In the last few days, we have lost three distinctly different personalities. I was watching CNN and there was a blog entry read that talked about Ed McMahon and his distinguished service as a colonel in the military. This person referenced Farrah Fawcett’s valiant struggle against cancer and her work against domestic violence. The individual then referred to Michael Jackson’s criminal trials for child molestation and his drug use.
It breaks my heart that at this point in our history, we are still looking at others with such a jaded eye. The truth is Ed McMahon was in debt up to his eyes. Farrah Fawcett began her career as simply a pretty face. Michael Jackson was worked far beyond any reasonable level by his own parents during his entire childhood.
The point is that every single person on this great big planet has a story and that story is a complete one. It has really beautiful parts to it and it has hideously ugly parts to it, as well. Such is the nature of life. For those who feel that they have not been touched by severe tragedy or extreme joy, allow me to express my deepest sympathy to you because it is most likely because you have chosen to live a life of fear, keeping yourself safe from every possible danger or sadness. That’s not living. That’s existing.
Without risk, there is no glory. (I wish I could find who said that first). Of course, I’m not talking about fame when I use the word, “glory.” I’m talking about that feeling of basking in one’s ultimate success. Without scars, there is no character. Without pain, there is no healing. Without horror, there is no joy. Life, as we know it, is full of polarity. It’s the nature of the beast.
Ed McMahon defended our country as a valiant and honorable soldier. Farrah Fawcett struggled against misogyny and violence, bringing at least one wonderful movie to light in that effort. Michael Jackson changed the face of pop music from the time he was ten years old. Each of these actions has value and will find longevity.
Their agonies are not ones we will ever understand because we have not walked in their shoes. So, what they offered us personally was joy, creativity, and abundance. I suggest we simply say, “Thank you, Ed. Thank you, Farrah. Thank you, Michael.”
There have only been two celebrity deaths that affected me so personally that I wept. One was when George Burns died. I respected his power and his humor and I felt he represented
the best of comedy and sophistication in the art form. The second was Katherine Hepburn. Again, she was a pinnacle of class, sophistication, directness and artistry. Their passing was deeply moving to me because with them went a level of talent that we will rarely see again.
It would be trite, I’m sure, to say that there are angels everywhere, no matter how true it is. Here is a simple story nonetheless.
This morning, feeling overwhelmed by my life and responsibilities, while also feeling that everyone else has their priorities in place and that I’m not really one of them, the pity party began in full force. As someone who suffers from bipolar disorder, although a mild form of it, every so often, my depression does take hold. This morning was a prime example of that experience.
This afternoon, a new friend of mine wrote to say how grateful she was to have me as a friend and to be working with me. She had already offered to help me with a project that, in my current state, I simply couldn’t handle right now.
This angel lighted upon my shoulder and in doing so, she took a burden off of me that has helped me feel more peaceful. I am so deeply grateful to my friend for this gift. Of course, I wrote to her to tell her thank you. That, too, made me feel good.
I am consistently in awe, too, because these angels, in the masks of humble, loving people, keep finding those of us in greatest need. Their intuition and desire for healing with others is enormous. I have such profound respect and love for these wonderful entities. The funny part is that they never, ever know just how important they are to others.
As I prayed to God to help lift the weight off my back, he responded in the sweetest way possible. He sent someone to offer me her hand. It seems to work that way when I need it most. I live in constant gratitude for these unexpected gifts.
I believe in miracles. They happen every day.
I believe in angels. They are all around.
I believe in God. God’s light shines on everything.
I believe in gratitude. It’s what makes us recognize the value of every gift we receive, even the ones that look like challenges.
I just wanted to share my experience. Consider this my Commendation of Perpetual Aid to those who stand by me in love and support. Today, especially, I extend my gratitude to my new friend. Thank you, one and all.
There is a dichotomy in these United States of America that is so vividly being presented in the State of Connecticut regarding our freedoms. In the second of five states in the country to allow gay marriage, there comes a video from the Manifested Glory Ministries that shows a sixteen-year-old young man having a “homosexual demon” exorcised from his body.
Prophet Patricia McKinney, and the church overseer and McKinney’s husband, Calvin McKinney, have apparently performed several exorcisms on young people who are attempting to release themselves from the perceived grip of their homosexuality. The video, as one can imagine, is dynamic in that the young fellow, whose name was withheld, was seen thrashing on the floor, eventually vomitting during the twenty minute, vociferous event.
As revolting as the concept of a “gay exorcism” is to my mind and heart, one question is raised, “Is the family’s freedom of religion alive enough to practice their faith as they see fit?”
If the child’s parents gave the McKinneys permission to perform this rite, the McKinney’s were willing to perform the rite, and if the child himself agreed to experience it, does the family of the parishoner have the right to practice their religion in whatever way they choose, so long as the boy wasn’t injured physically?
Some might say that the boy should feel free to be gay if that’s what he is. If that is true, which I believe it is, as well, then shouldn’t he also be allowed to participate in the rites of his church just as freely?
Concern is correctly expressed that the exorcism will damage his psyche and sense of self because he is not being supported by his community for being who he genuinely is. We must invite the question as to whether there are other religions who, perhaps not so vehemently, do the same thing to their beloved children. Families often criticize and shame their offspring because of their sexuality. Doesn’t that also do horrific damage to the child to have people he or she loves dispense separation, vitriol, and, perhaps, violence against that individual because of the child’s sexuality?
How obscene should it be to us as a people to wag our fingers at the McKinneys for doing what we do to our own children in other ways?
“God, I wish my son wasn’t a freakin’ fairy.”
“Jeez, why can’t my daughter just find a nice man with whom to settle down and have a family, instead of that horrible dyke?”
The high horse on which many are riding right now is growing more and more lame. The pedestal on which many of our fellow Americans would like to believe they sit is cracking under the pressure of our own hypocrisy.
In this video, there appeared to be a belief that this child harbored a demon named, “homosexuality.” Isn’t that what many in our country believe? Those who fight against the equal rights for marriage certainly are making that statement to their children. Those who sit idly by and watch our junior high students commit suicide because they are being perceived as gay are saying the same thing.
Let’s see things as they are for a change. We are culturally a bigotted and judgmental people on the whole. We see ourselves in distinct and separate groups and we like it that way. The good news is that we are slowly recognizing it and the damage it is causing. We are changing. We may even arrive at a place where, for example, in this country, we are all Americans first, instead of insisting on being hyphenates, such as Jewish-Americans, African-Americans, or Straight-Americans.
Change is hard. Cultural therapy is phenomenally painful and difficult. We will, however, survive and flourish once we get to the other side. At that point, we will be able to better see our brothers and sisters as equals in every way.
What a great day that will be.
What we must not do, though, is lose sight of the fact that for each of our rights, there are those who will show us the extremes of what having them means. The McKinneys are just those people. For some, Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen Degeneres would be just those people, as well.
There must be room for everyone if we want our equality and rights to live in the broadest possible way.
The only exorcism I’d like to see is the banishment of hatred and ignorance. I’d go to that ritual today!
As I approach my 50th birthday in twenty-four days, my brother is awaiting his second child. This year my youngest child will be twenty-nine. My eldest adopted child just turned forty-one. My birth mother died at the age I’ll be in July. For some unknown reason, this birthday is a big deal to me. The others just haven’t been this weighty.
I remember vividly being a young father in some ways. In others, it seems like a long, long time ago. With my granddaughter turning sixteen in September and driving a car now, I realize that my days of active, day-to-day parenthood are far behind me in my lifetime’s rear view mirror.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy about where I am. I’m married to a wonderful man and have a sweet, little dog. I see my grandchildren every so often and my children call or write to me regularly. I have no complaints. My work is good and I am loved. I have everything a person needs to be truly happy, and fortunately, I am.
The thing is, the poignancy of the passing time is remarkable to me right now. On that day in March 1976, when my first birth child was born, I never thought I’d get here so fast and so early. Today, I’m forty-nine years old and I’m at a life place at which most people arrive usually when their fifty-five or sixty-years-old.
All this hyperbole about fifty being the new thirty is ridiculous to me. In my life, fifty is the new sixty-five. That patronizing language is used by people who either didn’t have their first child until they were thirty-five, have pawned their offspring on nannies and boarding schools for them to rear, or don’t have children at all. For those of us who have walked our children and grandchildren to school, and those of us who have dealt with losing a son to miscarriage and a daughter’s cancer, and those of us whose entire nuclear family of origin has passed away from suicide, pancreatic cancer and the consequences of alcoholism, well, for us, fifty is not the new thirty. For those of us who have paid attention to the changes and the sameness of last eleven Presidents of the United States, and those of us who have watched everything from the assassination of a beloved president to the hanging of an Iraqi dictator, and for those of us who watched our hair turn gray and our skin develop little spots on our hands, fifty is not the new thirty.
Yes, we’re living longer. My uncle is 102-years-old, for goodness sake. Yes, we have more technology and access to information than at any other time in history. Yes, our country is 233-years-old, and yes, I’ll probably be around another forty years, God willing.
For today, however, I’m looking back and seeing the long road on which I’ve traveled and marvelling that I got this far. For me, it’s a miracle. With several great-grandparents who died at thirty-four, a birth father who had multiple bypass heart surgery in his mid-fifties and myself having a heart attack and two strokes, I’m grateful for the journey I’ve had so far and the wonderful people with whom I’ve sojourned. God knows it could have been very different.
I understand that in the big scheme of things, fifty-years-old isn’t “old,” but it is a milestone, and as I take stock of my life thus far, I am in awe of what has happened in these 18,214 days of my life. And, yes, my precious and vibrant friends, it is poignant to me.
Not every Father’s Day turns out the way we expect. It is especially hard when there is mental illness involved. This story is meant to speak to the challenges of having a loving father who suffered with mental illness at the end of his life and to honor the history of a great man who loved education and awareness by telling the truth about the last part of his history.
After years of having a productive and loving life, my father’s mental health had deteriorated, nearly imperceptibly at first, but more dramatically as time went on.
My mother called a few weeks before Father’s Day 1999 to tell me that my father was becoming more agitated and paranoid. She said that he was afraid she was trying to kill him. My mother was seventy-six years old, had suffered several strokes by that time and was a devout Roman Catholic. My father was a decorated World War II veteran. Dad was suffering from what appeared to be Alzheimer’s Disease, although we were to learn long afterward that it actually was a chemical imbalance that had been diagnosed but for which he was refusing treatment. He was so terrified, he was attempting to purchase a gun to protect himself from everyone, especially my mother. Thankfully, the man at the hardware store realized something was terribly wrong and put up enough road blocks to prevent my father from purchasing this firearm.
Dad refused to eat what my mother would cook because of his fears. He would store food that he purchased in the furniture. After my mother reported to me that Dad had struck her for the first time in their forty-three year marriage, I insisted that my mother move in with my aunt several miles away. It was clear to me that my father was losing his mind. I knew, too, that Dad did not have the boundaries that would prevent him from taking his own life, and perhaps, in a rage, my mother’s life, as well.
Dad finally decided to move to a veteran’s home to live out the remainder of his years in what he hoped would be peace and tranquility. Instead of making definite plans, he basically ran away from home.
After visiting the facility where he wanted to move, he arrived at my home on June 18, 1999, while I was at a rehearsal for a show I was music directing. He was clearly frightened and frustrated according to my eldest daughter who called me at rehearsal after welcoming my father into our home. I told her I would be home immediately after the practice was over. I was dreading this unexpected visit.
Dad and I had always had our difficulties. I always described our relationship as two men who tended to answer the same question using the same math equation and coming up with two different answers. It was challenging at best, at times. Other times, we laughed uproariously together at the smallest things.
When I arrived, Dad was sound asleep after his 200 miles trek. I called my mother to let her know he was with me and safe. She was relieved.
The next day, Dad took me to lunch for Father’s Day at Baker’s Square Restaurant. Our time together was strained, but I was happy to share his 38th Father’s Day with him, just the two of us. I didn’t want there to be any tension, so we kept the conversation light.
That all changed, however, when we arrived home. He put some papers in front of me that I said I needed to sign saying he was in good physical and mental health. These important papers were for the veteran’s home. They wanted to make sure Dad was not a danger to himself or to others.
I refused to sign. I told him that I knew he was suffering from a mental illness and that I could not, in good conscience, sign these documents. I said that there had to be other homes that would be more appropriate for him that could care for him as he progressed through his illness.
From there the conversation grew increasingly vitriolic. We were screaming at one another. I understood that he was fighting for his freedom. I, on the other hand, was fighting for his health and safety. Our horrific battle went on for at least three hours. Nearly forty years of unspoken animosity came tumbling out of my mouth. His four decade long frustration with me was vomitted forth toward me. The truth was, everything that needed to be said between us got spoken. I was tragically sad and ultimately relieved.
At the end of our verbal journey, I said, “Dad, I know you can’t understand this right now, but I’m doing what I know is best for you. I’m doing this because it appears you are suffering from Alzheimer’s and because I love you so much.”
Dad didn’t really say anything. He was too hurt to speak. I had attacked him. I had injured his heart. In his mind, I was cruel beyond belief after a lifetime of love he had shown me. He was my Dad. He became my Dad through adoption, not birth, for which I was deeply and eternally thankful. He and my mother gave me an amazing life. I am, to this day, overwhelmingly grateful for that. Sadly, there was no way he could see that gratitude in our conversation.
He went to bed that night without a word.
By the time I got up the next morning, he was gone. He had taken his GMC truck and driven away. It was the last time I would see or talk with my father.
Mom and I decided we would try to get him admitted to a locked facility. Through a series of misunderstandings, my father found out about what we were trying to do. Being a firm believer in Dr. Kevorkian, my father planned out and executed his own suicide through carbon monoxide poisoning in the very truck he brought to my home on that last visit.
Mother called on the last day of July 1999. My father was dead. I found out years later that my father shared a birthday with his mother and, eventually, his date of death, also.
After he was cremated, I placed his ashes where I knew he wanted to be buried. No funeral. No gravestone. Just good drainage, for which he so often requested.
I was alone on that hillside. No one would stand with me as I wailed my sorrow and grief into the bright summer afternoon.
After I finished patting down the dirt on my father’s grave, I sat on the berm near his final resting place and lit a cigarette. Suddenly, with the clarity of the sound of a living voice, I heard my father laughing.
“What’s so funny, Dad?” I asked out loud.
“You were right, Jim. There is more after life,” he responded jovially.
We both laughed together because my father had been an agnostic/atheist for more than thirty years. We had argued vehemently about God’s existence many, many times.
I didn’t think to ask him what it was that existed beyond our living perception. I suppose I figured I would find out for myself someday. I just knew that, as was often the case between us, we would argue and then laugh together. We would scream and then smile.
That was just our way.
Although I still have my birth father still living, Father’s Day will never be the same since Dad took his own life. The comfort I feel, though, is that I genuinely acted in my father’s best interest. I tried to be the best son I knew how to be. Perhaps in some ways I failed, but in other ways, important ways, I succeeded. God knows my father succeeded brilliantly at being a good father. My brother and I were always first in his mind and in his heart.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you. I miss you terribly. Dziękuję, Ta.
I have begun writing a book entitled, Interwoven. This book is a memoir about an adoptee, me, who found his birth family as part of his genealogical research. For medical and emotional reasons, it was imparative that I locate my family of birth. It ultimately saved my life.
This week, I met my youngest brother, and got to know my other two brothers and father better during my visit to St. Charles, Missouri.
Since my visit, I’ve realized that my book is changing. Certainly, my life is changing from this dynamic and thrilling encounter.
I am finding a new level of joy and wholeness in this process that I never imagined possible. I am looking forward to seeing what grows from the seeds that were planted this week.
I suspect this is going to be a truly remarkable book. Perhaps not to anyone else, but certainly to me.
My message is clear. Each person with whom we come in contact has an impact on us. Our self-perception, our self-love, our self-criticism all grow exponentially based on our encounters.
No matter how we are impacted, though, I am finding an elevated level of gratitude rising out of the mist of my learning. Gratitude to my family and friends and my gratitude toward God for providing this phenomenal opportunity.
Yes, I said, “Mercury Retrograce.” That’s the way I have to think about it this time around to just get through it. It’s clear that between the full moon and MerRet, it’s going to be a rapid and frenetic dance to get to the other side.
I suppose the benefits of this period is that one is called to go inward and reflect on one’s own life and choices; however, the external facets of this time makes that a little challenging.
So, smile, ladies and gentlemen. Enjoy the ride. That, at least, is what I’m trying to do.
As I approach my 50th birthday, the ticking of the clock is almost audible. I have no delusions that I am so very old. I’m not. Of course, I’m not very young either; however, I suspect I’m about halfway to two-thirds through my journey.
There are two groups around me who are keeping time for me like a conductor at the Metropolitan Opera – rhythmic, beautiful, and approaching the end of my song.
My grandchildren for one group. All nine seem to be growing faster than I personally would like. My two eldest grandchildren will reach the age of majority in one and two years, respectively. Another generation of adults will enter our family lineage. I’m not ready.
On the other end of the spectrum are people like Aunt Mary who is ninety years old and Uncle Gene who is 102 years old. They have both said, each in their own ways, that the time is drawing nigh. They must sense that I, again, am not ready.
I love my family and want to be around a long time, unlike my birthmother who died at 50 or my great-grandmother who died at 34. No thank you.
I wish there was a pill I could take, along with my blood pressure, cholesterol, asthma, anti-coagulant aspirin and acid reflux meds, that would help me grow a little more deaf, at least for the sound of the life clock in my ear and heart.
To tell the truth, I simply don’t have the money for a whole new wardrobe; however, I don’t think that’s what I’m thinking about right now, anyway. I’m shopping for a whole new emotional wardrobe to wear.
For the last fifty years, I’ve been wearing the durable wear of son, grandson, father, grandfather, brother, husband and friend. Occasionally, I try on artist and leader, but most of all, it’s family man.
My children are in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s now. (I know, don’t ask.) My eldest grandchildren are driving. It’s time to change my clothes.
I’m buying something red and purple. Something in royal blue would suit me just fine. Of course, those are chakra colors that represent my energies that I choose to evolve. Red is for my passions. Purple is for my spirit. Royal blue is for my inner vision. Add some green for my loving heart and a smidgen of yellow for my strength, and I’m on the road.
By “on the road,” I mean that quite literally. I’m going to travel a bit this year in my new drag. I’m not really sure my husband is coming along since he has to work, but I’m going anyway… and good for me.
Of course, anyone reading this who has been alive more than twenty years will say, “He’s going through a mid-life crisis.” Not so, my friends. There is no crisis here. It is a choice of joy.
I will still be all those things, but I will be them from a cell phone or a laptop with an aircard. See, I know about the latest technology; at least, some of it.
Other will say, “He’s not even very old, so, why is he worrying about ‘changing his wardrobe?'”
My birthmother died at 50, the same age I am now; my great-grandmother at 34. I have a list of medical issues that caused me to receive on the “RealAge” test, the age of 85 years old. What does that tell you?
So, whether I’m in mid-life or end-stage, I won’t know until I get to that last moment, just like 102 year old Uncle Gene, who’s still waiting to find out. What I do know, however, is that every moment of this life will be my version of “unapologetically perfect” until my last breath.
Pull your cars over and get out of my way. I have the proverbial top down, a brand new set of duds, and enough grey in my hair to say, “Fuck you,” to anyone telling me, “No.”
And, here is where I bow, grateful that you understand that I’m simply claiming my life in a new way… my way, wearing what I choose to wear… finally.