Complete

When you run out of words,

The only thing left is

Energy.

In that precious moment

Between the bated breath is

Synergy.

It’s in your infinite depth

That I am engulfed by your

Light.

As your eyes search my soul,

I am bestowed with new

Sight.

In times past, I felt small

And unworthy to be

Heard.

You have changed reality–

Now my heart sings like a

Bird.

“I have found my equal

And with that joy comes a

Laugh!

I am loved for just me!

I found my partner for life’s

Path!”

6 Years, 12 Years, 18 Years?

It was an especially messy and hectic autumn, so when a sunny spring morning rolled around it was the perfect time for cleaning up the dried, brittle residue of its remnants.  As I swept the garage floor, I found myself pushing the broom into the cobweb-filled corners to pull out the accumulated grime that had settled and was perfectly content to spend an eternity taking up space.  The more I pushed and pulled the broom into and out of the corner, the more dust and dirt appeared.  I began to wonder how long had this filth been here—6 years, 12 years, 18 years?  It seemed to never end.  I was struck by not only how much crud was there, but that it had gone unnoticed for so long.

Spring Cleaning
Lightening my load as the old is removed.

At the same time that my sweeping frenzy was occurring, I had some household goods that were being picked up and given to a new home as I prepared for my own relocation to Florida.  I had taken apart a dining room set, a large dog crate and moved several items into the garage for easier pick up.  I assisted by holding the door open as they carried out pieces of a sectional that was in the basement of my condo and I helped one guy lift the table top into the bed of his truck.  As the two men were loading the dining room legs onto the truck, I heard one make a remark about the dust on the table.  I felt the sting of the words strike me as if a wet towel had been snapped against my skin.  The intent of the language was received as the speaker had intended and he smirked arrogantly.  Again, I was confronted with the messiness that I had allowed to build up around me and I asked myself how long did I live this way—6 years, 12 years, 18 years?

Spring Cleaning Farewell
Bidding farewell to the mess of winter.

I decided to step inside as they loaded the rest of the stuff onto the trailer they were pulling so that I could avoid being reminded of the mire in which I had acquiesced.  As they were wrapping up and getting ready to pull away, I returned to the garage to remove the last of the remaining vestiges of the fall.  I opened the garbage can lid for easy access as I went about my work and noticed that several items that were to be returned their rightful owner among the pieces of household goods had been tossed inside.  And, I wondered how long had I been accepting someone else’s garbage into my world—6 years, 12 years, 18 years?

It’s amazing the amount of sludge we not only allow into our lives, but we become so immune to it that we often don’t even see it anymore…until, one spring morning when the sunlight breaks through the gray winter skies it is totally exposed!  It is in those moments of revelation that we get to make a choice.  Do we pull the broom out and kick up some dust as we lighten our load or do we look past the weight of the silt for another 6 years, 12 years, or 18 years?  Take it from me, the good news is that the broom is within reach.

Broom

It Is Well

What a year it has been!

 

When I consider what was going on last year at this time, I am reminded about the foreboding that I felt then.  

Something was happening.  

Something I didn’t want to face.  

Something that I had been repressing for years.

It felt as if the ground underneath me was shifting and could give way at any minute.  

 

The truth is that it took about five more months before things started to get even more unsteady for me.  By the July 4th holiday, the bottom finally gave way and an avalanche of change was set in motion that could not be stopped.  My world was turned upside down and inside out for the next several months as I tried to gain my footing in a new reality.  “All other ground is sinking sand…” so the hymnist wrote.  

 

Flash forward to this past weekend.  

 

I am enjoying a CeCe Winans concert and in between songs she is talking about trials and tribulations.  My mind drifts quickly over the last year’s events and then it dove further into some of the traumas over the last 50 years.  While recalling the hurt and pain, I am suddenly engulfed with joy and love as I look over at my concert partner.  Feeling my gaze upon him, he turns and smiles—those beautiful brown eyes that twinkle in adoration, the dimples etched artistically near the corners of his mouth, and the crooked grin!  I lean in towards his ear and whisper with a hoarse voice filled with emotion, “I would go through it all again just to be with you.”  He quickly grabs my hand and squeezes gently as CeCe continues with a new song.  

 

“It is well…It is well with my soul.”

Blessed

“How are you?” I heard myself asking a coworker recently.

 

“I’m blessed!” came her quick response.  I felt the visceral reaction I have when I hear phrases from my evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic religious upbringing and early adulthood which cause a caustic memory to surface about the pain of rejection from people that I thought cared for me once they learned of my orientation.  Instead of retorting with the dry sarcasm that was begging to be released, I opted for business cordiality and smiled as I quickly pushed forward to complete the task at hand.  Yet, in my head, I was having a full-blown discussion about this expression and the many other teachings in which I was indoctrinated.  Words and phrases such as fellowship, breaking bread, righteous indignation, anointed, God is good, and the blood of Jesus fueled my ire.  Principles of God the Father, virgin birth, resurrection, and blood sacrificealso invaded my inner dialogue, so much so, that I think I sprained some eye muscles from rolling them.  I’m sure to an external observer I was a riot to watch—you know, similar tohow reality television slows down facial expressions for dramatic effect.  

 

Flash forward a week and I’m having a Thanksgiving Day conversation with someone special.  I’m discussing the personal upheaval I’ve faced over the year and the fact that for the first time in 18 years I’m making a decision about what I’m doing for Thanksgiving Day on my own.  The conversation was deep and gratifying for this introvert and without even thinking I said, “I’m blessed to have you in my life.”  Although I was engulfed with feelings of warmth and love, I suddenly started giggling.  The look on his face was priceless and all I could think of was what it must feel like to be told that phrase and then for the speaker to start laughing—which caused me to chuckle more.  I quickly apologized and began explaining my dilemma with using the phrase.  

 

The “I’m Blessed” discussion led to a broader religious discourse and our perspectives.  Rest assured, I have no firm answers when it comes to such things, but I do still find all things spiritual fascinating—it’s just religious doctrine that I have a tendency to outright reject.  He is quite engaging when it comes to such discussions so it made for an enjoyable exchange of ideas.  Fortunately, he completely understood where I was coming from on the religious front.  We came to the conclusion that despite the negative connotations of some words and phrases, that there are appropriate times to employ such language.

 

Earlier today, this same person and I are texting and he says, “I’m lucky to have that,” in reference to our relationship.  Then I get another text that simply says, “No”.  Followed immediately by, “I’m blessed” and the hand-over-mouth emoticon.  I chuckled silently knowing what he was doing in regards to our previous conversation before responding with, “Awwwwww.”  His final response was, “Fo real tho” and in that moment, I too, felt blessed.  

 

 

Gentle Spirit

Gentle spirit,

Your distant call alerts me in the shallows.

Like a hesitant deer, I search my field of vision

For the source of the sound.  Across the horizon

I see your radiance pulsating near the depths.

You beckon me to join you

And, so, I float in your direction.  At first,

I am frightened to leave the familiar

Shoal that I have known for so long.

Yet, in your presence—in the depths—

I am energized and weightless.

You buoy my soul with effortless joy

And I am comforted by your existence.

As I leave behind the bitter sweet waters of past,

The splashing of fresh waters lap at my heart

And I know…with you, I am home.

Falling In Love Again

November 28, 1990

April 15, 1992

December 12, 1994

These dates are just a few of the days that I fell in love in my lifetime, and they are some of the most significant events I have experienced.  These days happen to be some of the most sacred days of my life, as well.  I remember each day clearly and the exact moment that my heart filled with love that bubbled over and the sense of “I must protect” from this day forward.  Although time has passed and I am nearly 30 years older than when I first experienced this wonder, I am excited to report that these three people still make my spirit fill with joy when I am near them.

You may have guessed by now that those dates are the days that my three children—Corey, Joshua, and Lydia—were born.  Each day was unique in its own way although there were some similarities such as the anxiousness of the moment and the concern for their well-being.  The boys were both born in Neerpelt, Belgium (I was stationed in Belgium as my first assignment in the Air Force) in a very large labor room with just a doctor and a nurse in the room besides Lori, their mother, and me.  Their births were both induced and the timing was very similar with very little additional stressors—this statement coming from the man in the room who was not experiencing labor.

Lydia’s birth was a different story.  When Lydia was born, we were in a small room at a learning hospital filled with students at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  She was very ill upon entering the chaotic world of the delivery room—so ill, in fact, that the nurse looked at me and asked if I wanted to carry Lydia to the nursery.  Not understanding the gravity in the moment, I muttered I don’t have to. The nurse looked at me and said, “I think you should,” and somehow I began to understand that this may be the only time I would hold my little girl.  Fortunately, Lydia pulled through those first 24 hours with divine intervention.

Those three days, now decades ago, still seem fresh in my heart; but, I have had the pleasure to thrive in their love anew. Over the last several months, I have been experiencing a huge change in my life.  At the onset of the change, I believed that I was somehow letting them down and that they would be disappointed in me.  I had spent years trying to shelter them from any hint of discord in my personal life, so I expected them to react in disbelief. Instead, all three of these beautiful sentient beings reached out in support and love.

At a recent family gathering, I stood in the background for a moment and just watched them telling stories and laughing.  I heard one son say that if he needed to go “jack someone up” for his dad he was ready to go.  I heard another son say that it always bothered him the way I was “talked down to”.  And I heard my daughter say that she just wanted to see her dad happy again.  It was in those moments that I fell in love again with those three amazing kids!

A Cleansing Rain

October 6, 2018

I stood looking out the door across the courtyard as droves of rain poured down.  You had left the access door to the garage open in your haste to leave with the dogs.  The smell of your cologne, which you had sprayed on to cover up the scent of cigarettes that lingered on your clothing, still hung in the air.  I watched as the you backed your car out of the garage through the sheets of rain.  It took every ounce of inner grace not to flip you off as one last sign of independence. Instead, I shut the door and a heaving, “Fuck!” escaped from the depths of my being.

 

October 6, 2000

The rain had not let up and we had to accept the fact that our plans for an outdoor ceremony in a grove of pine trees was not going to happen.  Instead, we surrendered to nature’s flow and notified those who were attending that we had moved the ceremony inside at the church.  We would still go on with the plans of a private pre-ceremony foot-washing and communion (that you insisted on to honor your religious heritage) with the pastor and his partner along with two of the sweetest souls on earth who have acted as pseudo-parents to an untold number of LGBTQ people, Mark and Patty.

 

As we were preparing to get dressed for the evening, you were fidgety so I asked if everything was okay. You looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “If the Lord convicts me of this relationship, I hope you will understand if I have to leave it.”  I was shocked!  We were a few hours from standing before our community and making vows to each other. Somehow, I managed to say, “Maybe we should each go pray separately to make sure this is the right thing to do.”  You went into the bedroom and I stayed in the in the living room and knelt at the couch.

 

I was 32 years old. Just recently divorced with three kids and still on active duty with the Air Force.  You were 37 and had never lived with anyone in your adult life.  To say I was a little nervous about how you would be able to handle a full-time relationship with part-time kids would be an understatement.  Although I had serious doubts, I decided that the potential with you outweighed the risk. You, too, emerged from your bedroom with the same resolve.

 

We drove to the church through the light, gentle rain.  We participated in the private ordinances before any guests arrived and enjoyed the intimacy of the moment with those few folks special to us.  Then the moment came to make promises in front of all the guests, which was followed by a warm reception filled with gifts, bubbly, and love. It was as if the gentle rain was nourishing the moment as we began our journey together.

 

October 6, 2018

The heavy downpour continued as I sat on the floor of the darkened living room with tears in my eyes.  I thought of that ceremony so many years ago and how young and naïve I was.  I could almost feel the pride again of being a newly out, gay man who was pursuing a permanent relationship.  I remembered the promises:  those kept and those broken—and, oh, how the broken ones hurt.  I thought of the irony of receiving gifts on that day and today you were taking the last of your stuff, including the dogs.  I thought of the community of friends that surrounded us that day and how I was pushing my way through this day alone.  So, I just sat on the floor, mourned, and listened to the rain on the exact day it had rained 18 years ago at nearly the same time…except this time, it was a cleansing rain.

It’s Worse Than a Death

“It’s worse than a death in some ways because it is a death of love, a life imagined, hopes, and dreams…” Mom

Pop!  Thump.

Pop!  Thump.

The rhythm of the sound reminded me of the intro to “Cell Block Tango/He Had it Comin’” from the Chicago soundtrack.  That was the second movie musical we saw together—the first, Moulin Rogue.  I felt the familiar tightening of my throat as I tried to swallow away the tears that were welling up in my eyes.  I immediately looked up at the ceiling as if looking for an escape hatch.  Surely there is some relief from this gripping grief?

Pop!  Thump.

Pop!  Thump.

I looked to my left trying to distract myself and noticed two other clerks going about their business as if it was a normal day.  In fact, it was normal for them.  I was the one having the abnormal day.  As I looked in their direction, I was transported to a cold December day almost three years earlier and I was standing just two clerks down from where I currently stood.  You were with me.  We were smiling and joking with the clerk behind the counter then and picking up paperwork.  Today, I was alone and dropping off paperwork.  There was no joking and very little chatting.  Just that rhythm…

Pop!  Thump.

Pop!  Thump.

I looked through the saloon-style doors on the counter that were wide open and watched as the clerk took one of my completed forms and placed it inside a small stamping machine.  Pop!  The form was now stamped with “Filed”, the date, and the county clerk’s name.  She then picked up a hand-held stamp and placed it firmly on the top of the form.  Thump.  The form now had a case number.  I felt a sudden wave of nausea sweep over me and I again tried to swallow but there wasn’t any saliva in my mouth.  Those damn tears!  I exhaled probably too loudly in an effort to maintain “deep yoga breathing”.  The rhythm stopped just briefly as the clerk looked my direction and then quickly averted making complete eye contact with me.  The beat returned, but it was slower now as if in reverence to my grief.

Pop!

Thump.

Pop!

Thump.

I drifted back to just minutes before.  Having just pulled $200.00 from the ATM, I counted it to ensure it was the correct amount.  I was just three blocks from the courthouse and knew there would be parking closer than my current location.  I went around the block and began scanning the one-way street for parking spots on both sides.  Bingo!  There were a couple and I didn’t have to parallel because they were both together.  “Thank, God.  I don’t have the focus to parallel park right now,” I silently breathed.  Quickly, I grabbed my phone and then remembered that I couldn’t take it into the courthouse, so I stowed it away in the arm rest compartment.  I climbed out of my Jeep and slipped an hour’s worth of quarters into the parking meter.  “That should be enough, right?  Surely, this won’t take more than an hour.”  I slowly made my way down the block towards the Allen County Courthouse.

When I arrived at the corner of the courthouse, I looked at the open green space and took note of the perfectly manicured lawn.  The industrial pulse of the city filled my ears.  There are multiple walkways to choose from and I decided to take the diagonal one towards the doors.  With each step, the sidewalk seemed to become longer and by the time I had reached the entrance I was completely winded.  I pulled on the door prepared to empty my pockets and move through the metal detector.  The security guard motioned for me to come through once I had placed all personal effects onto the scanning belt.  Of course, the detector started beeping and I had to have the wand waved around me.  Once they were certain I had no weapons, they motioned me on.

“If I remember correctly,” I mused to myself, “the clerk’s office is just up the stairs.”  I made my way up the stairs and towards the area where I thought the office was.  I paused outside the door and read the sign:  Please wait here for next available clerk.  I stood back far enough for a few seconds so that no one inside the office could see me.  There was a deafening silence that reminded me of some of the cathedrals I have visited while in Europe.  My feet suddenly felt like lead while a sea of emotion churned inside my head.  I inched closer to the door and heard a voice say, “Next.”  I made my way towards the clerk.  She was friendly enough and asked how she could help me.  I stumbled around with my words, but eventually managed to say, “I’m here to file divorce paperwork.”  My throat caught and I quickly looked down at the folder I had with me.

“Let me see what paperwork you have,” she responded. I handed the prepared paperwork over the counter to her.  “Do you know there’s a $177.00 filing fee?”

“Yes.”

Pop!

Thump.

Pop!

Thump.

She was counting back the three dollars in change to me and saying, “You do know that 60 days from now, you will have to bring the additional paperwork in?”

“Yes.  The website directions are really clear and helpful.”

“They are aren’t they?”  Her voice had seemed to carry on with the previous rhythm.  She made eye contact with me and suddenly realized that her light voice didn’t match my somber emotions.  Her smile faded into a sympathetic “it will be okay” position.  I thanked her and headed out of the office.  I needed to find a bathroom so that I could just let the tears flow.  I rushed down the steps to the first floor and quickly found the men’s room.  I went into a stall and just placed my face in my hands until I regained my composure.  I made my way to the sink, washed my hands, and confirmed in the mirror that my eyes were no longer red.

As I was leaving the courthouse, I noticed another rhythm.

Clack.

Clack.

Clack.

Clack.

The hard heals of my wing-tip dress shoes were echoing through the halls.  I stepped outside of the building and my ears were filled with a choir of downtown noises—cars idling at a stop light, other vehicle sounds as they drove past, and one impatient driver honking.  And suddenly:

Bam!

The heavy door to the courthouse closed behind me just before I moved forward.

Clack.

Clack.

Clack.

Clack.

The Echoes of Silence

You’re with me in the echoes of silence

As I longingly search for your presence.

Everywhere I turn, I see your shining face—

A smile here, eyebrows dancing there.

You find me always.

While I hide in the shadows, you continue

On your hunt for something more.

Even when I’m invisible, you speak to me

And no matter how hurt I am, I respond.

I listen to your story as if it was the first time.

When I’m in the light, you joyfully sing

Of your love for my beauty—

Enchanting me with your sweet honey

And I believe again in our existence.

Until…

The echoes of silence reverberate.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

“…I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14

I have always enjoyed science; so much, in fact, that I taught Anatomy and Physiology for two years as part of a Massage Therapy program. My favorite systems to teach were the Digestive System and the Cardiovascular System. The former is just a huge tube along with accessory organs that moves food through to break it down for energy, growth, and cell repair. The later system allowed me to utilize blue, red, and purple dry erase markers to demonstrate oxygenated vs. deoxygenated blood—as a visual learner, it seemed quite simple to teach using this method. I would often remind students that what we were learning was a system and that there are always individual differences. I’m sure some can still repeat the mantra I so readily quoted: “Every body is different.”

23andMe results

It is the similarities and the differences that I find intriguing. Several years ago, I was interested in understanding more about my own genetics so I completed a DNA test with 23andMe. I was particular curious to know if the family stories about heritage aligned with scientific evidence and if I carried the marker for Alzheimer’s disease (I do not). My father’s side of the family (Musick) was believed to be Scotch-Irish and Mom’s side (Slater) was English. When the results came back, my DNA indicated that I am, indeed, 55.1% British and Irish. What was a little more surprising to me was rest of my genetic makeup: Scandinavian, Ashkenazi Jewish, and West African to name a few. It is fascinating to me that all of this ancestry composition wonderfully makes me!

Papaw’s hands

Goofing off the other day, I snapped a picture in my car. I am always struck at how there are times when I clearly see my father’s face in mine (especially the eyes) and then there are other times when I see my maternal grandfather’s face, Papaw (it’s all in the cheeks). This picture caught my attention not because of the face details but because my hands are visible with two fingers in an almost peace sign placed across my lips. In this picture, I see Papaw’s hands—wide palm and long, thin fingers. It caused me to think of the last time I saw and touched Papaw’s hands.

Papaw and Mom

He was in the last stages of Alzheimer’s and confined to a nursing facility in Russell, Kentucky. This was the “nice one” as those of us in the family called it because he had been in an older facility across the river in Ohio. When I entered the room with my own young kids in tow, I noticed how peaceful he looked curled in fetal position with his hands on top of one another in prayer-like pose while the white sheets draped him in warm comfort. The room seemed especially bright but it was in the middle of the day so that was to be expected. I walked over to his bedside and spoke to him. His eyes were closed but I could see there was almost imperceptible movement just below his lids. I continued talking to him telling him who I was and that the kids were with me. I had no expectation that he would awaken or recognize me. I noticed his top hand, long fingers, pat his other hand. I slid into the chair beside his bed and slipped my equally large hand between his wide palms. A smile etched across his lips and he slowly began patting my hand. It was as if to comfort and to tell me all was good. Tears welled up in my own eyes as he continued to gently move his hands to the rhythm of an imperceptible beat. I felt a deep sense of security and loss as our similarly shaped hands rested into each other. It was as if both of us recognized this was a final moment together. Several weeks later, he left the grips of Alzheimer’s and slipped into the ethereal world.

We are made up of many tribes and experiences so it is nearly impossible to approach our identity from a purely biological perspective. I see physical attributes of my father and my grandfather. I exhibit behaviors and personality traits of my mother and grandmother. My sisters and I love to point out how we act and look like parents and grandparents with humor. My oldest son is the spitting image of me, my younger son has my sense of humor and just enough of my curly hair to give him great volume, and I marked my daughter with the same INFJ personality. It is amusing and heartening to know I share these traits with other family members; yet, I am uniquely me. So, I take time today to meditate on the precept that I am fearfully and wonderfully made…and, so are you, my friend.