What A World

Memories, Priorities, and the Things I Learned

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This summer has been an abundantly educational experience
by Nancy Ford

What a summer, what a summer! Though summer is traditionally a time when school is not in session and learning takes a back seat, the events of this summer have taught me lesson after lesson. No, I didn’t learn to speak Chinese or how to two-step, much to the chagrin of my Beijing-bound, boot-scooting  friends.

I did learn a thing or two, however, about the power of memories and personal
priorities.

As a hurricane teased the Florida coast in late August, just as the Republican National Convention was about to convene in Tampa, I learned that it is nearly impossible to measure the depth of the flop sweat puddles produced by evangelical meteorologists who famously insist that God aims severe weather patterns at targets that have ired him.

Just because a woman is in her fifties, it doesn’t mean she can’t still shake her rock ’n’ roll ass with the best of them. Royal lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge again made history this summer by performing at her first Pride celebration, in June in Pittsburgh, keeping the four-city-blocks audience on Liberty Avenue on their feet and dancing in the street for more than three solid hours. I learned that good music, especially when experienced in the company of good friends, is more powerful and healing than the thickest Dr. Scholl’s comfort gel pad.

I learned that, given the chance, lesbian love never really dies. It just morphs into something more practical. My traditional June odyssey to Pittsburgh to celebrate Pride was this year docented by my ex-girlfriend and her now-wife, with whom she had to flee Texas to legally marry. Our time together spent touring my ex’s newly adopted city all seemed so mature and respectable and loving and not the least bit threatening to anyone else’s marriage.

Later, a nostalgic tour of Ohio (with that same sister and her husband whose 35-year-marriage seems not the least threatened by the marriage of my former girlfriend and her wife. Now if I could just get them to stop eating at Chick-fil-A…) revealed our former elementary school has been reused, recycled, and reconverted into a multi-use center with a fitness gym and various antique/retail businesses. My former high school has been retrofitted to that same antiquey fate. It seems that so many families in that region are now turning to home schooling that our former educational buildings must now be used for aerobics classes to counteract the effects of the home-made fudge, sausages, and cheese that are now sold there.

Tales from an early-July high school reunion revealed that Stevie D., who delighted in fat-bullying me nearly every day for a decade when we were children, who also never left the region and now probably sells apple butter from one of those flea-market booths that was once our school, now claims 40 years later that he always thought I was “neat.” Maybe the bumper sticker is right: maybe it does get better.

I learned to appreciate the subtle disappointment even the most loving parent might experience upon learning that his or her offspring is gay or lesbian. This occurred when I found out that my 16-year-old niece whom I long suspected (okay, hoped) might be a lesbian, now has a steady boyfriend. Of course, I just want her to be happy and healthy and successful, regardless of her sexuality. And if she’s reading this, I want to remind her to please keep it in her pants because even though I’m undeniably a great aunt, I’m not ready to be a Great Aunt.

A family reunion returned me to Firestone Park where my clan traditionally held gatherings in the 1950s and ’60s, where I could still smell my own Great Aunt Anna Mary’s baked beans mingling with the other scents of old-lady perfume and pavilion mildew. I could also envision no less than two of my great uncles, with their pale skin, slender wrists, and gentle affectations, who were always fastidiously dressed yet could not seem to earn the approval of their domineering, constantly haranguing wives. And I realized that it’s a good thing that children do not have fully-developed gaydar, otherwise I probably would have been driven mad with all that clanging in my youthful head.

Another eye-opening revelation from my northward trips home this summer: Beating out Boston and Washington DC, Cleveland, Ohio, won the bid as the host city for Gay Games 9. Registration is now open for the games that expect to bring at least 35,000 participants with their bulging muscles and spectators with their bulging wallets to that region in August 2014. To say this is a big accomplishment from a state that, like Texas, aggressively amended its constitution to discriminate against LGBT families, is like saying Larry Hagman’s eyebrows are kind of bushy.

Yes, what a summer it’s been, visiting family and friends, seeing the various changes, all while simultaneously coming to better appreciate the consistency of things that will never change. And oh, the memories. As my parents sink deeper and deeper into their Alzheimer-drenched worlds, I’ve come to appreciate the value of my own memories even more.

As loyal WAW readers may recall, when my parents were diagnosed I wondered if they’d remember that I am gay, or if I’d have to eventually come out to them yet again. The answer is: no and yes. My mother does know I am gay, but doesn’t seem to grasp that gay means something more than being happy. But she’s happy that I’m happy, so win/win. My father does recall that I’m gay, but doesn’t seem to care one way or the other. He’s more concerned with remembering how to make a sandwich. The man knows his priorities.

And maybe learning our priorities is the best lesson for us all.

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