Tuesday, September 20, 2011


<Photo By Fergus Ray Murray >
This editorial a Perspectives piece by Gary Cravener  from Saturday's Post-Gazette  made me cry. (in a good way)  With just a few tweaks his story could be my own.
I too -
  • never thought much about marriage because in  PA it's not legally possible
  • was single for a long time
  • had the most unexpected thing happen which was
  • the appearance on the scene of Sunshine and Happiness 
  • waited  for the other shoe to drop and something to muck things up but this did not happen
  • bought a home, combined resources and created a happy family including our furry children
  • was 'legally' married in Canada after 12 years of making a life with S&H
In his piece Cravner says...."when any two people, at any age, find each other and fall in love in this somewhat impersonal and difficult world, it's something special that needs to be celebrated."

Amen to that.

What moved me to tears though was Cravner's description of his wedding day.

     The wedding was small, simple, beautiful. We wore matching white dinner jackets with yellow rose boutonnieres. With a few close friends and family on hand, and with a justice of the peace officiating, on a gorgeous August afternoon we said our vows under the cool blue skies and soft breezes of Cape Cod.  When I managed to choke through the tears with some words that slightly resembled my rehearsed vows, I said the infamous "I do" to the most wonderful person in the world, my new husband. With that, my world changed forever. I had never before experienced total joy as I did that day.

Not quite a year ago, I too choked through tears and said my vows to the most wonderful person in the world, my new wife.  We might not have worn matching dinner jackets and we didn't have anyone there but our witnesses and pastor but from the moment we said our vows my world changed forever.  Like Cravner, I'd never before experienced total joy as I did that day.

At the end of this month, Sunshine and Happiness and I will revisit Canada to celebrate our first 'legal' anniversary.  May there be many more.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. - Eleanor Roosevelt

At the beginning of the summer I did something I've always wanted to do and joined a book club at the local library.   So far we've read Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea, Susan Wilson's One Good Dog, and a formulaic detective procedural. Bleh. I disliked them all.  For the month of August though we read The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World.  Yay!  Finally.  I'm a grump and I like bliss. 

Author Eric Weiner is a long time NPR foreign correspondent and an unhappy guy who prefers Eeyore to Winnie-the-Pooh.  Living in a country where the pursuit of happiness is fundamental causes thinking about his lack of happiness to make him even more unhappy.  Weiner (pronounced whiner)  I'm sure is a long lost relative of mine.  

The book came to be when the author found a study ranking the world's happiest places.  This gets Weiner to thinking that perhaps happiness is about the culture and where you live and not so much about who you are and what you do.  So he sets off to find out and there ensues lots of drinking, one incident of hash smoking and the consumption of rotten shark. Oh and he visits one of the world's most miserable places just for contrast.

Weiner takes his time drawing conclusions and discussing the customs and cultures of each country.  In one example Weiner tells of how in Great Britain he met with an English contact at a local pub.  Upon arriving the two talk about the weather, football and a million other things all before introducing themselves.  Seriously, it takes like an hour.  Weiner says that learning the man's name is akin to extracting info from the CIA.  Apparently in Great Britain the absolute worst thing you can be is "cloyingly American" included in which must be immediately introducing yourself upon meeting someone.   Seems it's all about the stiff upper lip, stoic demeanor and absolutely no outward show of emotion.  Sunshine and Happiness would last like a minute there.   You would think then that Great Britain would be an unhappy place but according to Weiner it's not.  He discovers that although folks are all prickly on the outside they possess an undercurrent of contentment and satisfaction way down deep.  You just can't see it.   Brits he decides are latently happy.

Wait, so am I.  Dark and Twisty on the outside, latently happy on the inside.  Kind of like a Mound's bar.  That's not so bad.  I can get with that.  Sunshine and Happiness though says it's better to be blatantly happy.  Like her.

Anyway, the seniors (average age 72) who basically ARE the book club, I'm sure hated this book.    They may be dead soon so patience is not really big on their agenda.  Favored books are sappy, quick and yes, formulaic.  Think Nicholas Sparks.  Also everyone in them should be Irish Catholic. Other ethnic Catholic is OK though not preferred.  Oh, and I almost forgot.  They don't like to think. 

Other annoyances.  This from the last group meeting:

Woman:  Hey I have a joke.
Facilitator: (groan)
Woman:  Did you hear that Buckwheat, you know from the Little Rascals, recently became a Muslim? 
Facilitator (ignores her)
Woman: Want to know what they call him?
Facilitator:  No.
Woman:  (barreling ahead anyway)  Kareem of Wheat

Culturally sensitive this group.  Wait until I come out!  Although I guess I could be accused of being the teeny tiniest littlest bit aegist.  But just a smidge.

Lest I seem too unhappy let me mention that there is one woman about my age, the only woman my age actually, who managed to endear herself to me.  When the facilitator asked for suggestions for our next book she shouted out "oh, oh, what about A Prayer for Owen Meany?" 
My. Favorite. BookEver. 
Needless to say though, if folks hated The Geography of Bliss wait until they try Owen Meany.  And he's Protestant to boot.

I may not last in this bookclub. Books I like are intelligent, use wit and a weird sense of humor, are original and finally they make me feel something inside, they have heart.  In these books small seemingly inconsequential details are woven slowly and repeatedly throughout the story, building momentum until at the end BAM.   Everything matters, every small detail has purpose, things come together and it all makes sense.  The Geography of Bliss and Owen Meany are this kind of book. They manage to make me really deep down happy. (latently of course)

 September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month. Sign up now.


Friday, September 2, 2011


Mrs. K.
Our neighbor Mrs. K, a woman I helped care for, died Tuesday morning.  Today was her funeral.   Catholic mass and funerals are second nature to me, a body memory from my youth.  Since that time I have become what we affectionately refer to as a pagan/heathen.  During Lent as a child, the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters would pass out tiny milk cartons with UNICEF photos on them to be placed upon the right hand corner of each desk.  My classmates and I would collect pennies we were told would be used for the conversion of  "pagan babies."  Truly.     I kid you not, I'm waiting for someone to send me a little milk carton full of pennies.

Usually when I attend a funeral mass I forgo communion.  Today for some reason I decided I wanted to participate.  I usually don't because non celibate gay folks are not supposed to receive.  Participating in the sacrament is tantamount to declaring that the receiver is in full communion with the universal Church and faithful to Catholic doctrine.  Which of course I am not.  But damn it,  the idea of  "joining with" Mrs. K.'s  family and friends in a communal albeit symbolic meal made me smile.  And I do happen to believe  that where 2 or 3 are gathered God is present.  I didn't want to feel separate from those who were grieving.  I wanted to be a part of it, so no disrespect intended, I went.

I was really nervous though. Rebel I am not.   Sunshine and Happiness and I were discreet at the service but didn't shy away from holding hands or from comforting one another.   That's kind of a moot point anyway because S&H had come out to the entire funeral home the night before.  Catholics however are not the most touchy-feely, free with their emotions, accepting kind of people and S&H is HUGE on emotions and hugging.  Anyone and everyone.  Anywhere.  So much so that sometimes I wince as she approaches an unsuspecting hug-ee. It makes me jumpy.   Also I'm just a teensy bit paranoid about being in a church that at one time would have stoned me. 

So S&H asks me at the beginning of the service if I am going to go to communion and informs me decisively that she is not.   I'm unsure.   When that part of the mass rolls around I decide that I would like to participate.  I am however extremely self-conscious because to  those Catholics who know S&H and I are gay (which is everyone who was at the funeral home the night before) it is a given that I should not go up and receive.  Thems the rules baby!  At this point I took a deep breath and stepped out of the pew and started up the aisle.  As I inched forward I kept looking for the guardian of the rules to jump out of a pew, tackle me and yell "Nooooooo!"  Needless to say, I was a bit distracted when it came my turn in front of the priest.  Here's how it went down:

Priest:  "The body of Christ"

My turn.  Total silence.  I am frozen in place, my mind gone blank, blankity, blank, blank as to what I'm supposed to say.  (Amen by the way is the correct response.)

Long pause. Oh wait something's coming  to me.

Me:   In full Pentecostal mode,  "THANKS BE TO GOD!" 

Not only is this NOT the correct response but by the look on his face this priest probably wouldn't have been surprised if Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston had  popped out of the sacristy and started singing  Oh Happy Day, so emphatic was I.   To his credit he still gave me the bread, although he did hesitate.

Anyway, we got through the funeral and afterwards S&H hugged Mrs K.'s family, the priest, the pallbearers, the driver of the hearse, the chapel attendant and the groundskeeper before we headed home.  S&H went off to work and I am here by myself thinking about the empty house next door.  The older I get the more true the expression, here one minute, gone the next becomes.  I'm sad and grateful both, glad to be here but aware I won't always be.

So here's to you Mrs. K.  I promise I will miss you.

This leaf from that legacy maple is the color
of the fine expensive wine
nine years ago
I gave up drinking

and hanging from the limbs of another tree
are the amber hues of so many
many drafts and gills
so many nights ago
I said goodbye to.

Water over ice in a delicate glass
I rescued from my dead mother's kitchen.
Take it, she would have said, and
put it to good use.

I did. I lift it now to know its clarity
Nine years or ninety-one:
At the end of any stretch there
lies another.  Here's to the stretch. Here's
to the end.  Here's to whatever time
it takes to have the heart it takes
once more to get there.  
                                     - William Kloefkorn