Archive for January, 2011
Thursday, January 27th, 2011
1979 Chevrolet Malibu Station Wagon
The Malibu name replaced the Chevelle name on all mid-sized Chevrolets for the 1978 model year. After OPEC, this was the down-sized version in comparison to previous mid-sized Chevrolets, only two trim levels were available, Malibu and Malibu Classic. This 1979 model was the second year for a complete redesign when all American cars had downsized to appear more fuel efficient. The engines were smaller, the interiors had shrunk by making the dashboards and the rear shelf narrower. There was no room for any extra unneeded space. The front console was like a narrow box that had been attached to the dashboard. The car ran smooth, was comfortable, and since the redesign, it was very modern!
The Malibu became symbolic of many things that were about to happen in my life.
Just one year after we were married we had the fortune, with the help of my dad, to buy our first house. Costing only $20,000 we moved in and began to make it our own. Working on remodeling an older home was both fun, and challenging. I had a next door neighbor, Dean, who was a retired carpenter from the old school. He taught me now to fit windows, scribe cabinets to uneven walls, hang drywall, and so many other things. He was a great neighbor. I learned the habit of eating ice cream EVERY night around 10:00 from Dean and his wife. They invited me to their house virtually every night for “icy-dicy time”. For all intents and purposes, I was an active young husband and dad. Everyone knew me for being conservative and committed to my family.
I was so committed that working a part time job to make ends meet was the norm. Kristy was taking care of our children while doing some of her own odd jobs to help. I kept thinking about my goals in life and it seemed to be time to fulfill them.
In 1978, We discussed building a new home and found just the right place and just the right builder. Our new home would be built in a modern designed suburb. It was developed with smaller lots and a common greenway behind each of the homes that was intended to become a park. I wanted it to be custom so that it was unique and had all of the things we wanted in it. We began to build our “dream home” in the suburbs. We got a great price and at the time they were offering special “buy down” FHA interest rates to it seemed to be the best thing for our family.
The home was finished and moving day came. I was really excited and we began to extend our credit to fill the home with new things. My part time job was at a furniture store, so we got some good deals on new furniture. Goal two was accomplished, new custom home and all new furniture in it. The yard and fence were done and I began working on the inside to finish out the basement family room.
As I looked up and down the street we lived on, I felt alone, strange, and disconnected from the other men along the block. Questions about who they were, and what they were all about didn’t seem to find answers. One guy was pretty friendly and it seemed we got along pretty well.
We got together when our wives went bowling or shopping and would play cards together. That was good for me, but we never really talked about much or got close. We just talked about surface things and enjoyed a game or two.
I felt cold and distant from Kristy and I was feeling pretty desperate to somehow make our marriage relationship better. It seemed that I didn’t know how to make it better and I could only think of using material things. After our move to the new home I felt desirous to find a way to work this out. In my small mind and closed off emotions I thought it might help to become extravagant with a Christmas gift for Kristy. She liked to sew and had an older machine to work with. So I decided to get the latest “Singer” electronic machine for her. We were trying to curb our credit card spending but in this case, I opened up a charge account to purchase the machine on time payments. I was hopeful she would be thrilled with the way I wanted to show her attention.
One day I returned from work and she had opened up the mail from the Singer store which included a credit card. She asked me why we got that in the mail. In my extreme reaction of disappointment that my secret had been uncovered, I told her what I had done. Now that the surprise was ruined, I felt determined to make this happen.
So, I thought maybe if I could ask others to not buy me anything for Christmas but to just give me money I could put it toward a gift for Kristy. I wanted to buy her the latest electronic micro-wave oven. In 1978, that was a pretty extreme idea! So I bought one through a 90-day charge paying the down payment with the money I had gotten from others. I knew this would certainly blow her mind, not only a new sewing machine, but the ultra modern, GE Touchmatic Microwave Oven would surely work to show her how I cared for her.
“John, I retrieved this from the mailbox today.” Kristy’s sister came out to meet me in the driveway after work one day. She handed an envelope to me before I went in. I opened it and found the payment card from the store where I bought the oven. Phew! She saved me on this one.
Christmas day after all of our gifts were opened and the main events had finished I opened up and said, “Kristy, I have one more surprise for you.” Carrying the huge wrapped box into the room. “I HAVE A SURPRISE FOR YOU!” She opened it but didn’t seem overly excited, but seemed to show a contrived sense of surprise. After everyone left she disclosed to me that the envelope wasn’t found by her sister, but rather she had seen it. She told me that she and her sister arranged to cover the fact that she had seen it.
I felt totally embarrassed, and humiliated that I had acted so excited to surprise her, when everyone knew that Kristy already knew about the surprise. Much like six years earlier, something that was beginning to open up inside me was slammed shut once again. I truly believe it was that day that my heart finally closed towards Kristy. I just couldn’t muster up enough trust to go that place in my heart again.
Maybe a new car will help? It was time to go for another life goal. Since we lived in the suburbs and now had two kids we needed a station wagon. For those of you who are younger, that would have been the vehicle of choice for a family at that time. Mini-vans hadn’t been created yet and SUV’s were for business.
So, I went out on a Saturday, by myself I might add, and found a beautiful 1979 Chevrolet Malibu Wagon. It was metallic chocolate brown with nice tan interior. I remember vividly standing in my garage polishing the pretty finish to keep it pristine! Now I had a custom built home, a brand new station wagon, two kids and I had reached my life goals. I don’t remember any fuss about me getting a new car without Kristy going with me. I traded in the 1974 Datsun B-210 and this car was much bigger and more practical for the kids so I guess it was an improvement for her as well.
We only had one car now and I rode a commuter bus to work or carpooled with a friend. It was practical with high gas prices. I walked across the street to a shopping center to pick up the bus with other commuters.
With a closed heart, confused emotions, loneliness, and deep needs for connection, I began to develop a fantasy life during my daily travels. On the bus there were some handsome men that rode it each day and I would look at them and wonder what it would be like to know them, I mean really know them. What did they think, how did they feel about life, would they want to know me?
Churning inside me was something greater than a benign sense of curiosity towards men. I now actually wanted more of a relational exchange. Something deeper was in my heart with a curiosity of what it would be like to intimately know another man. I wanted something reciprocal, something meaningful.
As all of this grew deep inside me. One day during a conversation that I was listening to at work the word “homosexual” came into the discussion. “Oh! That must be what is going on here. I may be a homosexual!” I didn’t take it much further because this was a very strange concept to me. I had never known one of those, but began to ponder this in my heart with a sense of desire. Maybe that is what my curiosity is all about on the bus, and with others I had known.
I worked in a large office building where we talked a lot with each other and built relationships. We had a sports team that I was a part of and as I got to know the others, one man stood out to me. He was a little older than I was and had always been single. For many reasons I got to a place where I assumed he was probably gay. In my new frame of mind this brought some hope to me that maybe I could talk with someone else who might relate to my questions.
I stopped him one day and said, “Ken, I would like to talk with you about something personal.” He said “sure.” No more was said until one Friday evening. My wife was bowling and I was with the kids. The phone rang and Ken asked if I could meet him at the bar across the street from where I lived. When my wife came home I proceeded to tell her he had called and she asked if I was going to go over and meet with him. She knew him from work parties and events so it didn’t seem strange to her that I might do that. It was very strange to me since I virtually never did anything without her. But I was internally excited to go and talk through this with him.
After some light conversation and a couple of drinks, I disclosed to him what I had been experiencing. His response was, “John, I knew you were gay.” I felt somewhat offended and at the same time, curious. He mentioned that we might go to another place where some gay people hung out. Without a hitch, I wanted to go. He had peaked my curiosity after we had shared some common ground. We drove some distance away to a bar/restaurant. I began perusing all of the men, women, couples and whoever else walked into the place. I felt totally out of my own skin and yet, even more stimulated at the potential of knowing others like me. Ken assured me he would introduce me to others that he knew.
Several drinks later….
When the bar was about to close, Ken asked me to go with him to his father’s apartment to talk more. I didn’t want this new connection to end so I agreed to go with him. We got to the apartment and talked some more. With a lot of curiosity about this new piece of my life being exposed and a lot of alcohol, Ken proceeded to initiate a sexual encounter with me. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing something that I had only dreamed of and really had never known could happen. I was not thinking at all about whether or not this was wrong.
Hung over from drinking, and blurred from what I had just done, I went home at 3:00 AM and slid into my usual place in bed. The next day, nothing was said between my wife and I about the late arrival. The entire event was hidden inside my heart.
Something huge had changed within me and I could hardly believe that I had just broken one of my most solid convictions. I certainly would never commit adultery! But was this adultery? Actually it didn’t seem to be what I considered to be adultery. It was two men, not with a woman.
After about two weeks of virtual silence from me, Kristy knew something big was up. “John, what is wrong with you. You haven’t spoken for two weeks.” After a tremendous amount of thought on my part I just blurted out:
“ALRIGHT I’M GAY, OK! I WANT A DIVORCE!”
Friday, January 21st, 2011
Two Cars Come Together in a Marriage
Kristy and I were engaged to be married and we had two cars that came together with us. The 1969 Camaro and a 1968 El Camino. Not only was I getting married, but another huge change came into my life.
Working for the department store certainly wasn’t going to provide enough income for our life together. My step-father worked for the Union Pacific Railroad and encouraged me to try to get a job there. After several attempts to get a job, on July 3, 1973, I was instantly hired. My wage went from $1.95 per hour to $8.00 per hour overnight! Kris was working at a local hospital in an administrative position. So, we felt we were pretty well set to get married.
In our preparation for merging our lives we spent a lot of time planning the wedding and we both wanted a nice place to live. We found a brand new two bedroom apartment that had ultra modern colors and style. The carpet was bright 1970’s orange and the appliances were a really cool, avocado green! I’ll never forget the decor with matching browns, greens, and “burnt” orange as we called it. We arranged to move Kristy into the apartment the month before our wedding.
From an accident that occurred along the way, my El Camino got a pretty bad crush on the front of the fender. Even though I was making a lot more money, we had over spent our budget in preparation for our wedding and new home. I decided not to get the car fixed and spend the insurance claim money on something else. It seemed like a good idea at the time but that decision was something that came back to bite me later, in a way I never expected.
After getting Kristy settled into the apartment we would often spend time there talking and working on wedding plans. One night. Kristy told me something that changed our lives forever. Without uncovering private places, let’s just say that I became shocked and was heartbroken. I had emotions that were buried deep inside me and I don’t think I was even aware of what I was feeling.
Marriage or Not?
My immediate thoughts went to whether or not I was going to go on with the wedding. Something inside me shut down and I went numb. I felt incredibly trapped because we had made so many plans, spent so much money and the invitations were already sent out. What else could I do? I didn’t really think I had an option, so the wedding would go on.
This moment in my life was something that, without knowing it, would cause a breakdown in the foundation of our marriage that neither of us knew anything about. It was a sink hole undermining our relationship that was hidden. I shut down and became detached after our conversation. It was as though I literally forgot about it for a season. I never talked with Kristy, or anyone else for that matter, about what was in my heart. I just stuffed it and went on like nothing happened.
The wedding drew closer and it was time to get the marriage license. When we went to the officials to obtain the license we learned of a waiting period we didn’t know anything about. We were told that we couldn’t get married on Saturday. Oh, man! What should we do? They advised us to get a license in Iowa where there wasn’t a waiting period. So, we talked to the Priest to arrange for the more simple Iowa wedding. We joked about this meaning that our marriage would be twice as strong since we did it twice.
Getting Married as a Virgin
Due to wanting to be a good person mixed with my own fears and naivety I had never gotten into a situation with anyone where sex became a temptation. There was kissing, holding hands, and being close physically, but I felt good about being sexually clean. No one had actually ever talked with me about sexual morality. I guess, I just grabbed on to the idea that it was good to abstain from these things.
I felt very anxious about my first sexual experience. In my small mind on these things I feared I would not know what to do. I had never seen pornography either, so my knowledge of sex was really NILL! Other than my experience with personal masturbation all I had was some knowledge of the bodies, but nothing about how they worked together. Once again in my life, I was left to my own ways to figure things out. No mentors, counselors, or good friends to discuss these things with. I just had to go through it.
We moved into the apartment and with my personal things and our two cars. The merging of our lives went fairly smooth. The “formal” wedding occurred and we returned to our apartment that night. Sexually, things worked themselves out quite naturally and my fears were relieved. Due to my new job and our lack of finances, we didn’t take a honeymoon so that first night certainly wasn’t romantic. We started playing house and found ourselves with a troublesome financial load. We had over spent, over bought, and the price of the new apartment was heavy.
Moving Out With Our Two Cars
There was as conflict in our apartment building from some crazy accusations of noise from our downstairs neighbor. We really weren’t loud people at all and complied with all of the requests to be even quieter. But without much warning we were asked to move out. We think it had to do with the relationship the lady had with the managers and they just decided they wanted us out. It was a blessing because it allowed us to get out from under the heavy rent payments. So, after just a few short months we found ourselves moving from our apartment into an older house that was only half of the price of the rent we had been paying.
We decided that it was time to change the car situation around and felt we needed reliable transportation. As we looked at our two cars we found that the “winking eye” of the damaged El Camino made it unsellable due to safety inspection problems. So, I made the decision to trade off the Camaro for a 1974 Datsun B-210 just like the one pictured here. It was green and had an amazing “four speaker, AM-FM stereo”. Kristy made it clear that trading her Camaro was not her first choice. Looking back on it, I can understand how much she loved her car and how frustrated she must have been for me to have gotten rid of it instead of the El Camino that I didn’t like at all. We were so young and making decisions wasn’t out strong suit.
You take my car, you take my heart!
I think, much like it was for me just before our wedding, losing her car was something that she buried deep inside her own heart. So, here we were two people that were very young, carrying a huge financial load and hurting deep inside in ways we were not prepared to deal with. Our wounds grew deeper and yet we just kept going on without asking the right questions or speaking the truth.
We didn’t talk, listen, or really care about each other in ways that would nurture a healthy marriage. I put my energy into fixing up our home and other distractions. Than to pay for it all, I took on a second job.
After two years we found out that our first child was going to come along. I was ecstatic! Kristy always wanted children so she was too. Our focus then turned to preparing for the baby. Remodeling the baby’s room, getting all of the things needed for a new baby was enough to distract us from the wounds in our hearts.
A Brand New Baby
In March of 1976, Alysha was born! I couldn’t get enough of her. Holding her in my lap, staring at her, she had grabbed my heart. It was a tremendous joy for me to be a dad. We had not been in a church since our wedding, other than maybe a Christmas service. Since my family was Catholic, we felt we had no other optio, but to go through with baptizing Alysha in the Catholic church. It was the expected thing to do so we did it. Neither of us had any particular religious convictions so this was just an act of keeping the peace with my family.
The Sink Hole Began to Sink!
Some of the buried stuff surfaced and we began to have arguments that were pretty typical on the surface but they were fueled by the lack of resolve from the other things we had never dealt with. At one point we had to call a family member in to help us get through the argument. It was right after that big argument that we found out that our second baby was coming.
I felt trapped again. I really didn’t want to continue living like I was. Kristy and I were so disconnected emotionally. but with one child and another one on the way what could I do? I had to just keep one foot in front of the other and move towards being a father again. I stuffed my feelings again. I was not clearly aware of what was going on inside of me. I only knew that I wanted to get out, to find some sense of real connection. I realized I didn’t feel connected anywhere. I felt really concerned about having another baby given the state of our marriage being what it was.
Baby No. 2
In July of 1977, Amanda was born. I was emotionally more shut down by this time and felt an internal struggle bonding with her. But I loved her and saw her bright shining personality develop very quickly. She was easier to connect to. Alysha seemed more emotionally independent from early on. Our two girls were beautiful. They had bright shiny blonde hair and soft beautiful skin. The two almost looked like twins at times. They were our two little girls and we moved on into family life.
With the kids, two jobs, and growing responsibilities my struggle to bond with Kristy just got further buried underneath life. It was much easier to just deal with the surface needs and not pay attention to the emptiness growing inside of my heart. On a regular basis I felt unheard, devalued and unimportant. I tried to cope with the loneliness I felt on a daily basis.
I didn’t have many friends other than those I worked with. I never did anything alone or with another friend. I spent all of my energy on the family and ongoing remodeling of our older house. That was my focus. I did have one really good friend, Dan, who I talked to a lot. We worked together and spent almost all of our break times talking together about life, family, work issues and anything else that came across our time together. I experienced some of the old feelings of jealousy with Dan and his other friends. I felt possessive with our time and didn’t want to go without talking with him daily. I would compromise my job by taking longer breaks than were allowed, hiding in hallways to talk with him. Fortunately I never got into too much trouble for all of the time I spent with him.
I really needed his friendship and time to process my life with him. The jealousy and neediness didn’t go any further so as to cause any big problems. But I definitely was dependant on Dan’s friendship to fill up some of the void I had. He was the kind of friend that was always there. He was there when both of our daughters were born and was present for other important events. I was there for him when his father passed away. I was in his wedding when he married his wife Arlene. We were very good friends.
The cars in my life continued to change. We kept the Datsun but had a few other second cars. Some came along because they were cheap! I remember a 1965 Ford Fairlane that was one of the cheap ones. Then another memorable car came into our lives. A 1970 Ford XL. I think about the cars I would love to have back and this is one of them. The car in the picture doesn’t begin to capture the beauty of the car I had. While the color was close, mine was a special edition with a shiny gloss black engine hood on top of the beautiful Coppertone body. I was so long I couldn’t close the garage door behind it.
I had several life goals in my mind. A brand new custom designed home with all new decor, a brand new car in the driveway, and living in the suburbs. I was only 23 years old by this point.
In searching for these goals to be accomplished, we were about to take another detour and I was having more trouble hiding the emptiness and disappointments in my heart.
Some who know me, may be thinking, “John, weren’t you a homosexual?” “Isn’t that what was going on underneath all of this?”
As I have said, I was sexually a virgin. I was naive about sexuality. In the sixties, no one really talked about homosexuality. I really had no idea of my sexuality. Whether I was homosexual or not never entered the equation. That may sound really strange to many of you who are reading this but it is true. I seemed to like girls, dated some, married Kristy, and functioned normally as I knew how. I certainly wasn’t a “raging” heterosexual, that’s for sure, but I had nothing to compare my life to. I didn’t have friends that I talked with, or listened to about their sexual exploits. I didn’t have a brother. No cousin, or uncle that lived close by.
Oh, sure, I had mostly female friends in high school. I didn’t get along well with other guys that were my peers. I hated sports. I loved home decor, feelings, and had a couple of emotionally close male friendships. I didn’t have a lot of lust for girls in general. I was called s sissy, weak, and “girly” in my childhood. But none of these added up to homosexuality because they were not connected to “sex”. I had a complicated and wounding relationship with my step-dad and an over dominate mother.
Many would say, “DUH” John’s gay. But again, in my world, the only connection I had to the topic of homosexuality was the lady I had worked with that my mom told me was a lesbian. That didn’t count because she was much older and obviously was a female. Certainly I embodied a lot of the stereotypes but in my stunted emotional development I never labeled myself.
I am going to write more about my marriage, sexuality, and the development of homosexuality as I tell this story. But, I’ve written the story in chronological order so it is unfolding as I experienced it. I truly think that the incidents I have described played a significant role in the breakdown of our marriage for sure. I am not sure that homosexuality really played much of a role in all of this up to this point. I was disheartened, emotionally closed off, and distant from Kristy. That was very significant in the whole picture.
Take a deep breath, all of this will start to come out in the next chapter.
Friday, January 14th, 2011
A Beautiful Car!
By 1969, the Camaro was extremely popular. Sales had steadily increased during the first years of the Camaro and set a new all-time high, thanks to its long production run (from September 1968 through February 1970). The 1969 was given an updated look that was meaner than the graceful 1967-1968 models. It had a more aggressive grille, slightly squarer body panels, and squared-off rear wheel openings.
Sportier than all get out! The color? Oh, my, that beautiful metallic blue with white stripes was very popular at that time.
I got to drive one frequently. It wasn’t mine, it belonged to Kristy, my on and off girlfriend from high school. Her car had a floor shifter, black interior and looked very much like this example. It was very fun to drive! Little did I know how significant this car would become.
Discovering relationships as I left high school brought a lot of turmoil into my life both with guys and girls. I was already worn out and not sure I was willing to feel the pain that was coming. So as I became an adult, adult decisions were made to protect myself from things I just didn’t want to feel.
The flow of life of this 18 year old guy seemed to be pretty normal on the outside, but underneath I was suffering once again with things I didn’t understand and seemingly no one else did either.
After I graduated from high school I was ready for some changes. I was growing frustrated with working with my cousin at the truck refrigeration company. We decided it was time for me to move on and I applied for a job at a department store. It was called “Younkers” and was similar to Macy’s or Dillard’s. An upscale store with very nice things and with an upper class clientele it was a small chain in Nebraska and Iowa. I took a huge cut in pay but it was time and maybe this would be an opportunity for my future.
I got hired to work in a diverse department handling “Toys, Luggage, and Records.” It was a great place to be since we got to be around other young people who were shopping for the latest 1972 music like Grand Funk Railroad, Bread, The Who, and so many others that lived through the 70’s but didn’t go much farther.
Tom – My New Friend
I worked with a man named Tom Cleese . At 19 years old, he was one year older than I was. He had unruly long hair and always wore the blue suit jacket that was too big for him. We were required to dress up to work there, but his style lacked the kind of class that I think they were looking for. He also mostly wore corduroy jeans underneath the sagging jacket. But something was cool about Tom. He was more of an open minded type of guy. We spent a lot of time talking and he seemed to be so open to discussing lots of things that many people never talked about.
I grew very close to him. I looked forward to every time we worked together because it seemed he liked me too. I had not had a friend like Tom, so this felt pretty special to me. Tom had a few vices. He smoked, and talked about drinking alcohol. I had never really done either one. Throughout my teen years I tried to be good. I held my values to be important and was a virgin in almost every way! Sex, drugs, and rock and roll were just not my speed.
One day, Tom asked me to go with him to a bar in the shopping mall we worked in. He told me they didn’t “card” anyone they knew from the mall and would allow us to buy drinks there. Since Tom had been so nice to me and I was pretty cool on spending time with him I decided to go. He told me about certain drinks that I might like to try and he drank “Jack Daniels” so in wanting to be like him, I indulged. I felt so adult, drinking in a bar with Tom.
After a short while, I wanted to enter one more thing that was like Tom. I bought a package of cigarettes. Feeling, again, very adult, I lit up one, then another, and third. On the third one I felt a tightening of my lungs and said, “That’s enough of those”. And threw the pack away. I wasn’t willing to go that far to be like Tom.
Not knowing what I was really experiencing, I was growing to become pretty emotionally dependent with Tom. I spent a lot of my energy focusing on my time with him and how good it felt to connect, and feel affirmed by this older guy. We went to the bar several more times just to talk and have a drink or two.
Then one night Tom asked me to go to a party with him. He said it was a “bring your own drinks” type of party. Tom said I should try MD-20-20. He said it was a dark red wine and would do the trick to get me feeling pretty good. So he bought me a bottle and I brought it to the party. Before we left he instructed me on how to drive home safely if I was leaving drunk. “John, roll the windows down, its winter and the cold air will keep you alert”. Then further instruction spoke to keeping the radio up loud and eyes open wide. I still laugh thinking about his instruction and my emulating what he had taught me. So, he dropped me off to get my car at the parking lot in front of the store we worked at. I got into my car, obediently rolled the windows down, turned the radio on and got ready to drive home.
I didn’t even make it out of the parking lot. As I drove my ‘68 El Camino forward from the parking space I saw a huge red octagon fly down in front of me. Yep, your right, it was the stop sign. I backed up, slowly, left the sign on the ground and found the exit from the lot and drove home. The sign was repaired with a brace and I saw that brace for many years afterwards, each time I went into that parking lot. My right of passage was so visible to me and I am sure frustrating for the maintenance crew at the mall.
But, I made it home safely and went into the house. I felt so woozy as I walked in. I thought everything was cool but I was late! I had a curfew of 12:00 midnight and it was about 12:30. As I got ready to settle in, my dad came out of his bedroom with his hand out. “John, give me your keys.” “You’ll get them back Sunday night, you’re late.” Nothing more was said and he may or may not have known I was drinking but it was never mentioned.
Tom was a mentor to more for my young adulthood. Maybe not such a good one, but it didn’t matter to me. Tom seemed like the older brother I never had and I loved it. It was the bridge out of high school that I needed to begin my own life as an adult.
So, back to the Camaro, Kristy and girls! Well, the Camaro would come up later. Kristy was still in the picture, but when we were off, there were some other girls in the story. My eyes were looking around for who I liked and who I didn’t. There was a girl in “gift wrap” that was very interested in spending time talking with me. Her name was Barb. I liked Barb as a friend, but nothing about her drew my attention for more than just to talk and laugh with her. She tried her hardest to show me she was interested in more, but I didn’t have the mind to go further. But, one day, someone else struck my interest.
Oh My -She’s Beautiful!
Looking through the LP’s was this young lady and her mom. As I looked down at her hands I saw such beautiful fingers and her nails colorfully painted. Then I looked up. Her hair was blonde and flowing. She was so pretty, and nice! Her mom was nice too, but I couldn’t believe my eyes and the pitter patter in my heart when I saw her. She didn’t buy anything and left the department. I wanted to follow her all the way out. Immediately going to Tom, we talked about girls and attraction. He was dating Ellen who went to school in Chicago, so she wasn’t there often. He talked about how much they loved each other and something tripped in me at that time. I didn’t know what it was but Ellen wasn’t a part of Tom’s local life so I didn’t pay much attention to it.
I didn’t like to hear Tom talk about Ellen because it took the attention away from me. But we kept finding other things to talk about. We especially tried to figure out a way to find the beautiful blonde, but I never saw her again. Another step in our friendship occurred that I’ll never forget.
Tom liked football and would talk about it sometimes. Feeling distant from those conversations I wanted so much to tell him that I didn’t like football but I feared he would think I was weird if I said anything about it. I had NEVER verbally told anyone that I didn’t like it. But standing next to the stereo’s I remember distinctly a conversation when I said, “Tom, I don’t like football.” Expecting to see shock as I waited for his response, he really didn’t have one and said, “That’s ok, John.” I was amazed that the sky didn’t fall when I admitted to him one of the most scary things of all. I didn’t like football! I felt even more accepted at that point. It was the beginning of even more honesty in my life. I didn’t die so maybe I can talk about more things with Tom.
So, still no Kristy on the scene but she would come into the store periodically and we would go out on a date some times. But, overall, my focus was on my friendship with Tom. He moved to a different department and I really missed having him closer to talk with. I would wander over to where he was to talk, but it just wasn’t the same. I got into trouble sometimes because I would stray from my post. Then one day, the most fearful thing of all occurred.
What? You’re Leaving?
“John, I am going to move to Chicago to be with Ellen and go to school.” What, you’re moving away? The shock was extreme and I went home that night with more pain than I think I had experienced in a long time. What would I do? I was going to lose Tom. I talked with a friend of the family that night and she asked me what was wrong . So, I told her about my friend moving away and finished the conversation. At that moment I started sobbing in pain. Tom moved and my life felt so empty and void. But there was a friend of Tom’s that I also had gotten to know who’s name was Gary. I liked him and spent time with him but it just wasn’t the same as Tom.
I made a plan to see Tom again. He was eight hours away in Chicago. I felt older now and knew I could drive my 1968 El Camino there and spend a weekend with he and Ellen. Well, It would be ok with Ellen there, she was nice. So, Tom told me he was living in the school dorms with Ellen and that I could sleep in the “pod” of the dorms on the couches there. My plans were set and I took my first trip across country alone and went to Chicago. Upon arriving I found that Tom and Ellen were living in her dorm room together. He mentioned it was not in agreement with the rules but no one knew and others covered for them. I was a little disappointed in their arrangement. It didn’t line up with my moral values. I didn’t let that get in the way. After all, that is another experience with being an adult. We had some fun and we ate at “Uno’s” pizzeria, and talked a lot. My response surprised me even more. I was jealous of Ellen more than I had expected. I was also jealous of the intimacy they had with each other. I felt rejected and hurt. I didn’t enjoy the weekend at all and was really emotionally shut down.
I talked to Kristy once while I was in Chicago. I was feeling so badly. She became a comfortable, familiar place to grab some connection. While on the phone I told her that I had something to talk to her about when I got home. I had decided in my heart to reconnect with Kristy and move forward with our relationship. Maybe even into marriage. I was really hurting and didn’t want to hurt any more. I thought, maybe if we got married the relationship struggles I was experiencing would go away. I didn’t want to play the look around, dating, game anymore. I was certainly wounded from what had happened with Tom. Maybe the single life isn’t for me. I just wanted to settle down and move on.
I had parked my El Camino on Michigan Avenue, where Tom had told me to park it for the weekend. On Monday morning I walked over to get into my car and it was GONE! I looked up at the sign which I had not seen earlier. It said that cars could park there until 2:00 AM on Monday morning. My car had been towed away. I felt some resentment towards Tom for knowing what the laws were for parking there.
I called Tom and he instructed me on how to find it and $75 dollars later I had my car and was on my way home. Thinking about all that happened during the eight hour drive I became resolute. I was going to ask Kristy to marry me.
Let’s Get Married
When I got home Kristy and I got together and I talked about the weekend. I don’t think I mentioned anything about my painful reactions to Tom’s relationship with Ellen. I didn’t really have that much personal awareness at that time in my life. I did, however ,remember saying, “Kris, maybe we should get married.”
There was never a formal proposal or on-the-knee, request. We just accepted that we were going to get married and began talking about our plans with others. The ring came along, and a date was set. October 12, 1973 would be the date of our wedding. I appreciated Kris’ strength in the area of wanting kids, taking an interest in homemaking and the way she cooked great things for me to eat. She would make a good wife and mother. She must be the one for me.
I never saw Tom again. There were some letters written back and forth but our friendship waned and each of us moved on into our own lives. I often wonder what ever happened with Tom and Ellen. I suspect they got married- or maybe not. They were kind of like Ryan O’Neal and Alli MacGraw in “Love Story.” They were each kind of out of the box thinkers and went against the norms of society.
So, the 1969 Camaro?
What happened with that car? Oh, the story of the Camaro isn’t over and it played an important role in my life and my upcoming wedding with Kris. Stay tuned. Our wedding plans kept us busy but my heart was to be broken again soon. And my 1968 El Camino would get a pretty big dent that created more problems for the Camaro.
Friday, January 7th, 2011
John, how much of your ministry deals with homosexuality?
Interesting that you would ask. I think this will answer some of your questions.
Real lives, Real questions, Real faith, Real people, Real challenges, Real feelings, Real needs
Profiling and personal prejudice occurs daily for most of us. We make assessments of a person when we know of their career, their skin color, their gender, and many other outward physical attributes. When we look at other people or hear about someone, our minds make quick judgments as to who they might be or what they might be like. When we were children we were taught to judge. Black and white, tall and short, deep or shallow were often opposites that helped us to learn to compare and contrast things in our lives. This is just the way it is to be and it is a good thing.
But, when we judge, what do we do with our findings? Our filters get all clogged up with life experience, cultural teaching and schooling material. As a Christian, I find it extremely important to put Christ into the mix of my judging practice. I also believe it is significant to put myself into others shoes as I see them from across the room, or from across the street.
Over the holidays I have been doing some evaluation of my life, my time, my heart. I realized that I am often rapt with a burden for certain people. They call upon my heart often, in person, and in spirit. Yesterday I sat down and compiled a list of people that t fit a specific slot in life. I have met some of them in person, some of them over the phone, some through social media like FaceBook. These are people who are often pre-judged, profiled and laid aside from preconceived notions as to who they are.
I felt compelled to develop the list because I want to remember them in prayer this year. I want to bring them before the father in intercession. I have connected with them in heart, and in my soul. These men are questioning life at a very deep level.
Feeling alone much of the time, sometimes lost, and often confused but even in the midst of all of this they are survivors at the core. They seem to get up each day and make it through to their pillow that night whether or not they feel resolved with life. Some of the questions will never be fully answered. Many of their desires will go unfulfilled and their questions about faith may never find solid answers. But they continue on with life stumbling over rocks, tripping into the ditch sometimes and a times exhaustion that requires rest that doesn’t always refresh.
Some of these men are Christians. They believe deeply in the gospel of Jesus Christ and they know they have received His eternal forgiveness. Others are not so sure but they keep trying to understand God’s grace more fully. Then there are those who are searching for what God is really all about.
They range in age from 18 to 60. Living all around the world their cultures drive their lives with what seems to cause even more of a daily struggle. Some have great family relationships, others have ongoing battles that never seem to find an end. There are also those whose families are far away and not connected much at all.
Professionals, hard laborers, students, and the unemployed they are pretty normal in their daily lives. Trying to pay bills, manage their homes and life sustenance brings another level of struggle and conflict but each one on the list seems to eat, sleep, and move through the piles of daily needs. God seems to be providing for them even when sometimes it may be only like the manna the Israelites ate while in the dessert.
They all have one very significant thing in common. They struggle with homosexuality , Jesus, God and their faith. They are not “ex-gay” meaning they have resolved their homosexuality with Christ and have made a clear cross over the divide away from any homosexual associations. Neither have they come to a place where they have found peace with being gay and live in a gay affirming world. Most of them are in the mysterious and uncomfortable middle ground searching for some resolve to their quandary.
Aren’t They Just a Bunch of Queers?
In conversational circles I often hear people refer to “the homosexuals” or “gays” and it can be connected to thoughts of promiscuity, political activism, perversion and other negative associations. While there may be some who do some of those things. But to judge someone as extreme just because of their sexual orientation is to profile, to act in unreasonable prejudice.
I thought one of the best ways to break this observation would be to let you see a little bit of what I see in their lives each week would be to excerpt some of the things that they have written. A bird’s eye view will help you to understand a little bit of what I am talking about.
This guy wrote me with some questions and I replied back. This is what he said:
I have been thinking about what you said and I am ready to hear your view points on life, being gay, etc.
I am just so glad to have a trusted friend to bounce my random thoughts to. Thanks it is a great honor to call you a friend. I hope you enjoyed the holidays and look forward to hearing back from you.
One man shared some things and ended up with this comment:
All I could really do is cry and say “I need help. Whatever you can do. Thanks.” Too much to go into.
To be quite honest, I am a doubting Thomas. I guess I always have been. Not that it is a bad thing. I don’t think a deity wants a robot that doesn’t think. Just trying to find God or have it find me. Depending on the day, it seems to be harder for me I think.
I often refer people to things I have written when talking with them. A comment that came back showed me some of the heart issues that they faced:
I must say your last message brought tears to my eyes. It’s been so long that someone who claimed to be a Christian (besides my partner) talked/wrote something to me that showed any respect for me as a person. So many are willing to try and convert me but unwilling to listen to what I have to say. I don’t know how many books/novels are sent to me and when I say that I’ve read similar books many times, they tend to get mad. I can see their point, but when I bring up questions, they don’t want to hear it as I said before.
As I said, I ask some tough questions. This one you may or may not be able to answer. Many people see that I am a “realist” or “agnostic” and automatically thinks that means I’m an atheist. I have had many people who call themselves Christians say some of the nastiest things to me about me questioning matters of faith. Some of them have hurt so much that I don’t even want to discuss matters of faith since when I ask a tough question, I get attacked normally.
Now I realize that I’m in the minority and don’t expect a warm welcome, but I do expect people who call themselves Christians to show some basic honesty and respect. I’ve given up on expecting love and kindness. Any ideas on why this happens?
A young guy that is in college caught up with me on FaceBook. I knew him when he was just a teenager. I just asked him how he had been and he sent me a pretty thorough update.
I left Christianity because I couldn’t reconcile the inconsistencies that I have seen in scripture, Christians, and my life in general. I know that’s a pretty broad statement, but it took me easily three years to come to that conclusion, through all of my readings and such. Though it’s not perfect, I feel that Judaism gives me a belief system that is more rational as well as a religion that “changes” with human understanding…if that makes any sense. I find that organized “religion” does stifle relationship.
My parents on the other hand are an interesting story…they have at least opened up to allowing my partner to visit and meet the entire family, which is a very big step. But the relationship is still strained at the same time, since I am “living in sin” as they like to say. I sense their displeasure very strongly. My partner is pretty nervous about meeting them for that reason directly, as well as he isn’t too keen on being “witnessed” to…since as a Jew he has a lot of baggage when it comes to Christianity.
There are times when someone moves towards the desires to connect with someone who understands even when it goes against his personal conviction. This guy is a very conservative Christian who has fought for years to remain close to his convictions to remain celibate. He struggles terribly with loneliness and desires to feel connected to someone he can relate to.
I feel torn about this relationship but at the same time I want to be with him. I like him as a person and enjoy his company. However, he is “out” in the gay community, which is something I don’t really care for or subscribe to. I know that the end result, should I remain sensitive to my convictions, will be major hurt and pain for both of us. Maybe I just want some relief from the pressure I feel and this is the way I am seeking it. Maybe it’s just time to enter this world that has been knocking on my door for so long. I feel so selfish, yet it feels OK.
My response to him was to see Jesus first and foremost. I asked him to consider leaving all of this to Him and that he would find his way through this. In the end, amazingly, the new guy broke off the relationship sensing that there was a spiritual and emotional struggle. He just didn’t “feel it” so called an end to the relationship. My reply was to encourage my friend to look at God’s grace in this, protecting both of them from unhealthy ambivalence when engaging in an intimate relationship.
A Heart of Love
Some men really call my heart out. This guy was only 19 when I first met him. He is now in his thirties. He has wandered all around in his life but it seems he has settled into a same sex relationship. He told me that he is not satisfied being in this relationship but that is where he is at this time.
I’ve been in an 8yr relationship now with my partner (name withheld), and I knew going into it that it wasn’t what God wanted, yet my life HAS indeed changed for the better, and it hasn’t all been bad. I think God works even when we choose to go our way. Now, my mustard seed of faith is all that keeps me bound to God’s truths… Please just pray for me as I believe I’m beginning to question things a little more… Thanks John… and take care. Love, your bro.
This dear friend is someone who is really searching and trying to live a life of faith in Christ.
It is my goal to get to know God and his love. I’m enrolled in a 9-month ministry course that has me studying the word daily. So hopefully I’ll get to know Jesus through reading His word and by spending time with Him. I’ve found that I’ve looked for God’s love through people. For example my perception of God, in a negative way, is from the relationship I have with my father. For example my father is controlling sometimes and mean. Well naturally I assume that God is like that. Sometimes I feel like I love Jesus so much (especially with helping the needy etc.) and then sometimes I feel like I don’t love Him at all. For example when I seriously think about drinking a glass of wine I wonder if He is going to get angry with me. I do serve him with my WHOLE heart though.
You asked me about having a person that I can be vulnerable around and the answer is yes. I went out on a limb and shared with my friend, that I live with, that I have same sex attractions and that I feel like I’m living a double life. He said he accepts me for who I am. That made me feel good. There are times when I want to say to people….”man he’s cute or did you see that guy?” of course I never do. I just hold it inside and wonder what will happen.
It was someone’s birthday and I felt led to share this comment with them, “I just wanted you to know how special you are and that you are deeply loved, friend. I am not sure how often you hear that and just wanted you to know.” His reply touched me.
That is sweet of you! Thank you. I don’t hear it enough.
A couple of summers ago this man came to meet me with his dad. We had a rich conversation and he became very vulnerable about his conviction of being an agnostic. He was highly intelligent and I just listened to him. Several months later I contacted him to follow up and this was his reply:
I made one of my New Year’s Resolutions to give God another chance, and I got off to a fairly strong start by reading the book of Matthew. The problem is – and this is what I was referring to in my last email – that I feel like I need to spend a long time studying and thinking about this stuff to make any sense of it. There is so much in this book that confuses me. I’ve been so busy and there just isn’t enough time so I just lay it aside and dig into my daily work.
Real life, real stories, real people.
What is the answer? I struggle each time I talk to someone or write them to try to encourage them. What do I say? What is the word, or the response that will touch their heart in a place where they will move closer to Christ. I know He is the answer. I understand that He, and only He, will be able to set them free into what He has for them.
In truth, the best thing I can do is to show them I love them and that I will listen without judgment. I want so much to show them that I care about what they are going through and what they feel. And to add to that, I understand the struggle with homosexuality. I wrestle with it too. Sometimes I am on top of it and other times it really bothers me. There are times I have some of the same questions. What would Jesus have to say about this? What do I do about what I am feeling right now? Will this last until my dying breath?
I remember those days when I tried to give the simple answer. But today, those answers don’t fly any longer. Too often typical Christian answers are “repent” or “trust God” but in the end, those don’t typically bring the real hope needed in order to connect with Christ.
I want to spend extra time this year focusing on these guys and others that I come into contact with. They deserve to hear of Jesus love for them! I want to be one of the vessels to let them know that. I pray there are others!
Every homosexual man and woman deserves to know that Jesus loves them! We must learn to love each one and then trust Him to show them the way.