|Autumn leaves along a creek in Oregon - somewhat past their prime, but still a colorful reminder of the passing of another season.|
I'm home again in California, just in time to make preparations for the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving this coming Thursday, when family and friends will again gather together here in my home. I only had time to be online once or twice over the last week, but thanks to those who checked in and/or sent emails. I'll reply to them all as time allows.
So... where was I for a week? Let me explain...
Since having been bitten by the travel bug at an early age I'd always been one to jump at the chance to take what the younger generation often calls a "road trip"; loading a few things into the car and taking off on short notice for points unknown. At my age today I accept that those days are far behind me, though. Today a journey from home takes some planning and forethought.
It's not that I have to notify caregivers and next of kin where I'm going, or that I have to make sure there are enough maintenance prescriptions and adult diapers on hand to leave home, but life in and of itself graces me with responsibilities and obligations that don't allow the spontaneity of my youth, when I thought nothing of deciding at nine o'clock in the evening to call a friend and say "Hey, want to drive down to San Diego tonight?", arriving in time to have breakfast and wander around in the zoo there when it opened.
WHY I still remember those 12-hour death marches I'll never understand; far too many of us thought we were Hunter S. Thompson back in those reckless days, fueling ourselves with higher octane substances than we'd put into the gas tank, wear and tear to our bodies (and brain cells) be damned. Some foolish souls still do, but thankfully that's their problem - and they're welcome to it.
The brief trip that kept me away from posting for a week was a somewhat bittersweet journey to visit a few friends I'd been meaning to see since the late Spring. One, although still able to get about on his own is closing in on 90 years old, and beginning to show signs of it that he'd dodged for the last few years. Too far away now for our twice-weekly visits I noticed a dramatic change in him when I saw him last week, and it was unavoidable to think that I may well not see him again, at least as he's been the many years I've known him.
|Trees in Washington state, blazing with color in a final hurrah before dropping their leaves for the Winter|
At my urging he talked a great deal about his childhood, his military years and the rest of his life as someone who dealt with being gay for many decades before being able to accept it. I did my best to make hasty written and mental notes as best I could. In the evening I scribbled them down when I returned to my room at the home of a former "friend with benefits", long since become merely a good and trusted friend.
My elderly friend spoke at length about a world that fortunately I've only read about: the Pre-Stonewall days I'd heard about from other gay men only a generation older than myself; the ones who truly had no choice but to live in secrecy and fear. He still speaks of those days in hushed tones, as though someone moving their walker slowly past his door might hear him. When those younger than I ask why he's so private about it I've taken to saying that he's an "Old School" gay - a term I use with nothing less than full respect.
Somewhere around 60 years ago he dutifully followed tradition, married a woman and had a child that is still probably the brightest spot in his life. 40 years ago he buried the same woman after a sudden illness took her, leaving him a single father - a challenge he rose admirably to. Finally, 20 years ago - nearing his 70th birthday - he met a man that was to become his partner for the next 16 years, until illness took him a handful of years ago. For those of you who feel you'll never find that special someone past the age of 30, please take note of that.
Now he spends his days reading, taking walks and reflecting with no small amount of wonder back over the span of years he's been around. "I don't mean to sound maudlin or depressed," he said to me "but I've lived a good life, overall. A good life. If you told me I'd simply go in my sleep tonight and wouldn't wake up in the morning I'd be okay with that. I've traveled, I've learned many things, I've loved and I've been loved. I've experienced so much - what more could anyone really ask for?"
I can only hope that my thinking mellows to match his as I go along... assuming, of course, that I'm blessed with the same longevity and relatively good health he's had.
It was an emotional farewell before I headed back home to California. For many years I'd have seen him and his partner for an hour or two twice a week - and then him alone for five years past that - but circumstances took him North to be closer to his daughter, so other than phone visits this was the first time we'd talked in person for eight months.
Although it went unspoken I think we both realized that this may well have been our last few days together. For now, though, there's still the comfort in knowing that I can call and have him answer, always beginning the conversation with "I'm so glad you called."
|Rain drops early one morning in Seattle - frozen overnight on the back of a leaf.|