me as I unwitting had hurt you.

My heart again grew full, but now with tears
My love, let love drive out our fears...


Monday, June 22, 2009


You may remember that although I asked my son twice, he held to his position that the Goat was not to be invited to his wedding. Given that the wedding was being performed by his mother at her house, that all made sense to me, but not, needless to say, to the Goat.

Isis agreed that I could contribute to the wedding as well as attending; I offered to provide the alcohol, an offer which was--wonder of wonders--actually accepted. A similar olive branch was offered my mother, who paid for the cake and the flowers. But otherwise, Isis did it all herself and took no offers of help until the weekend of the wedding, when her best friend and the members of the younger generation arrived, and they all pitched in to pull off the last minute food prep.

I never got a final head-count from the Happy Couple, who were presumably too busy with other things to keep track, so I was left buying wine and beer and hard cider and prosecco for an indeterminate number of people. The best estimate Son B could give me was that forty people were coming, and thirty of them would drink; but Isis had said there might be as many as sixty people coming. What to do?

I finally decided to take the number of guests posited by Son B and treat it as the potential pool of drinkers in a crowd of indeterminate size. So, how many out of forty will drink wine and how many beer? [The hard cider was there for the bride, as was the prosecco, though the quantity of prosecco had been somewhat expanded to allow a general toast.]

I dithered this way and that and finally bought beer for two thirds of forty, and wine for two thirds of forty, in hopes that it would all work out, splitting the wine equally into red and white. I had no idea what sort of food was being served, or I might have done better at divvying up the wine. What I might have thought was that all the meat would be cold, and in fact in turned out to be salmon and chicken. No one in the know would drink red wine at a reception where chicken and fish were the only meat served, and even for those of us not in the know, cold white wine would be more appealing on a summer's day. But then, buying without knowing what was being served, I rather overdid the red and fell a little short with the white wine--but only because I thought I had bought way too much white and held a few bottles back. Well, I almost got it right.

The story of my life...

I also asked both Isis and Son B if it were allright if I might speak at the wedding, though true to form I did it backwards, and asked Isis first. Her response was to point out bitterly how little right I had to speak on the subject of marriage, as though failure were not as demanding a teacher as success. Another wise female friend was of the opinion that I had forfeited not only the right to speak at this wedding, but at any wedding. That seemed a bit much to me. Son B, once I got around to asking him, was more congenial, but I was left with the dilemma that I had to make sure not to mention marriage, and a number of other topics, to keep the lid on Isis' displeasure.

It's hard to write a speech when half your functioning brain is busy censoring the thoughts that are slowly coming together out of the other half. My wise if censorious friend suggested a way out of the dilemma: I should just write down what I want to say, and ask a few trusted people what they thought of it.

Most people are rightly wary of offering advice, but the three good friends I asked were receptive, as they could see I was clearly in over my head; I got some great advice, but it only added to the censorship problem. In the end it was the Goat, bless his heart, who cut the Gordian knot: he simply said that I had the option of writing in metaphor--once the message moved onto a poetic plane, it could easily become vague enough to mention all the things I wanted to touch on without naming names or events that were Beyond the Pale at this wedding, at least. And I did find that as soon as I started trying to craft a poem, which became two sonnets in harness, all the earlier anxieties fell away. The need to maintain rhyme and meter offered ways around a lot of the thornier issues. I was rather proud of it once I was done. It was another acrostic poem, with the names of the happy couple threaded through it, or I would post it here...

Writing it made clear as little else has, just how liberating restraints are to me--in this case, figuratively, though the literal bears some weight as well... but even I could see that the literal was truly not a topic for a wedding.

So when the day rolled around, I was in fact nervous as a cat, but prepared. The Goat had made other plans for the weekend so that he wouldn't have to be sitting at home feeling sorry for himself; he went to a good friend's Midsummer Bare-ass Bear, Beer, and Booze party up on a mountaintop. Once I realized that I was far too nervous to concentrate, I drove over to meet him, and spend the night, which forced him out of the little tent he had brought along and into a motel room. Getting slightly stoned and slightly drunk and slightly @#$%ed took a lot of the tighter winding out of my mechanism, and I drove off after a ridiculously late breakfast, back to what had been home and the Happy Event, part I.

It was a beautiful day, warm but not so hot that standing outside made you want to crawl under a nearby rock, and everyone was in a good mood. Her family and my family were already mingling when I arrived a few minutes early--I had been given strict instructions that no one from my family was to arrived before the appointed hour, and I had passed that info on to my mother, who presumably had passed it on to my local siblings. Nevertheless, all but one of my family were already there mingling away when I arrived, and my mother was nervous about the last missing member of the clan, who arrived exactly one minute past the "not before" hour. I decided not to point out to my mother that he was not late; it was the others who had come early, in spite of specific instructions not to do so. I also decided that there was a little piece of my little black heart that rather liked the fact that the rest of the world was not overly concerned with any lines Isis might decide to draw in the sand.

It was a lovely ceremony, with Son B's siblings and the bride's foreign friends all taking small ceremonial parts. After all the limits imposed on me, it did surprise me a little bit that Isis chose to go on at some length about the importance of home, how this had been B's home, but that his bride's had been far away, and now they would have to find their home in each other. But I guess she felt no need to take any reciprocal heed of my feelings; it did seem that more than one line of her lovely speech had a barb or two in it just for me. I can't say it was intentional, but they lodged anyway.

And, you know what? I didn't really care.

Aside from the fact that Isis made her face a mask and backed off out of reach whenever I got anywhere near her, neither greeting me nor addressing me in any way except when asked a direct question [and then only once], I had a wonderful time. Her sisters were more than welcoming [the one who has the hardest time in life held my hand to her cheek and wouldn't let go, as the tears streamed down her face]. The three children on that side of the family were universally forthcoming; I suppose it helped that I actually still liked their lunatic father, whom their mother had divorced years before.

I made the tactical error, seeing the head-table layout, of assuming the groom's family would be sitting there, and asked Son B if I could sit with him. I turned out to be the only person over thirty at the table, and only one of two who actually spoke English during the meal. All around me the two families were mingled and chatting away as if there were no shadow on the proceedings, and I longed to be at one of the tables where English not only could be, but was, spoken.

Be careful what you wish for. It would have been far wiser to wait until the last minute to sit down, but that would have entailed making sure I was far enough away from Isis for her comfort, and close enough to either of my other two children to feel that I had sat with them.

Finally the prosecco was handed 'round. I made my little speech, and got a very nice response, especially from the happy couple. They really were happy. What I could not mention, of course, was how happy I had been on the same day in my own life, how my love for Isis filled me to the brim; how I was flush with the certainty that all but the very last chapter of my story had just been written. Well, everyone had told me I couldn't mention my own wedding, and I guess I see the wisdom in that.

The newlyweds were smiling so hard they were practically past ear-to-ear, and the happiness seemed to broadcast itself over the whole assembly. For me, the only exception was the grim determination of her who had been my wife, right there at the next table, not to look my way. She was certainly aware that I was aware of her, as the occasional flush beyond the general happy one betrayed.

What the hell!
I had a wonderful time, and by the time I left, the last of the guests not spending the night to depart, I had been able to have a talk with just about everyone.

I was so high on the positive aspects of the event that I called the Goat just to let him take part a little bit, to let me have his voice, if not his presence, at the feast. I dearly wanted to stay and hang out with my children, but I wasn't sure that it would have been considered a friendly gesture by the Lady of the House, and my heart was pulling me away toward Goatville. So I made my rounds, saying goodbye, not getting even the grace of a farewell from Isis, then hopped into my car and headed for the other set of hills.

The Goat was seated on my sofa in his living room--it's one of the many pieces of furniture I had no room for in my rooms, and on which he had agreed to take pity. I was so full of my own happiness that I sat down with him and just rattled on and on. I had his head in my lap, and caressed it while I told him all that had happened, how dazed I was at the friendly conversation I had been able to have with Isis' best friend as well as her eldest sister, and on down the line to Son A's very silly toast.

What I had failed to notice in my joy was the downward spiral of the Goat's mood. By the time I got to the end of my story, and let him know that I had been cautioned to be ready for some whiplash once only one of us was working--a situation we will enter in a year, in all likelihood--he must have been feeling pretty low, because his retort was a pretty nasty put-down. And I was completely unprepared.

It was like being kicked in the stomach. I sat there, still caressing his head, as all the joy of the day drained from my heart, and I felt it fill with the Goat's bitterness. I had been so eager to make him partake of the event, I had completely forgotten how much it had hurt him not to be invited, and how uneasily he had pretended he was over it. So, in return for my eagerness to share my joy, which I could see had brought him none, he now let me share his devastation. I couldn't believe that he could be so cruel. But then, I suppose he had thought I had been so first.

I see that now. All I saw at the time was his displeasure and anger. And all I felt at the time was that the joy of the day, which despite all the tension and pain of being a guest where I had long hoped to play the host, had been extinguished. I crept home and went to bed more miserable than I have been for a very long time.

The next morning I wondered, not for the first time, whether I had not made a terrible mistake in aligning myself with the Goat. I had spent the previous day having my nose rubbed in everything I had lost by leaving home, and roughly, too. Now it appeared that the only thing I had in the world to counter that dreadful loss was turning to dust in my hands. I wrote a poem for him [my way, as you may have noticed, of coping with the need to reveal my emotions, especially when they are high] and e-mailed it to him. I tried to recognize his sadness and my thoughtlessness, but also to remind him that I had called him from the wedding to hear his voice, that I had left my children and the long evening around their bonfire to be with him.

And got no reply. Under the circumstances, I didn't really see how I could drive out to his House in the Woods until I was sure he wanted me to be there. And until he could tell me that he wasn't as angry and displeased with me as he had been the night before, I wasn't about to go.

I left phone messages for him, asking him to let me know if he still wanted me to come; and asked myself what conclusions I should draw if he did not. As the hours wore on, I got sadder and sadder and got less and less done, aside from literal and figurative hand-wringing. At the very end of the afternoon, he called after finally getting one of the messages, and couldn't understand my reservations at all. It was as if the night before had never happened, as though I were crazy to have taken it to heart. And surely I knew that I had subjected him to worse, and he had bounced back without the need for reassurance. Or so he said. I got ready to go over, but my heart was still pretty heavy. All the way up the mountain, all I could think about was the way he had managed with one or two short but mightily bitter remarks to completely unseat the joy that reigned in my heart. How could he?

Well, when I finally arrived at the cabin, all was sweetness and light, and I was the one with the problem for being upset. That rather dazed me, but to tell you the truth, the main thing was that my question about how much he cared for me was taken care of as soon as we stopped talking. I rather think that talking is actually a trap for him. He is remarkably capable of expressing all kinds of emotion [and content] in the way he makes love.

And I found myself lying in his arms after he had done so, completely happy, completely at rest. As sure that he had forgiven me for whatever I had done to him as I could be without the two words that unlock my heart ["I'm sorry"] being spoken. And as sure that I had forgiven him. I suppose it is technically possible to lie while lying with someone, but it is a horrible art, if a high one. The Goat's talent is rather different, and it leaves no doubt about what moves him to make his moves. Once again I was overwhelmed by the fact that one [I] could experience something so utterly new, so utterly overwhelming, at the ripe old age of 55, and have it borne out week after week, leaving me just as week in the knees at 57.

It's a mad world, my masters.

Oh, and the funny part:

At the Goat's mountaintop Bare-ass Bear event, I ran into someone from Nowheresville. It was the Alaskan Brown Bear I had taken out to dinner when he came East to look for a house a year or so ago. The one who made me realize how much a certain kind of vulnerable glance coming out of a face covered in fur turned me on--that impossibly powerful particular blend of the masculine and feminine... ah, fur! In any case, we chatted for quite a while, and I admired a new tattoo he had gotten on his first trip back to the Other Coast since he and his partner had pulled up stakes for the Bay State. It was great to reconnect. I came home to a rather embarrassed e-mail from the ABB, who remembered our conversation from long ago, and my tale of my coming out again, and how coming out for leather had been so much harder for me than what I had done in college--it was actually leather rather than gayness I was working so hard to overcome, not to have to accept.

Well, it turns out that my little Alaska Brown Bear has discovered something new about himself, and it made him realize that he really only knew one other person who had at last embraced leather rather late in life--although the ABB and I do part company as to when "late" sets in, as I don't think forty qualifies--and that maybe the two of us might have some things to talk about. I hastened to reply that I was sure we did, but that he should not regard me as having any particular expertise--I just knew what I liked. He said that was just what he needed; he had plenty of black belts around, and what he needed was more of a worm's eye view of the undertaking.

That I can certainly offer. So the next time I drive up to my mother's, I get to make a side-trip to the ABB's front porch, and a view of someone else's confusion, for a change. Just another little adventure waiting to happen.

We just keep on keeping on.
Although the devil does generally take the hindmost...