And Still I Loved Him – Poem

I was Daddy’s favorite.
I was the apple of his eye.
But what he wanted me to be
was the cherry in his pie.
And still I loved him.

His hands smelled like sex
and cigarettes.
He touched me
with those filthy hands.
And still I loved him.

I suppose I didn’t know
that there were fathers
whose hands did not
smell like sex and
cigarettes. Or who
did not touch their
children when they did.

Mother was cold,
and prude, and she
never kissed me.
Father was affectionate,
but pervy, and
as I grew up I avoided
his kisses, which grew
ever more lecherous
and treacherous.
And still I loved him.

When I was 19, he
acknowledged what he
had done when I was 11.
Called it a

“moment of weakness.”

Oh, how it cost me
to lose that one small shred
of mercy, that little childish
delusion I had harbored
all those years, which he
might easily have preserved
with a little pretense,
that he had simply
been out of his mind and
wouldn’t even remember it.

But he remembered.

Without horror,
he remembered.

And still I loved him.

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My Brother’s Friend – Rumination

How are you so pretty and smart
and still so single?
I respond with a hearty laugh,
trying not to choke.
We are in public (on Facebook).
Apparently, my brother didn’t share
my lesbianity with you before he died.
I wonder if he was still a little ashamed,
or if he was just trying to protect my
right to privacy.
It does make you seem more than a
little unimaginative, though.
It’s so weird that you Facebooked me
even though we have probably only
ever met once, just because you loved
my brother and he is gone and he loved
me and maybe you liked what
I said at the funeral.
Were you one of the many highly tattooed,
denim and leather clad bikers with
braided beards weeping silently
in the audience?
I think you had been my brother’s
buddy for forty years, but I could
not have picked you out in a lineup.
We lived in different universes.
Nothing parallel about them.
Should I feel wistful remorse that
I never ran in your circles,
some deep curiosity about
who my brother was in that
universe?
I was content with the brother I
knew from the little sliver of
overlap floating between the Venn
diagrams of our lives.

I was just proud of him for not
ending up in prison. For not
doing drugs anymore. For
drinking nothing stronger than
Miller Light, finally understanding
the probability that hard liquor
and his uncontrollable rage would
land him in prison. Proud of him
for being a loving father
and grandfather.

Several of you invited me to the
bikers ‘party’ after the funeral
and I actually really wanted to go,
but I knew my sister and my mother
would never have forgiven me for
not being with them that night.
I considered it one of the hard
choices of my life.

Anyway, I’m still not sure why so
many of you friended me. Are you
hoping to see the ghost of my
brother in the bits of my life
I deem innocuous enough to post
that the evangelical community of
my childhood will not be horrified?
Is it because I am the “cool” sister
who drinks and cusses, while still
daring to preach some grasping
gasping faith in the divine at a funeral?

And where will you go and what
will you do if you learn
that I am a dyke?

What will you do with your one wild and precious life? A Eulogy

I pulled you out of your crib when
you were six weeks old to put you
in your walker, like I did my dolls.
I was three. It is amazing that you
lived to see your first birthday
with me as a sister.

At 15 months you saw our brother
hit and killed; you were not
wearing a mask; there was blood
everywhere;you must have seen
everything. What did it do to
your little developing soul?

At three you were still being
potty trained. I remember Mom
screaming and raging at you as
she cleaned you up the first night
we moved into the apartment on
Walnut Street. That rage would
be the hallmark of our
childhood.

It would haunt you throughout
your life. You came by your anger
and violence honestly. Handed
right down, mother to son. Of
course, she was the adult child
of an alcoholic. Too bad good
therapy was not available to
our social class. (And might
not have been welcome if it had
been).

You were a beautiful boy with a
beautiful smile. People often
thought you were a girl and I was
a boy because you smiled so
damned much and your hair
grew so fast.

Something happened when they
put you back in second grade
because your reading wasn’t up
to snuff. It was the year of the
divorce. You were eight. But you
had a growth spurt that made
you six inches taller than your
new classmates. It was hell
being the one who stuck out.

Your nose, my precious brother,
flat and somehow bridgeless,
made you feel like the ugliest boy
in the world. You were adorable,
my love. I wish you could have
felt it.

Kids made fun of your nose and
you threatened to give them one
just like it. The fighting began.

Being put back made you feel
like you were the dumbest boy
in the world. You would never
overcome that, to your dying day.

You were my faithful, adoring
little brother. We had such
adventures, crawdad hunting,
climbing trees, rescuing kittens.
Even then you told the funniest
stories, complete with wonderful
Warner Brothers Cartoon
imitations.

You were a sweet
heart, stuck.

While you were still in school,
you started collecting weapons.
Knives, Chinese stars, nun-
chucks. You lived with such fear.
Later you would advance to
guns. Mostly you used your size
and your fists when conflicts
arose (and didn’t they mostly
arise from within your own
soul?).

You were in and out of school for
the next eight years, always in
trouble for fighting with someone.
Your freshman year you got in a
fight with someone for throwing
an ice cream cone at the back of
your head. You were told you
could never come back to that
high school. It was the only high
school in town.

When you were 18, you tried to
go back. The teacher said you sat
in the back of the class with tears
streaming down your face. You
couldn’t do it. Later you would
get your GED while incarcerated.

You had a “big brother” for two
heartbeats. You had people try to
take you under their wing. But
no one could unbreak your heart.
No one could figure out how to put
the pieces of you together  again.
Not even me, much as I loved you.

You were 15 when I went off to
college. You felt so abandoned,
you moved out of the house and
in with a girl exactly my age. You
never explained this to me until
we were well into adulthood.
I had no idea.

A man from our church took you
into his auto shop and taught you
the business, one of the best things
that ever happened to you.  You
stayed in that business all your life,
rebuilding cars from the ground up.

You drove an old jalopy that looked
like it was held together with duct
tape and would have been rejected
by any self-respecting third world
country, but I think you drove it
to prove you could keep any vehicle
alive if you willed it. Also because
it used to belong to our dad, and
you were secretly sentimental.

You were in and out of jail and you
almost went to prison. You were
never a better letter writer than
when you were in jail. One time
when I was in grad school and you
were in the joint for 30 days, we
exchanged one letter per week.

I sent you a letter with a Doodle
Bug stamp. That was your babyhood
nick-name. You made the mistake of
sharing this with your cellmate.
Never lived that down.

When you grew up, you were
simply known as “Dude.” That
was back in the seventies before
people were using “dude”
ubiquitously as it is used now.
I asked you not that long ago
how you felt about everyone
taking your name in vain these
days. You smirked.

As an adult, you were six foot two,
280 lbs, and covered in tattoos. An
old Sunday school teacher of ours
saw you at a gas station once and
started to get right back in her car,
but then she recognized you and she
said, Oh, that’s just Eric. Sweet little
Eric.

You had a rough start of things, but
grew up to be a funny, loving, fun-
loving man with a lot of hard-won
wisdom. You were loved by everyone
who knew you.

You were a self-proclaimed redneck
who lived in a trailer with two pit
bulls, a rat terrier and a girlfriend
who was almost as decorated in
tattoos as you were. (Oh, I forgot the
boa and 15 rats you kept to feed it.)

You loved guns, Trump, and the
confederate flag. You had a sign
in the window with a picture of
a gun that read, We don’t call
911.

In your thirties you once complained
that I used to beat you up when we
were kids. I don’t remember that!
I remember that we would wrestle
and I would win. When you
complained I said, You should thank
me, Dude, because I made you the 
bad-ass that you are! But of course,
you did that all by yourself.

Evil Knievel was your idol when
you were a kid, and you were
always doing wheelies and all
kinds of stunts on your dirt bike.
You broke your arm when you
were eight, riding down a hill full
speed ahead on a bike that had
no brakes. It was never clear to
me whether you knew this at
the beginning of your descent.

At any rate, our apartments were
at the bottom of the hill and as
you came upon them, you put up
your arm to shield yourself from
a square iron pole, breaking your
arm in not one, but two places,
on either side of the pole. That
was one thing about you, Dude,
you never did things halfway.

As an adult, you continued living
dangerously with motorcycles and
cars. A few years ago, you had a
horrible accident driving a four
wheeler in the woods in downstate
Virginia. You plowed down a tree
while you were trying to outrun
your buddy– You were airlifted
unconscious from the scene by
helicopter. You had broken your
femur in two places, too, just like
your arm, made sure it was good
and busted. But you had a real
good time until you ran over that
tree!

Besides being a badass on wheels,
you were also very protective.
One time I was visiting from college
and a friend of yours asked, Is that
your sister? You said, NO! That is
not my sister, don’t even look at her!
It was so sweet, you didn’t want
your friends flirting with me.

Another time when all three of us
were adults we went to Pizza Hut,
where I happened to mention
something terrible someone had
done to me years ago, which I
thought you already knew about.
After a moment, you went out to
smoke a cigarette. And you didn’t
come back . . .  and you didn’t
come back . . . And suddenly our
sister and I both realized, OMG
he has gone to get his gun!  We
jumped in the car and raced across
town to stop you so you didn’t land
yourself in prison.

We got there just in time. Had a bit
of a verbal shootout, but nobody
died that night and nobody ended
up in jail. So it was a win-win for
everybody.

You were protective and loyal, and
you loved your sisters.

For all your scariness, you were
really tender hearted. When
Grandma died in ‘97, it liked to
have killed us all with grief. And
here were you, all big and tall and
tough and when you got that call at
work you said you sat down in the
middle of the burrito factory and
cried like a child.

On the other hand, you  were also
the funniest person I knew. I
recorded one family conver-
sation back in 2000 where I said
something snarky to Mom and
our sister said, ‘Lisa you’re writin’
yourself right on out of the will.
Mom laughed and said, What will??
And you said, in your very best
hillbilly accent, You know that
Tupperware set you had yer eye
on, well forgit it!

And you could tell a story! You
could tell a tragic story like your
accident in Virginia as if it were
a comedy, have us laughing till
we cried. From hilarity, not from
pity. You really loved to make
people laugh.

The poet Mary Oliver asks, What
will you do with your one wild
and precious life?

You died suddenly on September
17, 2017, quietly and in your sleep, at
age 47.

Your life was shorter than we wanted
it to be, but you filled it to the brim
with the people and things you loved.

You lived hard.
You worked hard,
you played hard
and you loved hard.

Your Harley, The Beast, was put
on display at the funeral, where all
your friends could pay their respects.
I’ve never seen so many rough-
looking grown men cry.

And most of the funeral procession
was a cavalcade of motorcycles who
revved their motors as loud as they could
to honor you on their way to the cemetery.

Mom is convinced that you are up in
heaven driving a Harley alongside
Jesus as your Biker Buddy.

Oh, Dear Little Doodle Bug,
I dearly hope that that is true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hell Out of Dodge – Rumination

Oh, my God, you have no idea how many times I looked longingly at that faux brass door knob as if it were a magical artifact, a portal to another world, wanting more than anything to grab it and run away and be free of you while you yelled and cussed and berated me. I stood there like a rag doll, each venomous arrow ripping into the soft fabric of my heart. Wound after wound. Yet I stayed.

I was the compliant child, the oldest, the most responsible, the one you called out of school if you couldn’t find something important because you couldn’t see. I was your surrogate eyes. And I never complained about helping you, unlike my younger siblings, who could be depended on to sigh in exasperation every time they were asked to do a simple task. Of course if I, being a child, messed up the adult task I was asked to do (such as balance your checkbook at age 11), you raged at me.  I was the one you were cussing out and making threats to. Let me tell you something. There are two reasons I didn’t run away.

The first and weightiest was a perfect cocktail of pity and guilt. I honestly couldn’t imagine how you could survive without me and I couldn’t leave you helpless. And I’m sure in my own tortured little heart, I believed I owed you my life for taking my brother’s. Deep in my psyche I believed I deserved the abuse. So I stayed.

The second is less altruistic. I suppose I was a coward. I didn’t have a plan, had no idea what I would do once I opened that door and ran. I had nowhere to go. If I had let myself think about it harder, I think I would have come up with a plan. I think the guilt is what stymied my imagination. If I had thought about it carefully, I would have realized that I could run to one of the families from church. That would have shamed you. It might have changed you. But I sincerely doubt it.

Your hatefulness seems to run right through your bones. Maybe it was in your DNA. If so, you should have fought it. You who so hypocritically wore (and still wear) the garb of  saint among the church ladies. They nearly worshiped you, put you on a pedestal–because being blind apparently automatically makes you spiritual without the pesky criteria of actually experiencing a transformation of the heart and life.

If people only knew how you treated us, what you said to us in the privacy of your own home, how you waved that leather belt around as you beat your little children even though you couldn’t see where you were hitting them. You took out your rage at your miserable life on us. It wasn’t discipline. It was pure rage.

Once, maybe twice, I did grab the door knob and run away. I ran away to the other side of the fence by the highway that ran around the back side of the property on which our apartments sat. I crouched down and hid in the tall weeds. I was probably 12. You came looking for me with my little sister and brother, a five-year-old and an eight-year-old leading you by the hand, their little bowl hair cuts sort of swinging in the wind, sweetly calling out my name the way you would call for our family dog when she would get out and run away.

You were so pathetic. It was all the will power I had to stay in the weeds and not jump up and go to you immediately. Because I was the child who, if you said, Come here and let me beat you, I would go there and let you beat me, believing it my responsibility to accommodate your disability even when it meant my own abuse.  So I stayed. For six more grueling years, I stayed.

And then I got the hell out of Dodge.

The Woman Who Wanted to Paint the Town Red – Humorous Speech

Anybody else have a grandma who wore cowboy boots?
My Grandma Gladys wore cowboy boots with
bright red polyester pantsuits.
She wore thick black mascara, gaudy jewelry,
And dyed her hair coal black till the day she died.

She smoked like a chimney,
cussed like a sailor,
and told wonderful tall tales.

Once, when I was a little girl, I said
Grandma, you exaggerate.
She said, Elisa I don’t exaggerate, I just lie.
Both perfectly illustrating my point,
And showing herself to be a marvelous role model for little girls.

Pantsuits, nail polish and jewelry were not the only things
Grandma preferred in red.
She had thick red shag carpet throughout her house
and almost every year she would re-paint
the outside of her house in some combination of red and black
or red and white, as long as there was red.

In fact, she would have painted the whole town red
if she could have— and she nearly did.
One day she decided that all the dumpsters
in her town of 278 people should also be red.
She managed to convince most of the town
to paint their own dumpsters.
But there was one lady, this diehard holdout
who simply refused to have her dumpster painted.
And so my grandmother snuck over to her house
In the middle of the night and painted it anyway!
She was always doing crazy things like that
to make people laugh all over town.

Like many of my family members,
Grandma was a bit crusty on the outside,
but a big marshmallow on the inside.
So you might imagine her ambivalence in
Raising a child who was going blind.
She seemed to hold my mother to the same standard
As her sighted children
Sometimes she would get so frustrated she would say,
If you would just open your damned eyes, you could see!
<pause>
This might seem a little brutal,
But keep in mind, we’re talking about a family in Kansas
Who survived the Great Dust Bowl.
And who, unlike their wussier neighbors,
Did not migrate out to California when times got tough,
but stubbornly stayed on their land.
And do you know what they ate to survive?
Boiled racoon and fried squirrel!
But by God they kept their land!
And it was exactly this tenacity of spirit and tough love
That made my mom into the incredibly
independent blind woman that she is.
<pause>

On the other hand,
Every time they went to the eye doctor
And he told Grandma that her little girl
would be completely blind by the time she was thirty,
Grandma would cry and cry and cry.
<pause>
And then she would let my mom
eat an entire box of pastries on the ride home.

You could also see Grandma’s softer side
In her love for animals.
She had her own business grooming and breeding little dogs,
mostly Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and Malteses.
She would paint their little toenails bright red
brush perfumed powder into their fur so they wouldn’t smell,
and then add a little bow even if they were boys.

She also kept birds and lots of fish.
And she even had a great big iguana for years.
As for the fish, they were usually very well taken care of
and she would get up in the middle of the night
to add water to their tank.

She also happened to love
to bleach everything that got in her way
(she was so famous for that bleaching
that everyone thought it very fitting
that when she died
she actually died right in front of the wash machine
with a jug of bleach in her hand.)

So of course one night,
she accidentally grabbed the bleach
instead of the water and to her horror,
all the poor little fish turned white and floated to the top.

As for her birds, several of them were talkers.
My grandpa’s name was Roy and
One of them liked to say, Roy is a dummy, Roy is a dummy.
Another one liked to say, Let me out dammit, let me out!
So grandma had a slightly twisted sense of humor.

In addition to raising perfumed dogs,
and teaching birds to deliver insults and obscenities,
Grandma was a successful Avon lady for years.
She used to bring me little demi stick perfumes
and perfume in cute little animal shaped bottles.

So I was not surprised when, one April,
for my sixth birthday, she handed me a little Avon bag.

Now you need to know that only 18 months earlier
my 3-year-old brother who could have passed for my twin
was killed in an accident,
so it was just me and Eric
and our parents left,
And the whole family was still choking from grief,
and now my mother was pregnant with my little sister.

So it was against this backdrop
that I was handed the little Avon bag.
<pause>
And when she put it in my hands,
to my very great surprise,
<pause> it moved!!

When I opened the bag
To my delight
I found the most adorable tiny
little brown peka-pom puppy
named Little Bee
who lived well into my college years.
It was many years later when I realized that was
Grandma’s very loving way of helping us with our grief.
And it was a good one.
Little Bee was a bundle of joy.

So Grandma was a good soul and in spite of her antics,
And maybe partly because of them,
She was loved far and wide.
So much so that even though her funeral was a graveside service
on an extremely cold weekday in January,
over 200 people came out from miles around to honor her.

I could tell so many stories about her other antics,
but the last story I want to share with you
is about her scandalous romance with my Grandpa. <pause>
My biological grandfather was a violent alcoholic
whom she divorced before I was born.
So the only grandpa I really knew was Grandpa Roy,
Who was . . . only one . or . two years older . . . than my mother!
That’s right, my grandma was a cougar.
<pause>
This was in the 60’s and you can imagine
it was the gossip of the town for over thirty years—
everyone was always trying to guess
exactly how many years older my grandma was.

She kept this such a secret that when she died,
my aunt found her driver’s license sewn into
a secret compartment in her purse!

Having given this a great deal of thought
She once proposed to my grandpa
That they put the year of her death on the gravestone,
but not the year of her birth.
So that’s exactly what they did.

And she took that secret with her to the grave
And went out painting the town red with frustration,
And making sure it was she who got the last laugh.

You’re In the Wrong House – Rumination

The year after I came out
to myself and close friends,
I had occasion to stay with
my family in Kansas for a few
months while my father died.
I have still not come out to
these particular family members
(although I’m pretty sure they
“know;” they just like having
plausible deniability) ……
A young relative I love
did what was meant to
be a humorous imitation
of a gay man.
I scolded him and said,
“Don’t you ever make fun
of gay people.”
The boy’s mother said,

“You’re in the Wrong House.”

Don’t I know it.

I was in the wrong house for 18 years.
And here I am stuck for another
not-so-random eight months.

And at times it feels like I
will never find my way OUT.

 

[2012, hiding out in red Kansas–

I finally got OUT, thank God!]

Taking a Moment to Wish Them Peace, My Ass – Rumination

This is hard to swallow.
It’s the bitch of Christianity and of any spiritual practice that emphasizes forgiveness.
I whinge, But you just don’t know what they did to me. And they are not even sorry! How can I forgive them? I have forgiven my pedophile father and my abusive mother, but there is that other family member that I want really badly to hate and to have the righteous satisfaction of being justified in my hate. I want Jesus (or Buddha!) to say, Yes, what she did to you was truly beyond the pale. I wouldn’t forgive her either. 

Hm. Embarrassed facial expression, looks at feet. Ok, well now that you put it like that. . . now it does seem just a little petty; I mean if Jesus couldn’t forgive her for that, I’d probably be screwed for other things. Damn it all to hell! Constantly reminded of how often we wish mercy for ourselves and justice for others. It all really boils down to power. I cannot tolerate people trying to trap me and control me and force me into a shape that is not my own and it is the main reason I live 19 hours away from my family. I was severely controlled growing up and once I turned 18 I got the hell out of “Dodge” (FYI, Dodge is actually quite a bit further out west in Kansas, but the sentiment remains) and never looked back. I go home to visit from time to time, but it gets harder and harder as their homophobia and Trumpism grow.

So I am trying to forgive her, though what I really want to do is punch her in the face.  What if I could just do that and be done with it? Would I be able to forgive her then? This violent, unloving feeling is what I believe to be the darkest stain upon my soul. But every Sunday I really do try to take a moment to wish her peace.

Gay Birthday: Welcome to Heaven

Today is my gay birthday! Seven years ago today I finally reflected on the most recent instance of my falling in love with a straight woman (who also fell in love with me until she realized she was tap dancing around on bisexual ground and then ran away screaming) thinking how wonderful it would have been to be married to her, and I realized Hm, maybe I really am gay. Until then I had been laboring under the evangelical delusion that being gay was a choice. It took me around four decades to find my way out of the closet. There are some very good reasons for this (which I will explore in a different post). The main thing about today is it is a true celebration. I always thought that if I ever “gave in” to my lesbian impulses I would feel that I had failed as a Christian and would want to end my life. This did not happen! Instead I wanted to do cartwheels all over the world shouting I’m gay, I’m gay, I’m gay! And God loves me exactly as I am! 

The day before I had read The Shack all on a Sunday. It struck me how very vast God’s love was. It opened the door a crack and let light in. I then proceeded to drink too much that night and email a friend who had been in ministry whose spiritual life I really admired. (TBH, not to be too arrogant, but she was really the only person whose spiritual intuition I trusted more than my own). To my surprise, she shot me an email back and said “Homosexuality is genetic! Find a church that can deal with it!” She then directed me to the Gay Christian Network online which proceeded to open my eyes about the ways scripture had been contorted to meet the dogmatic demands of a homophobic church. I couldn’t believe that I, world traveled PhD, had allowed the church to keep blinders on me for four decades. I couldn’t believe I had never questioned their interpretation of scripture. (Later, I also came to believe scripture is not inerrant, which is a whole nother post).

Anyway, I had never watched the L Word because I knew that if I did I would inevitably be pulled “under” and now I binge watched the whole series several times and realized OMG YES! This is what I have always wanted! Such a sense of euphoria came over me. I was filled with joy. And another thing I did not expect, I began to love myself! There are no words to describe the self loathing I felt before I came out to myself. And perhaps none to describe the miracle of this reversal. I have tried to write about it elsewhere on this blog and will no doubt try to write more about it in the future.

On the very few occasions when I would allow myself to think such a thought even in the privacy of my own mind, I thought heaven, if it were really heaven for me, would be a place where I could be in love with a woman, she would be in love with me, and God and every one else would love and celebrate us. When I shared this with a lesbian at my gay ass church, she said, Welcome to heaven. 

So. Seven years. In that time I have kissed several girls, had a couple of girlfriends, and definitely redeemed my virginity. I am so out one friend said, You’re like an evangelist for lesbians! Whenever I have a streak of  depression I remind myself how glorious it is to be gay and to be out and I am filled with so much gratitude.

I think I shall buy myself a cake today. (:

 

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