Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Being present, just as I am

I will be headed to Kansas City for a funeral this weekend.

Jerry Amundson, father of my dear friend Eric, died Tuesday night after three months of degenerative illness. Jerry and his wife Bev had been some of my biggest cheerleaders about coming to seminary in Chicago, and they and Eric's family were among my financial supporters when the bottom fell out of my life financially a year and a half ago. Jerry and Bev have been one of three sets of adoptive parents for me in my sober life the last fifteen years, and they've meant a lot to me.

While Jerry's death wasn't a surprise, it still was a shock. The one rule that everyone who knew him was sure of was, "Don't count Jerry out just yet." So there is a certain emptiness knowing our journey together is done, for a time.

There were a bunch of tears yesterday, as the reports came from the hospital in KC showed that Jerry probably wasn't going to make it, but I'm doing OK with it, now. Acceptance has come eaiser, knowing that he's lived a good life but was in absolute misery at the end. "Well done, good and faithful servant..."

Eric, Jerry's son, is one of about a half-dozen folks in our old church crowd that I'm out to. In fact, he's been one of the most openly accepting of my coming out (he's the guy who called me as "the cute boy from Hong Kong" during his last trip). I've been looking forward to him coming to Chicago for a business meeting, but that trip's been put off several times (due to weather and scheduling).

But there's a bunch of folks that I've not specifically outed myself to - including his parents - and I had a brief debate about having those encounters this weekend. On the one hand, it's an opportunity to come out face-to-face with some people that I love, which is good. On the other hand, I have significant evidence that the world really doesn't revolve around me, and this weekend (or whenever the memorial is held) is about Jerry and his family, not about me and acceptance of my orientation.

For now, I've settled the debate to just be present, to focus on the people and the events at hand - but not to hide if questions come up about girlfriends or "the next Mrs. F." It's the same way I've been dealing with things at work. I don't have to pull an Emmett Honeycutt routine to be out at work - but when we joke about relationships, I'm clear to talk about boyfriends rather than girlfriends, and with my one friend Sabina, who keeps saying "Have you got that straight?" (rather than "Do you understand?") I give her the classic line: "Honey, I don't even think straight, any more..." (And to her credit, she laughs every time.)

I'm guessing the same approach will work this weekend, too. Not camp, by any means - but not hiding, either. No purple scarf (that routine's already been taken) but maybe a pink tie to go with the black suit. Wish I could find a lapel pin like the rainbow "fish" symbol refrigerator magnet my homo-mentors got me, but I don't think I'll have time to go shopping in Boystown before I leave.

Cue the Gloria Gaynor music...

I am what I am
And what I am needs no excuses
I deal my own deck sometimes the aces sometimes the deuces
It’s one life and there’s no return and no deposit
One life so it’s time to open up your closet
Life’s not worth a damn till you can shout out
I am what I am
Amen, Gloria - you preach it, girl.


  1. First, my condolences on the loss of your friend. Even when expected, even when we can let go with some grace, it is still someone missing from your life, at least missing as far as how they were present before.

    Second, it is funny you should be at this do-I-don't-I-and-in-that-case-how? point right now. My parents have insisted strongly that I not come out to my younger brother, and in accord with their wishes, I agreed, although I told them I would do so if asked directly and/or when the time seemed right to me. I have generally left it alone, too, because his own family life has been chaotic for the past several years, and I figure he had enough on his plate. I have spkoen with people I trust and they have agreed this seems right for the moment.

    Now, for reasons that are only partially clear, he has begun to ask my parents if I am gay. My father, of course, just gets stone-faced and clams up, and my mother says, "You will have to ask him yourself."

    Hellloooo! Could there be any clearer way of saying, "Yes, he is"? If I were not gay, they would just say that and move on. My brother is not an idiot, not by a long shot. He knows, bro, he knows.

    So now I am wondering what the next step is. My parents (mother) let me in on this, so I am in conversation with them about how to handle it. I want to respect their wishes -- my 85-year-old father is having enough trouble coping with my being gay as it is -- but I don't want to simply hand over my life to them. And now that the question has come up, I am pretty uncomfortable with "covering." So I am doing the next right thing, talking to the people I count on to advise me from their own strength, hope and experience.

    This raises the further question of letting my parents know more about my Partner. They have begun fishing expeditions in that pond, too, since my brother is stirring up the waters. As I say, he is no idiot and immediately connected the question of my gayness with "this guy" I'm living with. Again, an issue I had not wanted to force on my folks unnecessarily. But perhaps that is no longer an option. After all, I will be moving soon to another state with my Partner. I suspect they will not buy the story that I am uprooting just because I will get a good deal on the rent.

    Prayers and peace be with you on your journey. And peace and hope to all those grieving. After all, those who live in the Lord never see one another for the last time.

  2. steve

    sorry for your is always hard...and after a certain age, we start to see not only saddness and loss of dear friends, but glimpses of our own pending future and lack of immortality...thank goodness for you you have taken the tough tough steps you have to make the rest of your life a happy one......

    Be careful, take it easy


  3. S, I think you are wise to keep things to yourself. It is time to be with friends. Let them be the center of attention.

    But if asked, don't lie. But I'd gently dodge fishing questions. If they ask about "the next Mrs. F." you can honestly say, "Oh, I'm not looking for antoher Mrs. F." and leave it there. The potential for sidetracking things seems great.

    Unless of course they already know/suspect/etc. Then it won't matter.

    Who the hell am i to be advising someone about this! Yes, I know I'm still in the closet, but at least I've found the closet light, so maybe I'll find the door. Maybe. . . .

    Prayers go up for your friend Jerry, and for his family, and for you.

    Grace & Peace, Joe.