The Two Things

There are two things I have in common with Mom which stand out. The first thing bothered me for years, and the second thing only bothers me occasionally, but has frequently been an asset . The first thing was a physical issue. George didn’t look a thing like Dad. Dad was tall and large; not fat at all, just large. George on the other hand was small like Mom and fine featured; not at all suited for the role of star football player or wrestling champion. It was a fact that affected his self-image for years. His/our body was far more suited to me. The second thing I have in common with Mom is far more pervasive.

I’ve considered, off and on for years, that Mom was genetically disposed to certain tendencies which are common among squirrels and pack rats. Mom saved everything. Her home is filled to the brim with artwork and decorations which all have a special memory attached to them. They are either from trips abroad, family members or they represent special occasions in her life. I have definitely inherited that trait … in spades as they say.

I save everything. I still have clothes I had in high school. I have every picture ever taken of me. I have cowboy hats and boots that are over 35 years old. I have 33 1/3 rpm LP records that I bought mail order when I was freshman in college in 1962, and joined the Columbia Record Club. I have books like The Art of Dating which Mom gave me when I was 13.

There is, on one of the book shelves in my family room, a book titled Jorn, by a Danish author of boy’s adventure books, which I’ve had since I was in the third grade. And last but not least … The Ransome Expedition to Loch Ness, written by my brother’s oldest and dearest friend, David Porter. It’s something he did just so he could say he’d written a mystery novel. He dedicated it to Mom and Dad and self published; something rather uncommon in the mid 1970’s.

There are a lot of other books on my book shelves, nearly all of which I have read, and many of them twice. That should give you a better idea of what squirrel I am. I always felt that the habit should give my children a sense of security, in that they were safe from abandonment because of their father’s habit of never throwing anything away.

My bride took thousands of photographs over the years … I still have all those, but the task to organize a portion of my past, which I got a notion to tackle this morning, was indeed an awesome (hate that word but it fits here) task.

In my bedroom is a cabinet which contains more of the things I don’t throw away, like my Day Timers going back 13 years. (The rest, going back to 1971 are in boxes in a closet.) But, today was all business … business cards. In the cabinet with the Day Timers is an orange plastic box about 2 inches deep, 7 inches wide and 15 inches long. It’s been in that cabinet for as long as I’ve had the cabinet, 30 years, give or take a year. The contents of the orange plastic box are cards … business cards. When I originally expropriated that box from Marilyn’s lab I converted it to a sort of card index and originally arranged everything alphabetically, of course.

If I could garner 2 cards from someone I put one under their name and one under the company name. This would have been great if I’d maintained it over the years since, but no, that didn’t happen. What did happen was that I continued collecting cards and after a certain pile accumulated on my desk I would toss the pile on top of that box, always thinking I’d get around to organizing them someday. Today was someday; I started sorting cards around 10:00 AM and finished about 6:00 PM.

As close as I can figure, there are about 2,000 cards. They go back to the late ‘60’s or early ‘70’s. In addition, there were a number of boxes of cards left over from previous employments. Last, but certainly not least, was a collection of George’s business cards dating back to the early ‘70’s; 26 different jobs and business ventures in the span of about 45 years. The amazing fact about all of this is that I can actually remember most of the people, whose names appear on the cards.

Yes, the term’s pack rat and squirrel certainly are applicable. Why am I telling you this? The purpose is to answer the question I’m asked most frequently is: “How do you remember all the details in your memoir?” I don’t remember them … I save them for later; kind of like a squirrel storing nuts for a long winter. They could come in handy someday.

History and The Rubicon

The problem with history is remembering it. Of course, if you remember it you then have to remember it correctly for it to be of any positive value.

There is someone in my family who has a degree in history; in fact there are two people in my family who have degrees in history. They both have a bad habit of editing and embellishing their own histories to a nearly bizarre degree. The effect of this is that when either one of them opens their mouth I can’t help but see a cloud of question marks forming in front of them. There is usually, although not always, an element of truth to what they are saying, and after a lifetime of exposure to extravagant stretches of reality I have learned to discount ninety percent of what either of them say on just about any subject. It’s sad actually, because I think they cheat themselves out of some of life’s
most valuable lessons by failing to accurately remember their own histories, and the lessons therein. They also cheat all those around them, when they fail to relay their experiences accurately.

As a recovering alcoholic I had to learn early in my sobriety the damage I had done to my own life by not remembering my history accurately. While still practicing my disease, which is what some alcoholics call drinking, (and practice is a pretty accurate word because I never did get where I could do it right) I just needed a simple memory test. All I had to do was remember that when I drank one, then two, three … a couple of dozen always followed, accompanied by a lapse of memory about the history lesson just reviewed.

One of the basics to history is that if you don’t remember it, and remember it accurately, you will repeat it. Naturally, we all like to think we are special, don’t we? I did, but a caring sponsor slapped me upside of the head, figuratively, and dissuaded me of that notion quickly. Unique in this world maybe … but special? No! Now I am still an alcoholic, but I’m a recovering alcoholic because someone cared about me enough to make me remember my history accurately. So, how do I apply that to my life today? After all it has been twenty-one years since I took that course.

Today my history reminds me that I should look before I leap. History has shown that my leaping has often led to longing … for things the way they used to be; for do-overs, rewind and re-play. Life just doesn’t work that way. Does that mean that we can know in advance the outcome of every action? Only in math, chemistry and physics; the so-called exact sciences. Sometimes though we are faced with limited choices, with no easy options because of the point in our history, combined with the history of others, at which we have arrived. In world history this situation has come to be known as The Rubicon.

The Rubicon is a river in northern Italy that marked the separation of Italy and Gaul. Roman law decreed that returning generals and their armies had to part company before crossing the Rubicon. If the commanding general did not surrender his command before crossing the river, it was considered an act of treason and war against Rome. Even more important was the fact that there was no forgiveness once the Rubicon had
been crossed; no “Whoops I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.” There was no running back across the river and saying, “I’m sorry, my mistake. Can we just forget I did that and go back to things the way they were? Huh, please?” When a general crossed the Rubicon as a general he was … committed.

The nature of the river itself, which was to change course with regularity every time there was a heavy rain, provided no excuse for re-consideration. Just because the river was not now where it was when the general left on his expedition of conquest several years earlier made no difference. The Rubicon was The Rubicon regardless of where it happened to be flowing that year. In 49 BC Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon and
as he did he uttered the phrase, “alea iacta est” – the die is cast. We all know, or should know, the eventual outcome of that effort; “Et tu Brute?

Is there anyone in our world; the LGBT … DG world, that has not crossed The Rubicon? Is there anyone in our world who has not had to face the reality of their own history in coming to the decision to wade into the river, knowing what waited on the far side? The act of crossing The Rubicon for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered and dual-gendered is not the tough part. Living or dying with the consequences like Julius Caesar did is the tough part. You cross the river, get a little wet, dry off, grab your sword and shield live with the decision. There is one segment of our community however that can’t pull it off that way.

The true trans-sexual has a crossing that is something akin to crossing where the water is deepest and swiftest. They have to shed their armor and abandon their weapons because trying to cross with those will surely pull them under before they reach the other side. Even if they could get across with weapons and armor intact the weapons would be rusty and the armor definitely wouldn’t fit anymore. Some come out on the other side rejuvenated and ready to take on the imperial city. Some are so exhausted they can go no further. And there are some who ignore the warnings, try to cross with all their armor and weapons and drown before they reach the other side.

Wherever The Rubicon was running when you reached it, however swift it was running when you stepped into it, how muddy the water or how deep, there are others just ahead of you to prove it can be crossed and others behind waiting for you to show them it can be crossed. Just don’t forget … it is The Rubicon. It will be a part of history, yours and the worlds and where it flows today will most likely be different tomorrow.

Looking back … A.K.A. Hindsight

The process of writing “Dear Mom and Dad” was an experience that I wouldn’t want to have to go through again. Not because it was painful, which it was much of the time. It is something that I would recommend, however, for anyone who is in search of the truth of their life. I learned two things in the process of writing about this unusual life.
The first was when I realized upon completing the initial 750+ page draft that if it was actually published, people who’d been a part of my life would know if I was being honest. That led to the first major edit, which was done with the thought that each page would be a record of the reality of the time, and not a memory revised to ease a conscience.
The second thing I learned was what the effect of writing in the third person had on the way I looked at the life George had led. In every memoir or autobiography I’ve ever read it has been written from the “I did” standpoint. I wrote from my viewpoint, as having been there, watching and waiting as George went through all his successes and failures. In other words it was, in reality a biography which eventually morphed into an autobiography. Thus it really was a memoir and not biographical in nature. I believe that writing from that viewpoint added an element of objectivity that would have been impossible otherwise. That thought makes me think that a companion book should be written about me … by “George.”
It isn’t natural for human beings to see themselves in a flawless mirror. We all want the magic mirror the wicked queen peered into each day and asked, “Who’s the fairest of them all?” Unfortunately the mirrors of our lives tend to magnify our faults and not our beauties. It’s a characteristic that has made millionaires out of countless plastic surgeons. But, those are merely the visible flaws. It’s the hidden flaws, the flaws which are represented in our self-image view of “how” we are not “what” we are.
The process of writing “Dear Mom and Dad” brought that point home to me in clear unmistakable terms. I was forced to take a hard look at the effect wishful thinking had, as opposed to the effect reality thinking would have had on the results of my life. I had to face the fact that many things might have been different if I’d been as aware of the importance of seeing the facets of my life in focus as I do now.
The last sentence of “Dear Mom and Dad” is a quote from an old “Dennis the Menace” cartoon. “Wish I was three again knowing what I know now.” While that is an accurate reflection of many feelings it is also misleading in one respect. I would not be the person I am today if I’d lived any other way. I am the sum total of all the successes as well as all the failures. Yes there are times when I wish Superman would reverse the rotation of the earth once again and turn back the clock in the process, but all in all I’m happy with my life and the only thing I don’t like is absence of our bride.
At any given moment I may waiver in my contentment with the way life has turned out but overall I believe it is progressing exactly the way God intends it to. If there would be any advantage to starting over “knowing what I know now” it would be to let Abba have His way much sooner. But then of course, for all I know this has been … His Way.