Thursday, February 25, 2010

a letter to my paternal grandmother

This is a letter to my paternal grandmother that I would like to send to her today. I've written similar letters to two of my other grandparents on their birthdays. This one is more... difficult, for reasons that you'll see. Some of the other people mentioned are her husband, who I called Granddaddy, and her other children, Aunt B and Uncle W.

Hi Grandma.

You would be 85 today. The family has grown since you died 9 years ago. You have three new greatgrandchildren, including my son Leo. The rest of the family is doing well. Your house was sold after you died. It wasn't the same after the new highway went in and took out half of your neighborhood. Your house was the last one on your street that wasn't removed, so it is close to the new road.

I need to let you know that I know your secret, and have known parts of it since I was a teenager. I realize that you are probably ashamed about what happened, but in my opinion you shouldn't be. It wasn't your fault. I know that you went to great lengths to hide it all of your life, and you mostly succeeded.

I first found out part of your secret at the dinner table when I was an early teen. I commented that it was strange that Uncle W, my dad's younger brother, was named after his father, when it is usually the first son who is named after the father. Dad told me then that Granddaddy wasn't his biological father. I was shocked but didn't ask many questions. It turns out that Dad didn't know much more than that at the time. Later I found out that he discovered it by looking through some family papers when he was 11 and finding his adoption paperwork. That must have been devastating to a kid, to find out that his father wasn't his biological father and that the truth had been hidden from him.

It was only after you died, Grandma, that Dad found out the whole story. Uncle Herbert, your last sibling, told Dad all that he knew in the last few months before he died.

Grandma, I want you to remember that you have nothing to be ashamed of.

It wasn't your fault.

He was your high school bus driver.

You were only 15 years old.

He raped you.

Then about 9 months later Dad was born.

You told your family, and the police got involved. But in 1940 in rural South Carolina, it was his story against yours. There was no DNA evidence then, so he was questioned by the police and released without charges being filed. That must have been awful for you.

Your plan was to leave Dad with your parents to have them raise him while you moved away and lived with Aunt Ruth and Uncle Harry. But you were the youngest of eight children, and your parents were old. Your father died when Dad was 3 or 4 years old, and not long afterward your mother became too old to live alone. By then you had met and married Granddaddy, so Dad and your mother moved in with you and Granddaddy.

It must have been very difficult for you, because Granddaddy's family never accepted Dad as part of their family. When Dad discovered that his father adopted him, he understood why Granddaddy's parents didn't show him any love. One of the "funny family stories" about your bad temper concerned your relationship with your mother in law. She lived across the street from you, and one day came over with a Coca-Cola and a cup. She gave half to Uncle W and half to Aunt B, her biological grandchildren, and didn't give any to Dad. She had started to walk back across the street when you came out and saw that Dad didn't have any. When you asked Dad about it and he said that he wasn't given any, you grabbed the drink from Aunt B and Uncle W and poured it out. You then grabbed the glass bottle, threw it across the street directly at your mother in law's head, missing only by inches, and screamed at her "I have three children, not two!" When Granddaddy got home after work, you met him outside and sent him across the street to talk to his mother. I never understood that that wasn't a funny story at all, but a mother defending her child, until I knew your secret. I understand why Dad was kind of your favorite, since you had to defend him.

You hid your secret well. Uncle W didn't know that Dad was adopted until Dad told him after you died. You and Granddaddy never celebrated your anniversary so as not to let your kids know that you were married a few years after Dad was born.

I hinted to you a few years before you died that I knew about Dad's birth circumstances, but you ignored my hint and didn't want to discuss it. I guess that you were still ashamed, nearly 60 years later.

I do have to ask why you gave Dad, and he gave me, such weird first and middle names. Our first name is a last name, supposedly of a family friend of your father's who did some bid favor for the family. And our middle name is, well, a girl's name. I know that you didn't mean it that way, and it's spelled differently, but it's still a girl's name. And our last name is sometimes a first name. I can't tell you how often my first and last names are reversed.

But I have lots of good memories of you, Grandma. Mom went back to work when I was just a few months old, and she left me in your care each day. Then once I started school, she picked me up and took me to your house each day after school until she or Dad got off work and picked me up. You were in some ways a second mother to me. We always had a good time, although looking back I watched way too much television.

I still feel bad about your last hospitalization. You had been in and out of the hospital so many times about your intestinal problems that the last time didn't seem any different. With the time difference, by the time I came home each night visiting hours were over and I didn't call to talk to you. I didn't realize that something would happen and you would die during that hospitalization. I guess that nine years later I should forgive myself, but I still can't. I can still hear your voice when I would call you on the phone and you would use the nickname for me that no one else ever called me.

I miss you, Grandma. I wish that you had lived long enough to meet Leo. I tell him about you. He likes to hear family stories and there are several about you and Dad that he enjoys.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I screwed up

I screwed up big time. David, my husband, is a rower, and his big event for the spring is the San Diego Crew Classic at the end of March. He thought that he was going to fly to San Diego on that Friday and come home on Sunday. Now his coach wants all of the team down there for a practice on Thursday afternoon. That means that his parents would have to pick up our son Leo from school and take him to their house both Thursday and Friday afternoons until I get off work, and they would have to take him to school on Friday morning since I have to leave for work before I can take him to school.

Here's where I screwed up. I have to work one weekend day each month, and I thought that I had requested to be off that weekend. But I just found out that I have to work all that Saturday. So I can either try to trade with someone and have that person work that Saturday and I'll work for him or her another day, or ask my in-laws to watch Leo for a long time. I can't believe that I didn't request the time off.

David isn't happy with his coach right now. She seems to be putting him in the "B" or slower boat, even though he had the second fastest time on the teams' erg or indoor rowing test on rowing machines. He thinks that he should be in the faster boat. I hope that the situation works out for San Diego. He enjoys his trips there and was planning to stay with a friend who will soon be moving to D.C.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"bill seeks end to gay 'cure' mandate"

That was a headline in the Sacramento Bee this morning. For those of you who don't know, Sacramento is California's capital, and the Bee (the local newspaper) watches the state government closely. Assembly bill 2199 seeks to repeal a law passed in 1967 that requires the state Department of Mental Health to "plan, conduct and cause to be conducted scientific research into the causes and cures of sexual deviation... and the causes and cures of homosexuality..."

The bill was introduced by Democratic assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal of Long Beach. A spokesperson for the Department of Mental Health said that if any research was ever done it ended decades ago. Equality California, the statewide gay rights group, brought the law to the attention of the assemblywoman. She said "The fact that this language has survived this long is pretty amazing. We need to blot it out and make it clear that we're moving forward as a society, not backward."

Let's hope that it passes. I don't need to be "cured". It seems to me that someone should have the responsibility to look over old laws every few years and bring shit like this to everyone attention and get rid of it. Until a few years ago there were still local laws on the books mandating that certain "races" of people couldn't live in areas of Sacramento. It took the state legislature to act to remove the laws, even though they weren't enforceable.

Sorry to quote a newspaper story so much, but this shit gets me really angry.

On a more positive note, I saw that Minnesota's legislature is holding a hearing Monday on bills to allow marriage equality there, and another to establish a domestic partnership with many of the rights of marriage. The bills won't be voted on, and some in the state say that the hearing is just for show, but any little bit of progress is progress. I think of Mikey (of I write this, since he lives in Minnesota and is the one that got me started in blogging. Marriage probably isn't an issue for Mikey now, but maybe it will be in the future.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Leo plays the blues, and Moo Moo the Cow

Lately when Leo has been sent to his room for a timeout for misbehavior, he will start to play his harmonica. A family friend plays the harmonica and Leo wanted to as well. He now only seems to play it during timeouts. David said that the music seems sad, so he wrote on his Facebook account that he didn't expect his six year old son to be playing the blues. Phil, David's father, wrote that the blues are better than what David played as a child when he was sent to his room. He had a record player (yes, I do mean record player for you young readers) and would play "Moo Moo the Cow" over and over and over again. It drove Phil crazy. Maybe that was David's goal - to make his punishment so unpleasant for everyone that he would be unlikely to be punished. I wouldn't doubt the adult David that I know and love doing that, but I don't know if he was like that as a kid. David says that he has no memory of Moo Moo the Cow or playing the record.

Monday, February 15, 2010

San Francisco anniversary gifts

As I said yesterday, we celebrated our San Francisco anniversary and Valentine's Day. I gave David a new suit jacket. Really, he picked it out and bought it but I "gave" it to him.

I asked David to give me a necklace that I picked out on, a website that lets artists sell their creations online. Here is the necklace. It has the heart on the smallest disk, then Leo's name on the middle one, and David's on the largest disk. I wanted to wear something with their names on it. If I were younger I might have chosen a tattoo, but a necklace works.

It's strange, now that I think of it. I never liked jewelry in the past, but now I have our wedding ring on my left ring finger, the ring that David gave me for Christmas on my right ring finger, a woven bracelet on my right wrist, a woven anklet on my left ankle, and now a necklace.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

our San Francisco anniversary

Today is Valentine' Day, but for me it's the anniversary of the first time that David and I were married. In February 2004, Gavin Newsome, the mayor of San Francisco, ordered his staff to offer marriage licenses to all couples regardless of their sexual orientation. The first couple married was Del Lyon and Phyllis Martin, who had been advocates for equal rights for lesbians and gays since the 1950s. Then other couples were married. We heard about it on the Thursday before Valentine's Day. We had planned a "date night" for the two of us that Valentine's night, and Millie and Phil were going to babysit Leo. But when the chance to get married came up, I wanted to go for it. David was skeptical regarding the legality of the marriage but went along for me. So Valentine's morning, the three of us plus Millie and Phil drove to San Francisco, which is about 70 miles away.

When we arrived about 10:30, the line was about 3/4 of the way around City Hall. We stood in line from 10:30 until about 3:00, then were finally in the chaos of the clerk's office. The staff volunteered to work on Saturday and were handling huge volumes of marriage applicants. Once we received our license, there were city workers who were deputized (if that's the right word) to perform the ceremonies, and one of Gavin Newsome's assistants married us, with Leo and Millie and Phil watching.

As we came out of City Hall, there were a few UC Berkeley students giving out flowers to the couples. I still have the dried petals from the flowers.

Afterward, we called another gay couple that we knew in San Francisco. We met them though our adoption agency, and they adopted their son about 6 months before Leo was born. They got married on Thursday or Friday. They invited us over to their house and fed the five of us dinner.

As you know, the California Supreme Court later declared the marriages "null and void", but invited people affected to file suit challenging the exclusion of same sex couples from marriage. That led to the decision for marriage equality in 2008, and we were married again in August 2008.

So now we have three anniversaries that we celebrate. The one that we think of as our real anniversary is the day of our first date, which was in July 1991. It was the only date that we celebrated for over a decade. Then we added our San Francisco anniversary on Valentine's Day. Plus we have the date that we were legally married. So we kinda celebrate all three, but mostly our July first date anniversary.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

dead possum brownies

Last summer David and I had a misadventure with a dead possum. For those who don't know, a possum, or opossum if you want the correct term, is North America's only marsupial. They look like big balding rats.

One Saturday morning last summer I went for a morning run while David and Leo were at Leo's swim lesson. When I got home, I went in the backyard for some reason, and just outside the back door I saw a large, dead possum. Since David has lived here nearly all of his life, I waited until he was home to ask how we should get rid of the body. Our concern was that it might have been rabid, since there has been a number of rabid wild animals around here lately. He called the animal control department, and in the past they would pick up dead animals, but with the budget cuts during this recession they no longer do that. So we decided to put it in the trashcan. We didn't want to pick it up with our hands, so we went to get our shovel. We looked everywhere in our garage and couldn't find the shovel anywhere. So David called his mom, who lives about 3 miles away and asked if we could come over and borrow her shovel. She was about to leave to run errands so offered to bring it over.

When she arrived, we lead her to the backyard, explaining that we couldn't find our shovel anywhere. As she stepped out the back door, she turned her head and said "You mean this shovel?" We looked and there was our shovel leaning against the house. I must have walked right by it three or more times that morning. We were both embarrassed.

So we double bagged the possum into trash bags. But then David had a thought. Our trash is picked up on Friday, so wouldn't be picked up again for six days. A dead possum in the trash in our garage in the summer when 100 degree heat isn't uncommon would smell really bad quickly. He knew that his mom's trash is picked up on Monday, so in only two days. So he asked his mom what type of bribe it would require for her to take the possum home and put it in her trash. She said that if we fed her lunch that she would do it. So we made her lunch, and she sat and read to Leo as they ate together. After lunch we thought that we should offer her dessert, and David had baked a batch of brownies that morning using a new recipe. So he gave her the whole batch of brownies. Later he wanted some himself, so he baked another batch. When they were done, he asked if we wanted some "dead possum brownies." That's now become the name of that brownie recipe. So if any of my readers ever come to visit, we'll offer you dead possum brownies.

Jimmy, I told you that I would send you this story in an email, but it was too good not to share, We really aren't the space cadets that you might think from this story. David actually has a PhD. But his field of study wasn't possums or finding lost shovels.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I've got a stiffy

I've got a stiffy today and it won't go away. I woke up with it and it's still here. I've done all that I can think to do to get relief - I've stroked it, rubbed it, massaged it and nothing has changed. Won't it go away sometime soon? It's affecting the way I walk now. I had a meeting at work this morning and had to sit there with it. Ugh. I even took medication and it didn't help. Any ideas? It's mostly the right side that is stiff, the left side is fine. What do you do when you have a stiff neck?

Wait, you thought that I was talking about a what?? Is sex the only thing on your mind? Probably yes. ;-)

Seriously, I do have a stiff neck today, so why not have some fun with it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

pink and purple

Leo came home from first grade a while ago saying that pink and purple are "girl colors" and blue is a "boy color." Anyone who wears pink or purple is a girl, according to some of his male classmates. I thought about letting that comment slide, but David and I discussed it and decided that we were going to respond to the rigid gender stereotypes of American society. So the next day I deliberately wore a pink shirt and David wore a purple one. We asked Leo if we were girls. He of course said no. We pointed out the color of our shirts and asked if we wear pink or purple does that make us a girl? He again said no. So we had a discussion with him about colors just being colors, that people can wear whatever color they want. He's growing up with two dads, so I want to make sure that he doesn't accept that there are rigid limits on what a person can do based only on his or her sex.

To me, one of the best parts of being gay is that I can ignore any gender stereotypes that I want. I've already broken the biggest rule of what a man shouldn't do, to have sex with another man, and in my case, usually in the "woman's" role. I've realized that's a ridiculous rule, so why not break others? So I have a pink shirt that I wear to work on occasion. Why not? F*ck the rules.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

a letter to my grandfather

This is a letter that I would like to send to my maternal grandfather, who was called Pop-Pop by all of his grandchildren. He died in 1990, but there are some things that I would like to say to him. So I am writing this as a letter that I would like to send to him. I wrote a similar post to his wife, who I called Noon, on her birthday in December.

Hi Pop-Pop.

Today is your 105th birthday, so happy birthday.

I regret that I never really got to know you as a person. I remember visiting your home often as a child. You would usually be sitting in your rocking chair on the front porch, or in your chair in the living room. I would say hello to you as I was walking by, often to find Noon. We didn't say much to each other. The longest conversation that I can remember us having was once when I asked you about your experiences in Viet Nam, where you worked as a civilian for the military during the Viet Nam war era. You talked for what seemed like an hour about your experiences. I don't remember you being so animated in discussing anything else. I still have the little jacket that you sent to me in 1966 from Viet Nam.

You now have five greatgrandchildren, four more than when you died at age 85. All of your grandchildren graduated from college, and three of us have advanced degrees, so we were late in having children.

There is one thing about you that always bothered me, Pop-Pop - your racism. Our family is generally mellow, but the biggest argument that I can remember was about your racism. Your oldest daughter, who I'll call Lisa, had one of her coworker's brother die on the job as a police officer. You said, and I cringe writing this, "The only good (N word) is a dead (N word)." She started yelling and you yelled back. She got up and left, and if it had happened now, I would have too, but I was at most 12 years old at the time. You grew up in the segregated southern United States, so I guess it was because of the attitudes that you were taught, but I expect better of my grandparents. But I accepted you and loved you as you were. In some ways, in may have been good that you died before I brought David home to meet the family, since you may not have handled it well. I never officially came out to the extended family, but they figured it out and I've had nothing but acceptance. You might not have handled having two of your three grandsons being gay.

I also worry about what killed you, colon cancer. My mother has had colon polyps removed, so the risk for cancer is there in her. I'll get checked out once I'm a little older.

Near the end of your life, you were worried that Noon was having affairs with other men. That is just ridiculous knowing her. But it seems to be a common fear of men if they have mild dementia, as I think you had. You once told one of your other grandchildren that you thought she was having an affair with my father, and it was all my cousin could do not to laugh at you, since the thought of the two of them having an affair was so outrageous.

You are part of the reason that I named my blog "green ectomorph" and that my email address is "greenandpurplelizard." Your last or surname was Green, but it was originally Greene. I think that it was your father the dropped the final "e" after too many ignorant people tried to pronounce it "Greeny." There were green lizards in the bushes around your front porch, and they would climb up the screens. When I was a kid, you told me that you had a pet lizard named Greeny that you kept outside in the bushes, and every time that I would look for him I would find one. I never caught on that it was a different lizard each time. I do have good memories of spending time with you, but not nearly as many as with Noon.

You surprised everyone by converting to Catholicism just a few months before you died. Your family didn't continue in the church, in that none of your grandchildren attend church now. Yes, all but one of us graduated from Catholic high schools, but we weren't really given a choice.

I hope that you enjoyed your life, Pop-Pop. You never talked about your emotions and were so stoic. It's strange that I don't know if you were happy or not.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

an athletic weekend for the family

Yesterday David competed in an indoor rowing competition at the boathouse of a local university. Indoor rowing isn't on boats inside, it is on ergometers or rowing machines. The machines are set up identically and are all linked to each other and to a central computer. Each competitor can see his or her progress and how he or she is doing compared to the competition. The race is 2000 meters and it is taken very seriously. The college rowers in particular row to exhaustion. The last time I went, the boathouse was overly heated so the college rowers stripped down to next to nothing. By the time they were finished, they were covered in sweat and exhausted. One in particular finished and just rolled off to the side and couldn't get up for a while. Seeing a hot college student, laying there covered in sweat, wearing very little, unable to move... well, bad thoughts went through my head for a moment.

Anyway, David finished second in his age group and class. Being 6'4" and about 205 has its advantages. He won a silver medal, which Leo wanted for himself but David elected to keep. Here's a photo of his medal.

Today Leo and I ran in a local road race. Leo ran the kids half mile run and I ran the 10k. Leo "runs like a rabbit" according to David, who was given the honor of running with him. David didn't mean he ran fast, more that he runs in bursts of speed, then slows down for a while. He also doesn't run in a straight line, but darts and weaves, partly to avoid other kid runners.

I've never been a fast runner but didn't do too badly, 51:46, for 8:21/mile. I finished 177th out of 958, so in the top 20%. I was the 15th male 45-49. Running is funny that way - there aren't many younger guys that run once you get past the high school runners, since the college guys don't bother with races like this. So if I had been younger, I would have placed better in my age group - I would have been 9th among men 40-44.

So that was our family's athletic weekend. We didn't watch the Superbowl. I would rather be active myself than watch others do a sport.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Canadian food

There were articles on the upcoming winter Olympics in Vancouver in the local newspaper this week. The food section has an article on Canadian food. It was surprising in part. I expected some of it, such as the maritime provinces having lots of seafood dishes and the prairie provinces having grain dishes. But I was surprised by poutine, which was described as "a rib-sticking concoction of french fries, cheese curds and gravy that is sometimes called Canada's national dish." There was also a dessert called Nanaimo bars, which David wanted to make but sounded very fatty for me. Anyone who's Canadian, or who has eaten these foods, have any comments?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"youths losing patience with blogging"

That was the headline in the newspaper this morning. A survey showed that younger people aren't blogging was much as they did a few years ago, and aren't commenting as much on blogs that they do read. Older people like me are blogging more now. Younger people are apparently using quicker social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

I hope that young people don't stop blogging. I enjoy reading and commenting on blogs and hearing people's response to my blog. As I told one of my readers, I feel for the younger gay bloggers. I've been where they are at and understand what they are going through, perhaps better than their parents can understand. I call it my "gay uncle" feelings - wanting to help and offer advice if needed. As someone who was a gay closeted teen and is now a parent, I can see both sides.

But I've also learned from blogging. I know much more about hockey than I ever did, thanks to Mikey and Jimmy. I read the suicide note of a 13 year old who almost killed himself when his family didn't handle his coming out well. He's doing better the last time that I read his blog.

Blogging fits me better than Facebook. I'm on Facebook, and accomplished what I set out to do there - I found my best friend from high school. But I also remembered why we lost touch in the first place - he's a flake who doesn't write back. He was the first person that I ever came out to, and his reaction was great -"I know" and it didn't change anything. Thanks Rob.

So keep blogging, no matter what your age.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

spring is almost here

The first trees to bloom each year started already, as they do in early February each year. I drive by a few of them on the way to work each day. I don't care what that dumb groundhog saw, spring is on the way here. We're having a wet El Nino winter, so I'm ready for spring. I saw the sun as I was leaving work yesterday, although I was leaving about 20 minutes early. I also had to use the sun visor on my car this morning, so the days are definitely getting longer.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

yes, you can wear your tie outside to play

David bought Leo a red necktie to wear to his grandparents' wedding, and he also wore it to his greatgrandfather's memorial service. (As an aside, kids' ties have improved since I was a kid. Leo's has a zipper built into it, so we just pull down the zipper which makes the loop for his neck larger, slip it on his neck, the pull up on the zipper and it's done.) Leo likes the tie and begged us to wear it to school before the wedding. We said no, but now he can wear it whenever he wants. He doesn't wear it with his t-shirts, so he wears his long sleeve button up shirts with it. On Sunday he was running around outside in sneakers, his black long pants that are half of his suit, a blue oxford shirt, and his red necktie. This is while he was running about with the other kids in the street. He was the best dressed kid out there.

I can understand that he wants to dress up on occasion. I can remember when my parents bought a suit for me when I was in kindergarten that I wanted to wear it to school. I thought that men in suits got lots of attention, and thought that I would get as much attention as Monty Hall on "Let's Make a Deal". Yes, I watched way too much television as a child, and he was the only man that I saw wearing a suit. I guess that I wanted more attention as a child.