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 amAmen, Gloria - you preach it, girl.
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