Saturday, December 24, 2016

Coming out to my Grandmother

My grandmother on my father's side worked very hard for her entire life.  She worked multiple jobs to make sure that her 8 children had food, clothes, and opportunities.  My grandfather also worked multiple jobs including working many years at Alcoa.  They were married for 56 years before he passed away over a decade ago from complications from Alzheimers. 

If you are a regular reader, you know that I got married this past summer.  It was a small wedding and we were trying to keep things low key.  That didn't work, so we went full public with our response. I purposely didn't invite extended family to my wedding.  My siblings were the blood relatives that attended along with one cousin and one aunt who I count among my closest and most supportive family.

Although I have not hidden my sexuality, at the request of my family, I've been very evasive when I visit my small home town.  Until I met my husband, David, I never brought anyone home for any family event, homecoming, or holiday.  In fact, I was the only "single" family member and frequently got the sofa in my family's small home at the holidays.  

At Thanksgiving, I received a box of Christmas ornaments and decorations from my grandmother.  She is downsizing and doesn't want them thrown away.  Included with them are things that I gave to her or my grandfather over the years.  

Along with the box came a lovely note from my grandmother.  I've never officially come out to her.  Although I have aunts who have had "special friends" for many years, I wasn't sure how to tell her myself.  I know through stories in my family that she was aware that I was gay, but we just avoided the topic.  I was evasive when we visited and used gender neutral pronouns when speaking about my dating life.  

In the note at Thanksgiving, she mentioned that although she doesn't have a computer, use the internet, or check out "the Facebook," my aunt Debbie told her about my wedding.  Gram mentioned that she missed hearing from me.  To be frank, I hadn't written to her since meeting David other than a Christmas card the year before.  Prior to meeting him, I would try to write once every month or so.  

David has become such an important part of my life that I couldn't figure out what to write without including him in any note to her.  

After reading her note, I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and just tell her.  No more hiding.  I sent her our Christmas Card with a note inserted.  

The gist of the letter went something like this:

Dear Gram,

I apologize for not writing sooner.  Things are going well for me in Brooklyn.  Yes I did get married this summer.  I kept the wedding very small and only invited close friends, mom and dad, and my siblings.  I wasn't sure how you felt about me being gay or gay marriage.  I know that it isn't the most comfortable thing for mom, dad, or our family.  I married a Nigerian man in Rochester.  I've decided that regardless of what other people think, I need to live my life for me, and not them.  David is a social worker and he models part time.  I've taken up photography outside of work and frequently go with him to shows.  I'll try to be better about writing more often.  I sent your Christmas gift directly from the company and you should get it soon.  

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


I also included my new last name.  I put a stamp on the letter and was shaking when I dropped it in the mail.  How was she going to react?  What would mom and dad say when they found out I told her.  I know they are both still learning to accept who I am.  

Well, Gram didn't disappoint.  I got a letter back from her shortly after.  

Dear Eric and Friend,

First I received your two packages on Friday, December 9th.  I haven't opened them as I don't open my gifts until Christmas.  Thanks very much.  I hear from you more often than I hear from my grand children close by.  Anthony calls about every two weeks and came to see me when he was up in October for a wedding.  

As I don't have a computer, don't do email, facebook, etc. I heard about your wedding from Aunt Debbie who saw it on Facebook.  Your mom hasn't mentioned it.  One day when your dad came alone we had a little visit.  He seems to take everything in stride and doesn't get too concerned with things that he can't change.  

So many things have changed in my lifetime of 85 years and can't imagine the ones to come.  Grandpa and I were married 56 years when he passed away 11 years ago.  God created us all different and some things are harder to accept.  

Things here are fine and I count my blessings and am thankful for my family and friends each day.  

I'm still playing cards Monday, shuffle board on Tuesday, and of course the dance twice a month.  I went on a bus trip to St. Catherine's Ontario to see an Irish singer.  Yesterday I went to Morrisburg to see a play with 45 on a bus.  

It's snowing here 3" so far so I moved my car about 8:00 a.m.

With love, Happiness, and Prayers,

p.s. - Thanks again. 

I'm not sure how I can describe in words how that made me feel.  I'd like to say that relieved was the first emotion that came over me.  I also teared up a little.  I know that my life isn't easy for some people to understand, especially people who grew up in small towns far from cities that are not very diverse or accepting of people who may be different.  Just seeing a letter addressed to "Dear Eric and Friend" brought tears to my eyes and a little belly laugh.  My dear aunt who passed had a "friend" for many years who she lived with.  We love that "friend" who is still an important part of our family.  

I'm also glad that now when I go to visit my parents, I don't have to leave David somewhere or make him hide when Grandma visits.  Our family photos that include him can be sent to her too.  All of this has been causing me stomach aches since I met him.  My siblings, too, have not been sure what to do. We always take a family photo and send a copy to Gram. 

I hate to lie.  I hate to hide.  Now it can all be in the open.  

So that was my Christmas gift from my grandmother. I hope that you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  I'm off to Christmas Eve Service. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Lessons from Ice Skating

David has been asking me to take him ice skating for over a year.  We were unable to make it work with our schedules last winter.  Since that time, we moved to a different neighborhood.  Our apartment is now much closer to prospect park.

Friday night, we went to the skating rink in the park to ice skate. Let me tell you, David is very athletic.  Every time we have been out to try some new athletic activity, he picks it up so fast.  Coming from my background, this is hilarious and impressive.  It took me years to figure out how to bowl without gutter balls over and over (his first time involve three strikes in a row and two games well over 150).  

When I was a kid, my whole family ice skated.  We spent time cleaning off the pond to skate and even flooded our front yard to make a skating rink.  My dad and brother played ice hokey almost every weekend with our neighbors.  Dad played well into his 50s on an international ice hockey league.  

We had a 4H skating party at our house one winter.  Mom always was amazing with her hot chocolate skills (warmed milk in a pot on the stove with nestle quick and some cool whip).  My twin brother and I were a bit slower learning how to ice skate than our siblings and parents.  My first pair of skates was an old pair of mom's figure skates.  I learned how to stop using my toe, instead of a snow plow stop like a hockey player.  It took me years to be able to skate without falling over and over again.  

David was different.  He managed to only fall once, and that was because he was trying to take his hat and gloves off while continuing to skate. 

I managed to not fall at all and even managed to skate backwards a few inches at a time (one of the things I'm working on).  

As I watched him, and we laughed, memories of my childhood came flooding back.  I would spend hours with my brothers and sister trying to skate.  We had to wait until dad said it was ok to go onto the ice.  If my memory serves me, he used to test the ice by heaving a huge block of wood onto it first to see if it would break.  Then he would go out tentatively on it to test it.  We had a pond across the road from our house that was most often used.  I do remember on time when all of the neighbors came and we all skated up and down the swamp corridor that was overflow from Brandy brook.  We used our snow boots as goal posts and always had a fire going off the ice to warm up if we needed to. 

David's skating reminded me of a few things.  

1.) You can't be afraid to fall.  Falling is one of the only ways to learn how to skate.  Even the best skaters fall.
2.) It's ok to hold on to the railing as you figure things out.  We all need a little bit of support now and again.
3.) Sometimes you need to be left alone to figure things out (David was much more likely to try things when I wasn't next to him).  
4.) Even the most experienced skaters have room to grow and learn.  I'm definitely not experienced, but I know I can skate in circles and almost not fall most of the time.  I'm learning to stop and to skate backwards while David is just learning to stay up.
5.) It's ok to start slow.
6.) You have to take some risks if you are going to figure things out.
7.) If you dress warmly enough, only your face will get cold.
8.) Skating uses muscles that we don't use daily. 
9.) It's really awesome to get out during the winter and have some fun.  It makes winter easier to bear.  I was reminded of this when I heard an NPR interview about Hygge.  Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word that is a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special. When winter doldrums get you down, you have to find something to pick your spirits up.  

I hope you all find some joy in the coming winter months.  Learn something new, try a new sport, try an old thing with friends who haven't done it before.  Laugh, get some sun, re-live old memories.  If you want company, call or email us.  We love adventures.