It’s Just Emotions Taking Me Over

big-edenLast night I watched another gay themed movie I recorded to my DVR, off the Logo Network, Big Eden.  I didn’t really know anything about it other than what I’d read in the very brief description on my DirecTV programming guide.

henry

Henry, Big Eden

sampa1

Sam, Big Eden

Big Eden is the story of Henry Hart an out artist living in New York City who is about to have a gallery opening when he receives a call from a friend in his hometown informing him that his Grandfather who raised him had suffered a stroke.  Henry abandons his opening to go back to see Sam, who he calls “Sampa”.

dean

Dean, Big Eden

Not long after arriving back in Big Eden Henry finds out that his childhood friend – and unrequited love – Dean has moved back to Big Eden after his divorce, with his two young sons so that his parents can help him raise his children.

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Pike, Big Eden

grace

Grace, Big Eden

Henry is introduced to Pike a Native American man who operates the local general store.  Pike is known to be very shy, but Grace, the friend who notified Henry of Sam’s stroke asks Pike to assist Sam and Henry by picking up meals from the local busy body widow and bringing them to Sam’s house for the men (apparently Henry can’t cook).

The movie has a rather predictable element to it; a love triangle between Dean, Henry and Pike and an unsurprising outcome with Henry and Pike falling in love.

There were several things about this movie that I was surprised at how I felt and reacted to them.  To start with, Henry has never told “Sampa” that he’s gay.  It’s never really explained why this is, it’s just clear that Henry is afraid.  It seems as if everyone knows the truth except for Sam, or does he?

Henry is asked at one point, “Do you really think he never figured it out?”  And that question is answered in a scene late in the film when Sam confronts Henry about what his plans are.  Henry came back to Big Eden to check on Sam after his stroke, and stayed for a year.  Sam tells Henry, he’ll be “joining” Henry’s Grandmother soon and he’ll need to know what to tell her.  After Henry attempts to avoid the conversation, Sam says to him, “You won’t tell me who you really are.  Why?  Is it shame?  Did I teach you to be ashamed?  ‘Cause if I did, I did a terrible thing.”  Henry responds by bursting into tears and laying his head in his grandfather’s lap, allowing the older man to comfort him.  After Sam dies, Henry says to Grace, “I never told him.” to which Grace replies, “Well.  He knows now.”  I was a little confused and maybe slightly annoyed that no one pointed out that clearly Sam already knew.

It is clear from the beginning that Pike is attracted to Henry and wants a relationship with him, but Pike has always been a very stoic and quiet man, easily rattled and embarrassed, unable to adequately express his thoughts and feelings.  For a time he seems almost to dislike Henry as he avoids contact.  Day after day, Sam and Henry invite Pike to join them in the meals that he brings and he declines.  Then one night, Henry is out and Sam invites Pike to stay.  Finally, Pike accepts.

After just a few days of delivering meals to the men which have been prepared by a local widow, it becomes clear that the meals are not very pleasant tasting.  Pike takes a book entitled “The Joy of Cooking” from his lending library and studies it.  The next day Pike prepares a delicious meal and delivers it to the men.  The regular invitations are extended, the usual declination given and Pike returns home where he himself eats the unenjoyable meal provided by the widow.

As the movie progresses it becomes clear that Pike has feelings for Henry which he does not know how to express.  Many of the peripheral characters begin to see what’s happening and attempt to help.  Eventually, Pike comes by with a meal for the men but Sam is asleep.  Henry invites Pike to join him and after a few attempts to escape, Pike finally agrees.  They have a very pleasant conversation and a friendship grows.  Naturally, as must happen in such a story, Henry does not see what’s happening.  Henry is learning more and seeing more of Pike but does not understand Pike’s feelings.

Midway through the movie, Sam has a medical episode and has to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance.  Henry spends the night at the hospital with Sam, awake all night.  In the morning, Dean comes and takes Henry home.  It’s been clear that there is a relationship developing between the two but it’s slow and awkward.  Until this moment, you’re not really sure what is going on with Dean.  After returning to Sam’s house from the hospital, Dean offers to cook some eggs for Henry and while he is cooking there is a moment of vulnerability and tenderness when Henry places a hand and then his head on Dean’s shoulder and places his other arm around Dean.

dh-kissDean pushes the pan aside and turns toward Henry.  The two embrace and there is a brief kiss before Dean turns his face away and they hug.

“I can’t,” Dean says.

“I know,” is Henry’s reply.

“I want to.  I just can’t,” Dean repeats.

“I know,” Henry says again.

There are a few things about this movie that affected me.  The first is the relationship between Henry and his “Sampa”.  It is so clear to the viewer and to everyone else in Big Eden that Sam knows Henry is gay.  There’s even a scene when Henry is away at a town picnic so Pike stays and shares dinner with Sam.  After they eat, the two men go out by the lake outside Sam’s house to watch the fireworks.  They’re still outside when they hear Dean’s truck pull up to drop Henry off.  Pike and Sam observe what might be construed as a tender moment between Henry and Dean but but is in actuality more a push-me-pull-me exchange about the nature of their relationship.  Sam looks at Pike and says, “I’m sorry, son.”  He knows that Pike has feelings for Henry but they both assume there’s something there between Henry and Dean.

I struggle on an almost daily basis with the idea of what it would be like to tell my family that I’m gay.  The situations are different.  Henry was just afraid with no real explanation as to the reason why.  I come from an extremely conservative fundamentalist Christian family which believes that homosexuality is a sin and to be gay is to be damned.  I do not share in their sentiments and do not have any guilt about my orientation, but being able to tell them the truth and to explain my beliefs to them is a far more difficult proposition with very unpredictable outcomes.  I watched this movie, and particularly the exchange between Sam and Henry about seeing “Grandma” and I thought, “Just tell him!  It’s clear he already knows and it’s obvious he will accept you!  What have you got to be afraid of?  Do you know what a precious gift this is?!?

I imagined what it would be like to be in a position of knowing that what I have to tell would be graciously and lovingly received without any judgment or condemnation, to know that I could be open and completely truthful about myself and my life with the people who are supposed to matter the most.  Unfortunately, I live with the knowledge that very much the opposite is true.

The real irony is that I suspect that most if not all of my family knows, or at least suspects that I am gay, so it would not come as a surprise to them, yet I’m certain they’re also hoping that I’ll never accept it, that I’ll never act on these feelings.  I’m sure they think that as long as I never act on the feelings and I never say “I’m gay” to anyone (including myself – too late), then it won’t really be true and I won’t be damned.

The second thing about this movie that affected me was the general existence of the character, Pike.  I could relate to him, in a lot of ways.  In the real world, I also tend to be very shy and socially awkward.  I don’t really know how to talk to people I don’t know very well.  I’m very awkward with my feelings and don’t really know how to communicate them effectively or productively.

The third thing about this movie that affected me, which actually relates to the second, is the scene I described between Dean and Henry.  When it’s finally clear to everyone that there is an attraction and feelings between the two, when they finally kiss, and then Dean backs away, saying, “I can’t,” a part of me screamed, “Why not!?!  What are you so afraid of?  Do you know how lucky you are to be loved?  Why be so afraid of your feelings?

And then I began to think about myself.  I began to think how I can’t relate to him after all.  I can’t think of a time when I have felt a powerful attraction to a person.  I can’t think of a time when I was just so overcome by passion that I wanted to rip our clothes off and make love, right then and there.  I can’t think of a time when I was so distraught, or was with someone else who was so distraught and in need of comfort, that the most logical course of action seemed to be sex.  I can’t think of a time when physicality was —

Well… I can’t think of a time when physicality was not a terrifying prospect.  I can imagine that, assuming I somehow found myself in a situation like Dean did, that I’d react very much the same way he did, assuming we even got as far as a kiss.  I can imagine I’d be just as afraid to act on my feelings.  And it makes me angry.  Why should I be so afraid to act on my feelings.

But the thing is, I’m inclined to say I don’t have feelings.  I’ve only been “in love” once and it turned out not to be real.  It fell apart at the first sign of trouble.  And I haven’t dated much in the 15 years since.  I’ve thought a bit lately about the relationships in my life and how I’d feel if they ended.  With the exception of my friend Eve, I don’t really imagine being terribly upset about the end of a relationship and I already know that relationship is going to end so I have time to prepare myself… I hope.

I’ve thought about what my reaction would be if one of my parents died.  I don’t think I’d have much of one.  I don’t think I’d be terribly upset.  I think I’d be relieved in a lot of ways.  I’ve thought how I’d feel if one of my siblings died.  I don’t expect I’d feel much differently.  I’d be a little more upset if CPA Sis died because she’s the only one I’m really all that close to.  But if Ex Con Older Brother died, I wouldn’t even feel like I’d lost anything.

What I’ve determined is that I don’t feel strongly enough about anyone, or anything, to have a strong reaction.  “I don’t feel anything” I thought.  “But wait.  I can be very emotional and passionate when I feel like I’m being mistreated or abused… So I’m only capable of experiencing negative emotions strongly?  That sucks.  And it doesn’t help my case any.  I’d like to date.  I’d like to fall in love and share my life with someone.  How do I do that if I don’t feel positive emotions?

You know, I was beginning to wonder how I was going to bring this post back around and this is it:

I don’t feel positive emotions.  I don’t feel attraction or affection and certainly not love.  So if I somehow found myself in a situation where I was so affected by and attracted to a person (male or female) as Dean was in this movie…  I’d have to be all over it.  I hope that I would not let that moment pass by.

Shaking Things Up

I’ve never really claimed to be clairvoyant or to otherwise have ESPN, but from time to time things happen where I feel like I could predict the future.

Actually, I should take a step back.  When I was a child of roughly 11 years old we had an event at our family church.  There was a traveling minister that the pastor had brought in, and on the last night of his little conference, he asked for the parents to let him pray over their children before we were sent off to the children’s services for the evening.  I choose not to make a statement one way or the other about my beliefs of what this man had to offer.  It would be an entirely separate post unto itself.  But suffice it to say that I do not imagine that he was a complete quack, though perhaps took some things over board.

“I’d like for the children to line up here, in the front of the auditorium,” he said, “and I’ll hold my hand over them and pray for them.  If the Lord gives me a special message for or about any of them I’ll share that.”

We all went to the front of the church as asked and lined up for him to pray for us.  As I recall it, and we’ve already established that my memory is less than exact, he held his hand above our heads, one by one and praying for us alternately in tongues and in English.  There were six or eight children before me, two of whom were the pastors children, but nothing happened with any of them.  And then he came to me.  And he froze.  And he said, “The gift of prophesy.  God has given the gift of prophesy to this young man.”

Boy, was I excited at the prospect of being able to predict the future.  What a wonderful gift, i thought.  Naturally, Vengeful Mother was right there to shit on it.

“It’ll only happen if you stay in the church and honor God’s will.”  She might as well have said the rest of what she was thinking, “in the way that I see fit.

For years after that I lived with the simultaneous thrill of possibly being able to “predict” the future, and the fear of not measuring up to God’s (Vengeful Mother‘s) expectations.  Eventually, I reached a point of not wanting the gift if I had to “be good enough” for it.  I wanted to be “good enough” just the way I was.  I found myself being unwilling, or afraid to experience this “gift of the spirit”.  And yet, in the back of my mind, I repeatedly heard this minister, “God has given the gift of prophesy to this young man.”  The minister didn’t mention any conditions.  Just “God has given….”

I’ve experienced a lot of instances where I felt like “I’ve been here before.” or “I’ve seen this before.”  Lot’s of people would tell you , “Oh that’s just deja vu.  It happens to everybody.  Here’s the biochemical explanation for that….”  But to me, it doesn’t just feel like “Oh it’s just deja vu.”  It feels like more than that.  It feels like more than just an after-image, or a synapse misfire.  It feels real.  It feels like something I already knew about. And, it’s happened a few times.

Nearly ten years ago, Vengeful Mother, told me about a car accident that the parents (married for over 50 years) of D-Lite‘s (Vengeful Mother‘s best friend’s) husband had been in.  They were both left in comas immediately following the accident.  The husband of the couple died of internal injuries a few hours after they’d been admitted to the hospital and the wife was still in a coma but had broken both of her legs and was really banged up, but was expected to live.

I asked Vengeful Mother, “What do you think will happen when she wakes up?”

“What do you mean?” VM asked me.

“Well,” I said, “I know that this is kind of mellow-dramatic, but I know it’s been known to happen where people in a situation like this are heartbroken over their loss and end up dying for no reason other than that.”

VM expressed that she couldn’t answer to that and we’d just have to wait and see.  Two days later, when I got to work, I got an e-mail from VM that said something along the lines of, “You have always been very spiritually attuned, even if we don’t really realize it until later on…  D-Lite‘s Mother-in-law woke up from her coma yesterday afternoon.  After they confirmed that she was relatively stable, they informed her of her husband’s death.  Shortly before midnight she went to sleep.  She never woke up.”  There was some mention of her not wanting to go on without her husband.

In that instance, I didn’t even realize I’d had that certain sensation, but I did, in fact, know that this would happen.  Over the years I have had hit and miss experiences to help me learn to trust that feeling.

Most recently was the morning I woke up having dreamed that my Grandfather had died and about the result of his death.  I hoped I’d be wrong and as the time wore on, I began to feel like maybe I was wrong, and then I got the call.  Fifteen hours after I woke up from my dream, I was informed that Papa had just died.  I had known it would happen.  I wanted to be wrong, but I knew it would happen and I wasn’t surprised when I was informed.

I woke up yesterday morning, with one of those feelings.  It’s been nearly 48 hours since I had the dream and things are looking up…

But, the night, before last, I dreamt, that at some point, during the day whilst I was away from my home, the Bay Area was rocked by a six point something earthquake.  In my dream the shaking lasted more than 30 seconds, which, for those who aren’t familiar, usually guarantees considerable damage.  For instance the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989 was a magnitude 6.9 and lasted only 15-20 seconds but did billions of dollars worth of damage.

Now I don’t say there WILL BE an earthquake of such significance anytime soon.  I certainly had no indication in the dream of what the date and time was.  I just know that I woke up from the dream feeling apprehensive and relieved, because while the earthquake was serious and real in my dream, here was a minimal amount of damage done…  At least in my own world.  I can’t actually speak for the Bay Area as a whole.

At any rate, I didn’t write this to be alarmist, I don’t expect anyone to believe it.  I’m not sure I believe it myself.  I said that over the years I’d learned to trust that feeling.  That may be an overstatement.  Over the years I’ve learned not to discount that feeling.  So. I hope I’m wrong, and I probably am, but in the meantime, every time I feel a shake, every time I hear an odd rumble, I’m looking up.  I’m checking fluid levels in bottles and glasses for vibration.  I’m checking my hanging Philodendron, “Phil,” for sway.  And I’m watching the surest barometer of all, Scared Kitty who will freeze in place, and then coming running for comfort and safety.  I check all these things to make sure I’m imagining it all.

Eventually, the feeling will subside.  I’ll lower my defenses…  And that ultimately, will be the point of no return, the point when the next big earthquake will hit.  Until then, I just wait for my premonition, to be proved.  It has to happen eventually, right?

Life, Lunacy and the Pursuit of Financial Happiness; or The General State of Affairs

There’s a tickle at the back of my brain. A wee, small voice is calling out for freedom. There is a compulsion making its way to the surface. I feel like I have something to write. I’m just not sure yet what it is.

Saturday was Vengeful Mother’s 64th birthday. I played the dutiful son and called to wish her Happy Birthday and to inform her that a gift was not to follow. Things have been really tight for me lately. True to form, she took advantage of a moment of vulnerability on my part in which I told her of the financial difficulty I’ve been experiencing, to tell me that I wouldn’t be in this situation if I would just pay my tithes. Because after all, when I’m having trouble making ends meet to begin with the smartest thing I could do is write a $250.00 check, twice a month, for which I’ll receive no goods or services in return. Why wouldn’t I want to be $250.00 shorter per paycheck than I am now?

She tells me things would have been worse if she hadn’t done it, but I remember watching her write her tithe checks regularly, spending her last $50.00, and then having to scrape the cupboards to try to find something to feed her three hungry children. I guess she was “leading by example” by writing the checks, but what she was trying to instill in her children, that God will bless your finances if you tithe, didn’t come through. As far as I can tell, she’s still waiting for the blessing.

I suppose I was meant to accept not suffering homelessness, not having to go to school in rags and not starving to be a blessing. Now, I know I’m a bitter old dolt who has a fucked up sense of obligation but as far as I’m concerned, if Vengeful Mother and Dead Beat Dad weren’t prepared to guarantee those minimums, they should never have procreated in the first place. They probably shouldn’t have anyway. No, to me, being blessed is having all your needs met and having ample opportunities to make the most of your life. Those are the things I most certainly did not see happening when Vengeful Mother put her last few tuppence in the offering plates. Those are the things I didn’t have, period.

Tithes are supposed to be the “first fruits” of your “harvest” or the first 10% of your income. In other words, pre-tax. So my take home pay may be $1500.00 every two weeks, but I earn closer to $2500.00. Uncle SAM (as in Stole All my Money) takes the first nearly $1000.00 and then I’m supposed to hand over $250.00 more than that, before I do anything else? It’s impossible!

We had a luncheon at work today. I work in a small office of about five people. If you’ve read my blog, you’ve already been “introduced” to that group. We have a counter part group who works in another building. We don’t like them. They don’t like us. We have a mutual don’t like for each other and it’s a permanent condition.

Since my manager, Douche bag, is on vacation, the diminutive manager for the other group has been in charge. He decided to buy lunch for everyone today. So we gathered for sandwiches in a conference room. Midway through the lunch, he decided to announce that he was going to make this a monthly thing and that we’d meet for lunch monthly.

Every couple of months this comes up. Douche bag and his fun sized counterpart talk about how we should work together and have team building orgie— er, exercises and be BFFs, like that’s all it takes. Personalities and hard feelings be damned. I’m not sure why they can’t get it through their impenetrable skulls that we do not enjoy each others company and no amount of forcing the issue will change that. In fact forcing it on us will just make it harder to change things.

I had a couple of very peculiar dreams the other night. The first had to do with a forced entry situation at Vengeful Mother’s house. CPA sister and I were both there and it was bed time. CPA Sis was getting into bed in the living room, and Vengeful Mother was in bed in her room. CPA sis came across some papers in the living room that had some significance to a former boyfriend of hers; we’ll call him Breastplate (Explanation to follow). Vengeful Mother and I were reviewing the papers and realized that they were incriminating for Breastplate and some other guys. Suddenly, we heard loud noises as the front door was being broken down. I grabbed the papers and stuffed them under Vengeful Mother’s headboard.

I don’t really remember what happened after that except that the guys were tearing the house apart trying to find the papers and there was threatening and violence going on.

The second dream had a similar theme. I dreamed that Vengeful Mother and I were in a drug/grocery store and we had separated. The store was taken hostage by a group of ne’er-do-wells. I do not remember what their motivations were, but I remember that they were very rough. They were armed, but they had some sort of poison darts that they used to kill some of the hostages.

Once again, I do not remember the details of the dream but I remember that Vengeful Mother was killed with one of those darts. The dream ended when the police broke into the store and took out the bad dudes. I had managed to kill one of them in the course of my dream so when it was clear that the evil doers were going to die, their leader shot me with one of the darts, a moment before a policeman shot and killed him. Then just as everything was going dark I felt a sharp prick and shortly after I recovered. The police had the antidote for the poison and were able to save me, but not Vengeful Mother.

My therapist had the audacity to go on vacation last week and so it’ll have been two weeks since I’ve seen her, when I get to my appointment tomorrow evening. It seems as though I may have a lot to talk about. I do not wish for Vengeful Mother’s demise, but I do know that many things would be a lot easier on me if she was no longer part of my life. As I mentioned, she just turned 64 and some of you might be saying I don’t have that much longer with her, but you’d be wrong. People in my family, on both sides actually, live very long lives. My Paternal Grandfather who just died was almost 92. My Paternal Grandmother was in her early 80s when she died of cancer. My Maternal Grandmother was 84 when she died. The only enigma, if you will, is my Maternal Grandfather. He was killed when a psychotic divorceé boarded his plane wearing a dynamite vest in 1962. Grandfather was in his late 30s. Who knows how old he would have lived to be?

I take comfort in the fact that I won’t have to face the death of my parents for many years, and yet, there would be some comfort to be taken if I didn’t have to deal with those troubled relationships any further.

After nearly a year of negotiation, my regrettably pink bathroom is finally going to be remodeled starting on Monday, August 25, 2008. I’m dreading it. It’s going to be a major hassle for me. Their will be detritus everywhere while the work is happening. For a few days, my shower will be unavailable to me. Scared kitty will have to be closed up in the kitchen for his own safety and sanity, and the house will have to be thoroughly cleaned this week before my landlord sets foot in the place to meet with the contractor. I’ll be thrilled when the work is done.

My house was built in the 1920s. And the bathroom may well be the original bathroom, save for a new-ish toilet that was put in fewer than 5 years ago. The floor, sink counter and backsplash, and two sided shower surround are all covered in 4″ x 4″ pastel pink tile. The counter has a beveled, raised, pastel pink tile boarder that is hard to keep clean, and the counter is only 22 inches deep while the sink is 26 inches deep, so there is an angled protrusion from the counter where the sink is. The tile is dirty with the kind of dirt that doesn’t come out. Decade upon decade of use has resulted in a hue of grey that covers the pink such that only a power sand scrub or perhaps a dose of hydrochloric acid would make it come off, and then the tile would come up too. There are also what my landlady calls spider vein cracks in the tile. But most importantly, IT’S PINK!

Apparently, in the 1920s people were a good foot and a half shorter than they are now. The shower head, were it not to have an aftermarket handheld shower wand added to it, would hit me mid tattoo

 

and require me to bend down significantly to use it, and the top of the tile shower surround hits my shoulder level. Here in Oakland, we have a lot of mold issues to deal with, and it’s been my concern all along that this is going to be an issue if left unchecked.  (By the way, no comments about my ogre head!)

When completed, my bathroom is going to have new shower head that is up about two feet from it’s current location, the shower surround will be two single slabs of granite that will go up to 18″ from the ceiling, their will be an entirely new sink console with a new sink with polished nickel fixtures including a goose neck faucet. A new wall mounted mirror will hang over the counter and the counter will be single slab marble. Their will be fresh paint, new light fixtures, new towel hooks and rods and a brand new pergo floor. When finished the bathroom will be modern and lovely and will match the rest of the renovated house. I can’t wait!

And then theirs work. Douche Bag returns from his three and a half week tour of China tomorrow. When that happens, the respite I have had from all the shit that comes with his presence will be over. I do not look forward to that. I so desperately want to change jobs. I want to find something to do that is fulfilling and gratifying. I want to make a living being creative and inspiring to people. I would like to be a writer, but I don’t know how to make a living that way.

What I need is a sugar daddy! I’m now taking applications! Serious inquiries only, please!

What Constitutes Greatness; or Two Sides of a Dead Man

I keep resisting the urge to describe my Grandfather as a “great man”.  Lots of people think he was.  And I suppose in a lot of ways he was.  But what makes a man great?  Is it his deeds?  Is it his legacy?  Is it how his family reflects on him?  Is it how his children see him?

My father is not a great man.  He’s just a man.  He’s a man who made mistakes.  He cheated on his wife.  He abandoned his family.  He broke the law.  He alienated his children…  More than once.  He is the eldest child of my “great man” of a Grandfather.  What could have happened?

You see my Grandfather was a life long minister.  He was the second youngest of eight children all of who were raised by a single mother after their father walked out on them.  I don’t know that much of his history but I’d imagine that it was a typical scenario of the older children raising the younger.  When at the age of legal consent, whatever that was in the early 1900s, He joined the army.

After the Army, Papa, as my siblings and I called him, came back to the US and began working with a youth/young adult ministry called the Navigators.  Being in need of a home, Papa moved in with the head of the Navigators and his family and while living in this home, he met the families Nanny.  A lovely young woman nearly ten years his junior.  It amuses me the scandal that such a thing should have created, but after sometime living under the same roof, Papa and the Nanny fell in love.  Eventually, they married and they had three children.

No one doubts that Papa loved his wife and children, but his first commitment was to the ministry.  At some point after his time in the Navigators, Papa joined an organization called Youth for Christ, an organization with which he would maintain an affiliation for many years.  It was in fact at the Youth for Christ office in Kansas City, Missouri that Papa’s oldest son (my father) would meet his first wife (my mother) who was working as a secretary in the offices.  “Granny and Papa”, as we called them, almost like it was one word, one entity, as I suppose they were in a way, “GrannyandPapa.”  “Hey kids look at these gifts you received from GrannyandPapa.”  “GrannyandPapa are going to be in town next week and would like to see you guys.”  “GrannyandPapa are very upset with you because you didn’t write a thank-you note after they sent those gifts.”  That was the one that always put me off, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Sadly, Granny and Papa didn’t approve of my parents relationship and made no secret of it.  And naturally, that only drove my parents closer together.  The first, in a number of steps my father would take to draw judgment and disappointment from his own parents.

There’s great irony in the fact that my Grandfather was a shy man.  A timid speaker.  He stuttered over his words and was not terribly eloquent in his early days.  But he believed that he had a calling and he was going to see it through to the end.  In his 30s, Papa was hired by the Billy Graham Association.  I don’t know what all the positions and responsibilities were that he held, but at some point there was a need for additional teachers to go out into the communities where there were to be Crusades, and teach the volunteers what they would need to do when the time came and the attendees of the Crusade came to them for prayer and counseling.  Papa had a burning inside to be one of these teachers.  Those who were in authority at that time loved my grandfather and knew he was on fire for this work…  But how could such a timid speaker be sent out to do what they were asking?  They acquiesced and gave Papa the work he so desperately desired…  But they sent him to the outskirts of the territory “where he would do the least amount of damage.”

I do not know exactly how the tale goes but I do know that Papa triumphed over his own fears and speech difficulties.  Over the course of time, he came to head this part of the organization.  As the head of this group, he touched hundreds of lives, ministering one on one to many people who would then minister to masses.  Eventually, Papa became Crusade Director and was responsible for everything that goes into planning and executing a Crusade.  He was Billy Graham’s right hand and they became best friends.

Two years ago, my grandfather turned 90 years old.  My aunt planned a surprise birthday party for him… Perhaps not the smartest thing to do for a man of 90 years, but surprise him, we did.  More than 150 people came to this party, and there were dozens more who couldn’t make the trip.  Billy Graham himself sent his regrets and his congratulations.  Ruth Graham was quite ill and couldn’t make the trip and Billy didn’t want to leave her side.

So many people, with such wonderful, glowing things to say about their mentor, about this “great man.”  I can only imagine the kind of bitterness that my own father must have felt.

You see all this marvelous work my Grandfather did always came at the expense of his own family.  Much of my father’s childhood was spent with what amounted to a single mother.  Papa was traveling the globe, doing his work with the BGA, often away from home for months at a time.  On a few occasions, he was away from his family for 6 months.  There were trade-offs, of course.  When school was out, Granny packed up the kids and off they’d go to meet up with Papa, where ever on the face of the earth he might be.  My father has seen parts of the world I doubt I ever will.  He always wished he could take my siblings and me to these places but it was never possible.

I had one of the best conversations I’ve experienced with my father that day after the party.  My father was hurt by the glowing, wonderful things these people had to say.  Had they any idea how my father had suffered for the work Papa did?  Could they understand how hard it was for him that Papa was such a wonderful “Father Figure”, as so many had called him, but he wasn’t much of a father to his own flesh and blood children?  I suppose there’s often a tremendous price to pay for “greatness.”

About six years ago, Granny was diagnosed with cancer and Papa finally retired for good…  From BGA.  Ministry was in his blood.  Without opportunities to minister his life had no purpose.  Fortunately, for him, the town in Colorado where they finally settled happens to be the home of three state prisons.  Naturally, he found a way to engage in prison ministry.  Four years ago,  Granny finally succumbed to the cancer that had been ravaging her body.  And when she died, something in Papa died too.  Oh, he continued with his life.  He continued with his ministry, but he was fading.  And then the final indignity.

Papa had been conducting a bible study with some of the low security inmates when he lost control of his bowels.  He was always a proud man and didn’t desire to be any more humiliated by this than he already was.  He did something that was out of character for sure, and certainly showed very poor judgment.  He handed his car keys to one of the inmate trustees and asked the trustee to bring his car around to the front.  Fortunately, the trustee did the right thing.  He brought the car to the front of the prison, helped my grandfather inside and walked back to the prison entrance.

Later that day, Papa received a call from the head of the prison ministry and informed him that the prison had asked that he not come back.  The explanation that was given my grandfather was that they feared for his safety as he was very old and getting more and more frail.  But everyone knows that they couldn’t allow a man who gave car keys to an inmate to return.

This happend about three years ago.  After that, there was nothing left.  His life no longer served a purpose in his own eyes.  His mind began to go.  He no longer could retain names and dates and new information.  And he missed his wife.  He wanted to be with her, and the only thing he wanted was to die, peacefully, at home, in his own bed.  And that’s just what he did.

Confusion

My nearly 92 year old Grandfather died tonight. I actually foretold his death in a dream last night. He was in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, and he missed my grandmother very much. This is a good thing… Right?

I’m not sure how I feel. I have no tears. I don’t know if I’m sad or happy.

I’m confused. Sleep would be good now.. I hope I can get some.