Your Gift to Me
I have spent around thirty five of my fifty years trying my best not to be you. Though I am gay, as you were, I, from an early age saw how being in the back of the closet did to you. More accurately, I project the temper, anxiety, addictions to coffee and cigarettes, and lack of intimacy with and affection for a wife with mental health issues as by products of a stifling existence as a gay man born in and of the 1930's. I abhor smoking and coffee, consider intimacy the Holy Grail of life, and dodge confrontation to a probable fault.
How interesting, then, that I discovered at a young age that I am gay as well. Born of a different era, where being gay was a few shades easier, my attraction to boys was strong and unmistakable from well before I really could wrap my head around this homosexuality thing and well, well before I could see how you masked and lashed out at your pain.
How interesting that we didn't know that you had contracted AIDS somewhere in the late 1980's . That you said it was leukemia even after you had become so ill that we could not NOT know. That, unbeknownst to your family, you had been promiscuous with men for years (decades?). Interesting not in some sociologically academic sense or some "making me angry" sense. Interesting in that I am convinced you saved my life.
I am convinced that, when I was in high school and college, and AIDS facts were less prevalent than fictions and terrors and nothing was open about your sexuality, I made the decision to be out and not be promiscuous. I knew my share of attractive gay men who were happily screwing each other. I can't say I was never happy, if you get my drift. But there was always that little voice that made me practice what we now call safe sex. That voice that stopped me from sleeping with guys who it turned out were positive and certainly had the inevitable short term result. That encouraged me to be out and not live a life of repression that fosters addictions and pain. That told me it was OK to be different.
It could be revisionist history, my way of coping with the physical and emotional risk you put the family through and my anger that you could never, even in your last days in 1989, acknowledge who you were. That we discovered your lovers through what you left behind. I choose to look at my choosing to live my life openly and at the same time protect myself from harm as your gift to me and a conscious one at that. Thanks to you I reached fifty last year, banged up for sure, but ready for another few decades.