Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

When the phone rang on Wednesday morning, the black screen lighting up with my mother’s name and number, I had convinced myself that the biopsy had confirmed breast cancer. I was so sure that I had already mentally imagined an emotionally tortuous future where I nursed her through her last days, weakened from chemo and failed surgery, confessing how much she loved me as she slipped from life.

I know, it was a morbid fantasy, the kind that the mind spins when faced with such a shock. And my fantasy revealed that deep down I still hungered for some sort of meaningful, compassionate, and emotionally authentic relationship with my mother even though I had long since resigned myself to the status quo.

But when I answered the phone with a sharp intake of breath only to hear her say, “It’s not cancer!”, I was surprised and confused by my mixed emotions.

Yes, I was relieved. I congratulated her on the good news. I said something like, “You have a new lease on life.” I mean, isn’t that what a cancer scare is supposed to do? Make you reflect on your mortality and vow to celebrate life?

There was a clear pause. “Oh, I wasn’t going anywhere,” she dismissively replied. “You fight this sort of thing.”

It’s hard to convey this disconnect I heard in her voice and the sense of anger I immediately felt that at this moment in time, this event wasn’t more meaningful. I almost wanted the results to be positive so that she would start taking better care of herself, as fucked up as that sounds.

Life. It’s complicated. Complicated emotions. Never black and white. I feel like I was just in a hit and run where no one was hurt and there wasn’t even a scratch on the cars. And I was a little bit mad at her — mad at her for not having cancer! Daughter of the year award! But then, of course, I was relieved and it was as though someone flipped the channel back and said, “Now back to our regularly scheduled programming!”

So what’s the takeaway? What’s my epiphany if my mom isn’t having one herself? I think the big lesson that it shouldn’t take a cancer scare to try and have the meaningful, compassionate, and emotionally authentic relationship I’ve secretly been wanting all along.

The C Word

I find out tomorrow whether the relatively large lump in my mother’s left breast is cancerous. Till then I’m in a holding pattern and standing before two very distinct roads, one of which will carry me as a passenger along stops of chemotherapy and surgery, hoping that the final destination is not her premature mortality. The other road is a crisis averted, a miracle, and a renewed life. I can only pray it’s the later road.

Death and I haven’t been on close terms; He seems better acquainted with friends and colleagues and has yet to cast a pall over those I love. In fact I’ve only been to one funeral in my life, so color me blessed, but I know it’s a matter of time — sorry, not to be morbid. (That said, it seems like Death has been working overtime in 2012. Is it just me or are a lot of people suddenly dying this year? Or at least making huge deathlike transitions?)

I realize this is a rather dark update after a few months of radio silence. The irony is that apart this “oh shit” sort of development, life is good. I returned from my week long vacation in the Virgin Islands last February renewed in spirit and it provided me the turning point I needed after emotionally bottoming out. I then used the spring to strengthen friendships, find my community, and remember aspects of myself that I didn’t get to express in my relationship with K. More importantly, I found my sass and my confidence, shining a light I heretofore forgot that I had. While I’m not dating at the moment, the more I grow in confidence, the better lover I will eventually attract.

And so here I am at another major crossroads, dear reader, and I continue to be strong.

Healing

It wasn’t my intention to take a break from blogging, but around the time of February and March I didn’t really feel like I had much more to say, which is a shame because I had been regularly writing since 2004. My life was settling down post move and I had entered an almost hermetic phase full of introspection and self reflection — the kind that doesn’t make for the best writing. In addition to thinking a lot about career goals and starting a new blog and twitter account to support some of my freelance work, I was having big thoughts about life, death, and the sort of psychic baggage I’ve been carrying around.

Again, not the sort of self involved, pretentious prattle anyone wants to read about. Continue reading

"Attention Ikea associates, we have a Code 99 in textiles."

Since I still don’t have cooking gas hooked up in my apartment, I’ve been subsisting on a diet of cold Thanksgiving leftovers, takeout, and the occasional meal from the Farm on Adderley. Needless to say this shit is getting old, but I should hopefully have full use of my new stove on Thursday. In the interim, let’s look back over the last couple of months, scraping together a couple of half formed story ideas that never made it out of the gate because I was busy getting gay married and stuff.

* My parents bought my 27 year old brother a house in October. This sort of made me laugh in a way that really means that I’m crying on the inside. Do I want my parents to buy me a house? Absolutely not, but I find it funny that my parents would buy my brother a house yet have only visited me twice in New York in the five years I’ve lived here, complaining that it’s too expensive to visit. Cue sad trombone.

* What else, what else . . . OH! I still haven’t my parents that I got gay married.

* Because I switched neighborhoods when I moved, I need to find a new gym. UGH. Seriously, this was really the only Con in the Pros & Cons category regarding the move. But it is a big Con. The closest gym to me now is the Crunch on Flatbush, where the Yelp reviews don’t exactly inspire confidence.

* Ms. K and I went to IKEA and spent a small fortune, which in turn is helping make our new apartment look like we had hoped the old one would look like. Plus we painted our bedroom “Electric Blue” and bought this rug. Fun!

"Honey, I’m glad I larried you."

I spent the greater part of last week alternating between googling about tax law and sharpening my pitchfork, ready to lead an angry mob of my disenfranchised gay brethren. While I haven’t really gotten a clear answer on the inequitable financial impact of getting Ms. K health care, it’s starting to look not as dire as the picture I painted previously. From what I understand, I have to pay tax on the value of the health care, not the actual benefit. Still, unfair is unfair.

However my rage might be voided. Tucked in the 1,000 pages of health care bill that the House of Representatives voted on last week was a provision to end the so called gay tax in regards to health care (and by extension domestic partner benefits too). Well well well. Here’s to hoping that it passes in the Senate.

Another reason to tone down my angst is because I felt that it was sort of distracting me from just enjoying the moment and being in love, blah blah blah. So here I am, coming down from my soap box, enjoying the chocolate truffles and champagne that Denise sent me last week. While my parents still do not know that I got gay married, I did tell a cousin of mine and she was very supportive.

Ms. K and I joke that we got larried, aka lady married. We walk around the apartment saying “Honey, I’m glad I larried you” or “Honey, you’re a good life” aka gay lady wife.

In other celebratory news, today marks my 5th anniversary as a New Yorker. And this is my 705th blog entry, which means that blog entry no. 700 went quietly unrecognized. Furthermore, Tuesday is my 31st birthday. Ms. K bought me a 1978 Bordeaux to mark the occasion.

Joyeux anniversaire!

PS — Thanks to everyone, from Denver to Dubai, who gave Ms. K and I their best wishes and congratulations!

"I want to hear about how your families are responding."

Ah yes. The families. Anonymous commenter, you touched upon a major point that may or not have come across in my previous post. You see, my family doesn’t know that I got married last week. It is infinitely complicated when it shouldn’t be. Frankly I’m a little intimidated by my mother and don’t quite know how to break the news to her. As for Ms. K, she told only her mother. Still waiting to see how this all goes down.

But let’s rewind a little.

While it may seem out of left field that Ms. K and I would run off and get gay married, we’ve been talking about it privately for almost a year. We’ve also gone back and forth on whether this was something we wanted to do, but the possibility of my health care benefits extending to Ms. K was a huge lure. I know it’s not very romantic and neither is a civil ceremony, but there you go. That said, these are murky legal water we’ve waded into. No, we won’t be changing our last names.

So how did this all evolve?

Back in September, Ms. K and I started talking about moving from our much maligned apartment. If fact, had I been blogging that month, I would have regaled you all of tales of apartment listings on Craigslist and the place in Park Slope we looked at. Great location! By the park! In a brownstone! Dog friendly! But the place looked like squatters had been living there and it was overpriced in its condition. Alas.

The thrust into moving and the challenges that it would create led us to another conversation about perhaps waiting till early 2010 to commit to moving. Then it was like, “If we’re not moving this month, why don’t we get married instead?”

Crazy!

I picked an auspicious date and time in the future, which turned out to be October 28th at 11:15 am. As that day grew closer, we scrambled to buy wedding bands, rent a car, and buy dresses to wear. I even bought a pair of 3 1/2 inch stacked heels to wear with my new blue dress. Ms. K looked beautiful in a new gray dress paired with brown patent leather heels that she already had. No virginal white for us; the jig was surely up. On the day of, we got up early and drove in the rain to New Haven. By the time the paperwork was done and the justice of the peace had married us, it was noon. So much for my auspicious time frame.

When we finally got home and returned the car, we drank a bottle of Moet in bed and lounged around as “joined legal spouses.” Then it was off to our wedding meal at Applewood in Park Slope where we had the tasting menu with the wine pairing. Afterward, tipsy and full, we took a car home where we crawled into bed exhausted, but most importantly married.

"You should have taken photos of your wounds"

My mom’s phone call this evening has set me off. While the first thing she asked was if I was doing better after the car crash, the critique of what I should have done in its aftermath opposed to how I ended up handling things has stoked my inner infantile rage. You should have taken photos of your wounds, she said. You should have gone to the hospital, she said. You can sue the driver who hit you, she said. Yes, yes, and yes. But that’s not my concern right not. My concern is that we all walked away from that crash with only cuts and bruises, that we are safe and well is the most important thing. To hell with the car — easy for me to say admittedly since the car is not in my name nor my financial responsibility, but still. And I told her that. The fact that we all walked away from that crash should be your primary concern, I threw back at her in a steely tone, which is probably one of the first times I have ever expressed my true feelings to her. I think I may have hurt her a little, but she needed to hear it.

So, to honor one of my mother’s wishes, I have taken a photo of my wounds courtesy of broken glass and the seat belt.

My grandmother, Virginia Lee, is 90-years-old today. Here she is on her honeymoon in Niagara Falls circa 1940. I don’t really know her as she is a private person and she doesn’t say much unless she finds out that you don’t go to Mass anymore. Then you’re in big trouble. Suffice to say, she doesn’t know I’m gay and that’s alright. But I wonder what secrets she’s holding on to after 90 years . . . .

"There is something freeing in putting it into words. Sometimes that is enough."

In the midst of last week’s psychic turbulence, I managed to release something that had been pent up inside me. Or maybe I integrated something that had been disconnected. I feel better I think; I can move on. Hooray for that.

I guess I never really explained how my Christmas went and how I managed to appease my mother yet keep my own precious sanity. I took the 8 am train out of Penn Station on Christmas morning and arrived at my parents’ house before noon. By the evening of the 26th I was back in New York and nursing a sick girlfriend back to health. I’m sure my mother wasn’t too pleased by my in-and-out visit, but it’s about as much as I can stand before I get jittery and yearn for the comforts of home.

". . . it’s impossible to get an outright approval no matter what you do so you should just do what you want to do and they’ll go with it."

The whole prospect of having to enter a guilt laden battle of wills with my mother was making me nuts. I emailed her on Monday morning laying out the various scenarios and variables for Christmas. When I didn’t hear back from her right away, I began to grow antsy with anticipation, sensing that perhaps I had started a shit storm with my suggestion that I might not be home for Christmas. I even emailed my cousin, looking for a rational family opinion and she assured me that I should do what I want to do.

“One thing I’ve learned,” she said, “is that in this family sometimes it’s impossible to get an outright approval (my mother for one is almost incapable of giving a compliment unless it’s to herself) no matter what you do so you should just do what you want to do and they’ll go with it.”

Good advice.

Then last night I got my response from my mother, which really was a forwarded email from my father. Strange.


_____________________________

From: Dad
Sent: Tue 12/9/2008 3:54 PM
To: Mom
Subject: Re: FW: Xmas

Rouge,

Let’s see if we can come up with some kind of solution. To “bound the problem”, let me offer the following:

1. Mom and I would very much like to have you at home for Christmas. Mom would be very disappointed if you did not come for Christmas

2. Picking you up on Christmas day would be a real logistical problem.

3. You and Ms. K are welcome any time.

4. The dog is going to be a problem with (a) Nanny’s allergies, (b) the cats, and (c) all of the wild little kids running around Christmas day.

Give me a call this evening so we can figure this out.

Love,

Dad

Oh boy. I summoned the courage to face the issue and call my parents. It was a halting conversation as I reassured them that I had decided to come for Christmas, but would be staying from the 25th to the 26th. Ms. K and I will celebrate Christmas Eve together — a imperfect compromise, but a compromise nonetheless.

“You’re only going to stay one day?” my mother asked.

There was an awkward silence. “Uh, yeah.”

“Don’t you have the whole weekend off?”

More awkward silence. “Yes, but I want to get back to Brooklyn.”

I don’t think my mom was very pleased.

What I didn’t say, but was thinking, was that any longer of a stay would drive me nuts. Why do I feel guilty about this? Must be the latent Catholic guilt in me.