Tuesday, September 25, 2012

In which the Geezer Rants About "Christians"

I don’t like metaphorical closets.  I was in mine for the first 40 years of my life, and it was a deadly place for me.

Still. . .

I have had it with so–called Christians who batter all of us over the head with their so–called Christian morality, world–view, and customs.  I’m sick, sick, sick of hearing about the fantastical rapture, the fires of hell that are in store for sexually active gay people and others, the non–biblical earthly rewards that these so–called Christians believe God will give them if they “accept Jesus as my personal savior.”  I’m sick of it all, and I want these people to go into their own closet and stay there.

Once, at a gay friend’s retirement party, a woman “of a certain age,” who considered herself liberal (“How will this country ever recover from Bush?”), said to me as we sat next to one another at dinner: “I fully accept the fact that Michael and most of his friends are gay, but is there really a need to be so public about it?  Do you have to kiss one another whenever you meet?  Do you have to be so clearly gay?”  I deeply disagreed with her on this point, and we had a polite, even cordial, debate.

Now, though, I find myself thinking the exact same thing about so–called Christians:  Do you have to be so public about it?  Do you have to talk about your personal religious beliefs and experiences every chance you get?  Can’t you tell me that you consider yourself a Christian and just leave it at that?

It’s worse — oh, so much worse — when the so–called Christians are in public life.  Take the members of the tea party as an example.  Many of them call themselves "Christian," and at the same time call for an end to Federal and State government programs that help the poor, that protect old geezers like me, that take care of vulnerable women and children.  These are functions, they maintain, of the private sector, and especially of the so–called Christian churches.  Holding the Bible in one hand and Atlas Shrugged in the other, they prattle on warning of the coming socialist America and telling us that their Jesus wants everyone to accept him and, once everyone has accepted him, the earthly rewards of wealth, solvency, and security will be there for all of us.  It’s like some kind of magic for these people, and it is so NOT in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus had one test of discipleship, and one method of evangelization:  “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13/35, International Standard Version).  Jesus never counseled his disciples to win people over with promises of earthly wealth and success.  He never cautioned against doing too much for one’s neighbors.  He never said that governments have no role in works of mercy.

So, Paul Ryan and all you others: shut up about religion.  Shut up about the need for “faith–based programs.”  Shut up period.

If you want to be open about your faith, then do precisely what Jesus suggested: love one another.  If you all were to do that perfectly and limit your evangelization to love, then your churches couldn’t hold all the converts.

If that’s too much for you, however, then, please, stay in your closet!!!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Geezer Wonders as He Wanders

I keep questioning and wondering about God.

At least once a day over the past month or so, I find myself saying the following prayer for my Mom: “Eternal rest grant unto my Mom, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.  May her soul, and the souls of all our family’s faithful departed rest in peace.”

I say it, but I don’t know if I believe in the God to whom I pray.

My Dad was an alcoholic – “chronic acute alcoholism” was listed as the cause of death on his death certificate.  He also suffered from pathological insecurities that made his life, and the lives of my Mom, my brother, and me frequently horrible.  He died in 1981.

So God, if God exists, has received and, according to the Catholic theology I learned in my youth, judged my Mom and Dad.

The only God in whom I would be able to believe at this point in my life would have welcomed both Mom and Dad into God’s Kingdom.  Mom would be joyfully greeted because her life was one of love, generosity, family, friendship, and work.  What the Church taught me agrees with this belief.

Dad would be accepted because all the evil he caused was caused by illnesses for which he never had treatment and against which his self–propelled attempts at behavior modification were totally futile.  Mom was worthy of Heaven; Dad was so sick he had no free will to choose good over evil and so could not be excluded from Heaven because he wasn’t morally responsible for the awful things he did to us.  I don’t think Church teaching would agree completely with this belief.

So I wind up wondering again about God, Heaven, Hell, and faith.  I find myself totally unable to accept much of which the Church taught me about life, death, eternity, and myself.

Life at 65 would be different — not easier, really, but different — if I had the faith I had when I was younger.  I wish, in a way, that I still had that faith.  But I don’t.  All I have are facts that argue against the teachings of the Church.  All I have is the strong evidence of my life that the Church, the Bible, and people of faith are wrong in so many ways.  Nothing Christianity professes is trustworthy to me because so much of what it teaches I have found to be wrong.

The founder of L’Abri, the Protestant Evangelist and scripture scholar, Francis Schaeffer, had a son, Frank.  Frank Schaeffer has written several books about his journey of faith, interesting books describing an interesting life.  Once, in an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Frank Schaeffer told Terry Gross that he chooses to believe now, in the face of many reasons to disbelieve, because belief makes him feel better about living.

I think belief would make my life more comfortable.  To use a desire for comfort as a reason to try too profess a faith about which I’m so unsure, is impossible for me.

So I continue to question and to wonder.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mom, Dad, and Things

Jesus said a lot about things.  “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12/27 & 28).  “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Luke 12/33 & 34).
As a young man, this is how I was taught — urged — to consider things.  Use them as needed, be thankful for them, but don’t be attached to them.  This attitude rambles around in my psyche.  I value possessions, but, as I grow older, they become more a burden than a joy.
My mother, in her final years, spent a lot of time getting rid of stuff.  She wanted to end her life with only those things she needed: her home; a few keepsakes that are meaningless to anyone but her, my brother, and me; a few clothes and a few pieces of jewelry; her television; and her car.  All the superfluous stuff she gave away or tossed.
Mom gave me her car and, because she died here, she left me what few clothes she had when she came here, a little jewelry, and some photographs.  She also left me the linens and furnishings of the bed in which she died.  Her bills were all paid and she owned her condo, so she didn’t leave me any obligations.
My Dad died in 1981 (on Christmas Eve, as a matter of fact: my brother said at the time, “Dad always hated Christmas”).  He left my brother and me his tools along with a car and a few clothes.  He left us no obligations either.  My brother, who actually uses tools to great effect, took most of them with my total agreement.  My brother, though, insisted that I take a basic tool box so that either Beni or I would be able to do simple work around the house.  I took the tool box. I have used its contents, however, maybe three or four times in the 30 years since Dad’s death, although Beni has used them fairly often.
7 years of therapy allowed me to see my Dad’s treatment of me (and of my Mom and brother) as physically and emotionally abusive.  Even on his deathbed, when I was a dad myself and almost 35 years old, I was afraid of him and, honestly, had hatred for him because of what he did to all of us.  My attitude toward his stuff, then, was to get rid of it and never see it again.
Now I mourn my Mom, who died one month ago tomorrow.  Her stuff — her car, her remaining jewelry, her keepsakes, and her bed furnishings — I hold onto for dear life.  I sleep on the pillow and under the comforter that were on the bed on which she died.  I have her small pillow, the one she used to help keep her back comfortable in her chair, in my chair, and I sometimes hug it, once in a while with tears but always with a need to be close to her.  I saved the night dress in which she died and have it with my few other valuable things.  When her car was vandalized last Thursday night, I was heartsick that someone should do such a thing to my Mom.
I worry that I am going off the deep end here, but, lately, I’ve noticed that my need to be close to Mom’s things is lessening.  So maybe I’m okay.  I know only that I miss her and, unlike my feelings for Dad, I loved her and respected her and admired her.  What stuff of hers that I have probably will become just stuff for me after a while.  But, for now, her stuff is what I have left of her physical presence.  Her things are like relics and I want them close by.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hey, "Conservative, Christian Gay Man": Shut the Fuck Up!

It’s been a difficult day.  I had to spend time with my Mom’s bank, with her attorney, and with the Funeral Home.  Then my dog had some kind of gastrointestinal blowout all over the rug.  The grocery store didn’t have any Coke Zero (I am a certified addict) or any Mr. Clean with Fabreeze (see comment about dog and rug above).  All–in–all, a less than stellar day, although the weather was glorious.

Then I log onto Facebook seeking diversion and maybe a little fun, and what do I find but the story linked above.  Some asshole gossip columnist in Chicago (a self–described "conservative, Christian gay man") and one other reporter are saying that President Obama is in the closet, that he’s really gay.

A perfectly shitty way to close out a perfectly shitty day.

What bothers me about this, you may wonder.  Well. . .

It makes being gay seem to be a bad thing.  These reichpublicans want to malign the President, so they allege he's gay.  I can imagine their delight in the repercussions as fellow know–nothings jump for joy at the “news.”

The rumor was started by an admittedly gay man, although how anyone can claim to be gay and conservative and “Christian” and keep a straight face is beyond me.  Even if the President were gay (notice the subjunctive mood, indicating by glorious English grammar that I’m believing nothing of this ridiculous rumor), why out him?  If a person had been consistently against gay people and causes, while himself being gay, then I believe outing is appropriate.  To out someone for no other reason than to mess with the minds of fellow idiots is unfair, malicious, and self–hating.  But any “gay conservative Christian” is self–hating by definition, in my opinion.

My gaydar is pretty good, even at my advanced age.  Believe me, if the President ever had emitted even the least gay sign, my gaydar would have buzzed.  It never has.  I search the universe for men who, like the President, are brilliant, attractive, effective, and charismatic so that I can turn my gaydar in their direction.  I am as sure as I can be without being the President or Mrs. Obama that this conservative asshole is wrong.  The President, sad to say, is straight (but, as the cliche goes, not narrow).

Rant over.  Tension released.  Conservative gay christian now goes in the recycle bin of my mind.

Monday, September 10, 2012

In Which the Geezer Falls in Love

Gus — real name is Angus — is my dog and I love him.

Last March, my daughter, Sarah, was thinking of getting a third dog and a second Border Collie.  She found a breeder in far–off Southern Virginia whose pups she admired on the internet.  Early Sunday morning, March 11th, she called and asked if I would drive down with her — 6 hours one way — to see the pups.  It was a gorgeous Spring day and I was happy to go with her.

When we got to the breeder’s home, we were shown the latest litter of Border Collie pups, a large litter of 10.  Sarah fairly quickly settled on one pup and made arrangements to take the pup home.

While Sarah was going about her business, I noticed a pup way off from the others in the fairly small puppy play area.  I thought he was gorgeous, although I didn’t know his gender at the time.  I asked the breeder about him and found out he was a male and the one pup in the litter who almost exactly resembled his daddy, a Grand Champion.  She seemed a little reluctant to show him to me, but she finally did.  The pup would have nothing to do with me.  Outside the puppy play pin, he wanted to play with the older dogs who had free run of the back yard, and that’s what he did.  The breeder corralled him several times for me, and I just fell in love with him on the spot.  The breeder quoted me a price, but again seemed reluctant to part with him.  I bought him and, with Sarah’s pup, we started for home.

By the time we came to the closest town, about half an hour away from the kennel, Sarah’s pup had vomited several times in the car and was showing other signs of severe stress.  We stopped the car, and Sarah — who is a real dog whisperer — tried to calm her pup.  She couldn’t.  After a half hour or so of trying to get the pup to settle down, Sarah decided to return the pup to the kennel.  On the way back to the kennel, my pup also vomited and started to stink to high heaven.  I thought about returning him, too, but decided fairly quickly that I would keep him.  All I had to do was to look in his eyes and I was re–hooked.

On the trip home, it became obvious to Sarah and me that Gus was not used to being with people.  He was extremely wary any time either Sarah or I would try to interact with him.  When we stopped to give him a pee break, he tried to run away.  We cornered him as he hid from us underneath a dumpster and with difficulty got him back into the car.

We got Gus home about 2 am on Monday morning.  He still had a very strong and very vile odor, but I put him in my bedroom with me and went to sleep.

Next morning, I awoke to notice that Gus had made it through the night just fine, and that he didn’t stink quite so much.  I also noticed that he had ripped apart two of my Agatha Christie paperbacks.

I went out and got a wire kennel to put in my room so that he could stay there overnight without decimating my books.  I got a leash, a collar, and a harness and started to walk through town with him.  I took him with me in the car just about everywhere I went.  By day three or four, his vile smell had disappeared.  We have found out since that the smell is a sign of extreme stress.  When I went to Florida in May to get my Mom, Gus had to stay home, the first time he and I had been separated.  His stench returned, but disappeared within an hour of my return home.

In less than a month, Gus was acclimated to life with us.  He grew to love our older Border Collie, Ben’s dog Lucky.  Gus and Lucky would play for hours.  Even at 3 months, he was almost as tall as Lucky, so we knew that soon he would be much bigger than Lucky is.  He passed her in height in June; in weight, in July.  Now, at 8 months of age, he weighs about 50 pounds.  He is very lean and quite strong.  Lucky plays with him much less now that he is larger, but Gus never tires of trying to lure her into a game of chase or tug–of–war.

He has turned out to be the sweetest–natured dog I have ever had.  He loves people — everybody he meets.  He especially loves kids.  He goes crazy with delight whenever my granddaughter comes to visit.  On walks, he always pulls in the direction of kids when he sees them anywhere near us.  When he sees really small kids, tots, he gets down on his belly and approaches them, apparently knowing that the little ones scare easily.  He is amazing.

He loves to be hugged, and his favorite thing is to be kissed on the top of his nose.  When he wants affection, he’ll put his head under my arm and get the rest of his body as close as he can get it to mine.  He’ll stay that way for 10 or 15 minutes, just enjoying the physical closeness.

He talks to me constantly in many different types of barks.  He barks at me if I have the light on reading in bed and it has been on too long to suit him.  He’ll bark at me when he’s mad.  He’ll bark at me in greeting. . .  he is very verbal.

Gus is in a way my best friend.  He comforted me when Mom died.  He was happy with me when I felt silly and started dancing one day.  He loves just to be with me, regardless of how I feel or what I’m doing.  And I sure like having him with me.

That’s the story of my best bud, Gus, or at least the story so far.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Geezer Goes to the Jewlry Store

Last January, I made a wish list of things I wanted to do during 2012.  Of those 10 things I listed, I’ve done only 2. . .  so far!

The first thing I did from that list is get a puppy.  I had envied Beni’s relationship with Lucky, and I wanted to have something similar in my life.  I got Gus.  I’ve been very happy to have him, and he seems to be glad to be here as well.

The more difficult thing for me to do from the list was to wear earrings again.  In the early 90's, I had my left ear pierced and wore earrings through most of the decade.  I became increasingly uncomfortable with them after I turned 50, thinking I was too old for such nonsense.  I stopped wearing them.

At the garage where I take my car is a very masculine guy — straight, if my gaydar works at all — who wears two hoop earrings in his left ear.  They are becoming to him, and they fit.  I envied him not so much the earrings as the confidence his wearing of them shows.  I wanted my earrings back.  But, in January, at the age of 65, I realized that I was even more self–conscious about the earrings than I was when I was 50.

In March, I put the earring back in my left ear.  The hole there wasn’t as closed as it looked, and it was easy to put it back in.  I wore the one earring for two months and found that (1) people didn’t seem to notice, or if they did notice, they couldn’t have cared less, and (2) I was very comfortable wearing the thing, most often forgetting I had in.

In May, I had my right ear pierced.  Since then, I’ve been wearing two earrings, usually small gemstone studs, with confidence and no comments, positive or negative.  I think people who notice figure that it’s just another strange behavior from this old gay geezer!

I’m not sure why this earring thing is important to me, but it is.  I guess wearing earrings does several things for me.  It satisfies an old hunger for bodily adornment that I always have been too insecure to satisfy.  It makes a statement about who I am — on several levels.  It allows me, for very little money, to search for, and very occasionally buy, pretty things.  It makes me feel good about myself, I guess.

Of the 10 things on my wish list, I’ve done two.  I’m surprised, really, that I’ve done that many!  I wonder if I’ll surprise myself again. . .

Friday, September 7, 2012

Good and Plenty

My Mom lived with me for the last three months of her life.  I will treasure those days forever.  But. . .

Mom’s father — Ed Dill, whose namesake I am — had a prodigious sweet tooth.  Never was dinner served in his house without some kind of homemade dessert or, if my step–Grandma was too busy, ice cream.  Principally because of the desserts, I loved visiting Grandpa when I was little.

Mom inherited Grandpa’s sweet tooth, but, having a strong sense of proportion in her life, learned to curb it.  I inherited the sweet tooth from Mom, my brother didn’t.  Unfortunately, I didn’t also inherit her sense of proportion.

During Mom’s last three months, she frequently would ask for foods that she had enjoyed over the years, sometimes dishes from her childhood.  Often, these were sweets: ice cream with pineapple and/or coconut in it; licorice of any kind; caramel candies; apple pie; peach pie; toast with butter and honey; Kit–Kat Bars; yogurt–covered pretzels.  I gave her anything she asked for.

The problem was that Mom’s eyes were bigger than her tummy.  I would buy a pint of ice cream and she would eat at most two scoops.  She would eat  maybe five pieces from a bag of licorice.  Thoughtful son that I was, I would eat whatever she couldn’t.  It had been years since I ate so many sweets, so much candy, so much ice cream.

When I went to the doctor for my physical in mid–August, I was sure I would have gained a ton of weight.  Not so.  I had lost weight.  All the work I was doing to keep Mom comfortable paid off in more ways than one!!! Now Mom is gone, but I still hanker for sweets.

Yesterday, I was in a store where they sold my favorite licorice candy, Good and Plenty, in bulk.  I bought a little more than a pound.  I ate about half last night.  I’m keeping up my calorie intake without the corresponding Mom work.  Not good.

I hope I inherit Mom’s longevity genes.  I’ll just have to keep struggling with her sweet–tooth genes.