Friday, June 26, 2015
Saturday, November 30, 2013
In my attempt to maintain some authenticity in my daily life, I have been searching to find new ways to celebrate special occasions. Although I often question the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday, I have always enjoyed the traditional meal, especially as a child as it was prepared each year by my mother. As an adult it has been a source of pride that I can take all that my mother taught me about being in the kitchen, and make a meal that friends and family will enjoy. I have loved taking her recipes, and tweaking them slightly, given that many of them included red meat, which is not a part of my daily diet. Throughout the years I have also included various religions into my winter holidays, knowing that various friends and chosen family members come from different traditions. For my children that meant celebrating both Christmas and Hanukah. This year the winter holidays will begin in my home on December 8th as I honor the Buddha’s enlightenment, decorating an indoor Ficus tree to represent the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha sat.
During the past couple of weeks my mail box, and email box, have been flooded with advertisements for the big sales retailers were preparing for Black Friday. Never having been one to take my kids shopping on this mad sprint of a shopping day, my two teenage sons were questioning what exactly this holiday was. I found it kind of amusing that the day after Thanksgiving had become it own special event, almost taking on holiday status. My younger son kept telling me that the local Game Stop was offering a new game he was wanting for half price. Having just taken him to this, his favorite “gamer store” a couple of days prior, it wasn’t on my radar to find myself back there on such an all consuming and hectic day. Yet as Friday morning came upon us, the pleading began. “Dad, it’s only twenty five dollars. I’ll never be able to buy it at that price again. Think of how much money I will be saving…” Okay, enough. Let’s get in the car and get this over with. Little did he know that I had other plans that included Black Friday consumption, but I would give him more details later in the day.
This year Thanksgiving included three all inclusive turkey meals, all made with love and care. The first was a meal in my father’s home last Sunday, where each of my brothers’ families and I arrived with various parts of the traditional meal. I loved that each brought something prepared in their own home, and with pride, shared it at the table my mother served all of her Thanksgiving meals prior to leaving this world a little over a year ago. It was a day filled with great food, much laughter, and quiet acknowledgement of those that were no longer at our Thanksgiving table. The next meal was in my own home, where myself, my husband, my two sons and a couple of friends, gathered on the holiday to share in a smaller intimate meal. The house was lit mostly by candle light, which gave the evening Thanksgiving meal a cozy feel, and allowed us to experience this celebration in the warm glow of the good will being shared. The third Thanksgiving meal was slightly different, and one that took us out of our comfy home, and onto the streets.
Often time when we hear the word consumption, especially this time of year, we think of it in terms of economics. We hear on the news almost daily about how much money this year’s consumer is expected to spend on this day of all sales days, Black Friday. Sometimes when we hear the word consumption we think of horrific events, such as a wild fire consuming miles and miles of beautiful forest or family homes. Other times, such as in the hours after our own Thanksgiving meal, we might lay back on the couch, unbutton the top button on our pants, and begin lamenting on how might have consumed a bit too much. Yet how often do we have the opportunity to experience Black Friday consumption, yet take away no food or products whatsoever? How often are we able to watch other people consume, maybe while our own stomachs are growling from a lack of the evening meal, and experience such joy at the same time?
This Black Friday my family was offered the opportunity to join many others at the local Buddhist temple in preparing yet another Thanksgiving meal. The environment was a bit more intense than that of my own kitchen, as there were some twenty-plus people squeezed into a very small space, cleaning and chopping donated organic vegetables to make salads, and packing deliciously warmed turkey and stuffing into individual meal containers, all while others were carrying boxes of meals from the temple kitchen out into the back of the several cars parked along the street. We broke into groups and caravanned across the city to go where the meals were most needed, out on the streets. The night prior was a very wet one, so we knew that the hundreds of folks that slept along our city streets would have endured a less than comfy one known to the rest of us. With a smile on our face, and a respectful offer of a warm day after Thanksgiving meal, we met each individual where life had brought them, sharing what we had.
It was a joy to experience this with my husband and two sons. It was lovely to interact with new people, some I recognized from my weekly meditation class, and others whose path I had yet to cross. There is something that is both powerful and simplistic in the act of giving. It both feeds our being, and nurtures those that are in need. It’s also an act of humility, as throughout our own journey in this life, we both suffer and have need for such kind gestures.
It is my hope that I will continue to be blessed with such opportunities. Opportunities to give, and opportunities to observe others consume, that which they have need for us to share.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
It’s been a long time since I last wrote on my blog, or posted much of my thoughts online. I had made a decision awhile back to take a break from writing, and spend a bit more time just living quietly and less public. Truth be told, it was a difficult time, as our family was going through a very rough time. Thinking about it now I can see some parallels in my life, timelines that have a way of repeating themselves. Now I’m not one to put much importance in numbers, dates, or coincidences, yet they do appear in my life, and often it isn’t until later reflection that I notice them. Back in 2007 I was living in San Francisco, in a steady relationship with my partner Mike, and right at the 18 month mark we were faced with a life changing challenge. Abel and I had been together about the same amount of time, and were facing some serious family challenges at home; ones that make you question your sanity at times. Back in 2007, and now in 2013, I wondered if I had the strength to get through all of it, and wondered why my life has been so difficult. I’m typically that person that others quickly remind that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.
In my way of thinking I can keep up the fight, keep moving forward, and keep up with my attempts to remain optimistic, or just simply crumble in defeat. I know that people consider me strong, and don’t often see the truly vulnerable side, yet it is there. Back when Mike was around, and we were going through some challenges with the children, he would often remind me that he was there for me, and with me, and that I would no longer have to face such challenges alone. Well, he was there for me, and for a short time I wasn’t alone, but as most know, his life was taken away too soon. Needless to say I was devastated by his death, and I was left alone to continue parenting my children with each of their special needs.
September 2011 arrived, and I met a wonderful man. 2012 brought that man into my home, and further into the lives of my children. He moved into my home, and began taking on the challenges of learning what it’s like to parent special needs teens and young adults. Soon after, he began uttering a familiar phrase whenever I was at my lowest of lows. When my heart and body tired of being the strong one, and tears would get the best of me, the phrase would be spoken by him, “you are no longer alone.” I know that Abel said those words out of love, and they were meant to comfort me, but initially they brought on fear, fear of loss. How could I learn to trust that he would always be here, and that I truly would not be facing such challenges alone? I would remind Abel of how Mike would say those very words, and how hard it was to accept and trust them. I trusted Abel’s love, and I trusted his support, yet I didn’t trust that force that was beyond us, that which could possibly take him away.
Abel is a patient man. Able is an understanding man. Don’t get me wrong, he is human, and he has his own insecurities, yet he is constantly willing to remain beside me, holding me in his arms. Abel knows that I have been hurt by life. I know that he has been hurt by life. Yet in going through the ongoing challenges this past winter, and always finding him by my side, I realized that I can trust him, and I can learn to trust what life has brought me. I realized that I was now safe and sound.
It was February 13, 2013. It was a night of lying in bed beside him, talking heart to heart about the many challenges we were facing each day, and speaking of our love and devotion for each other that made me ask Abel a simple question.
“Will you marry me?”
I can honestly say that I took Abel by surprise. I can honestly say that I took myself by surprise. I knew that I wanted to marry this man, yet I had been waiting for a special day two months down the line. Yet because of what we were sharing that night, it became the perfect moment to ask this important question.
“Yes,” his simple response.
From that night forward we began planning the day that we would exchange vows. At the time it was no longer legal here in California, yet we didn’t care, we trusted that it would work out in the end. We began planning in spite of the unknown, and then we were handed a gift by the Supreme Court, our wedding, our marriage, would be legal. I experienced that same gift with Mike many years ago when the California Court provided us the same opportunity. In 2008 there was a brief opportunity to marry the man I loved, and become his husband 11 months before his life was taken away. Both times in my life, when I didn’t know if the privilege would be mine, the gift of time opened the door to marry the person I happened to fall in love with. Our plans were now safe and sound.
Now many know that we are engaged, yet most don’t realize that we are to be married this Saturday. We decided to have a small ceremony here at home, and for that reason I needed was placed in a delicate challenge. You see, I have the benefit of having so many loving and supportive friends and family that could not possibly invite all the people that mean so much to me. I consider myself very fortunate to have people who love me scattered not only all over the state, but all over the country, and through my writing now all over the world. My decision was to gather those that live locally, keeping it to friends nearby, and to my family member that I grew up with in the old neighborhood. I made this decision knowing that those that are present can represent all those that have touched my life throughout the years.
We are planning a Buddhist-Hindu fusion wedding that best represents the practice of our combined spirituality and view of life. I hope to share more of it later with each of you, as it feels like a perfect presentation to those who join us in celebrating this new beginning for us. Keep us in mind on that day, and know that our hearts will be filled with the combined love that we have gathered from all who have touched out lives along the way. We will be paying homage to those who are no longer present, yet who remain as an active part of our inner being.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
As I sit here my mind is wandering into the days that lay ahead of me. September has been an emotionally loaded month since the death of my husband on September 13th three years ago. It's not like other anniversaries where there is necessarily some kind of celebration, more like a thoughtful observance.
On the first year anniversary I found myself in a new city. I had chosen to move from San Francisco to San Diego 9 months into my widowerhood. That first anniversary was spent walking along the shore and spreading small amounts of Michael's ashes wherever I went. That next day I found that annoying little chihuahua at my door that later became my pet Fido.
On the second year anniversary of Michael's death I found myself working at a new job. I didn't have the foresight to expect a problem so I went ahead and worked, and failed to forewarn anyone at the office of the day's significance. It was all going fine until I was assigned to mediate a custody plan for a child left in the care of his mother and paternal grandmother due to the father dying the prior year. It obviously hit too close to home, and I found myself sobbing in my supervisor's office.
This year I considered taking the day off, then told myself to just man-up and get through it. I don't anticipate it to be a huge emotionally draining day, more one of quiet observance. I plan to have a quiet evening at home with my family, share some memories of Michael, and close the day with some sort of ritual.
Ten days after this day I will be celebrating an anniversary of a different sort. This anniversary is a new one. This anniversary was not on my radar last year, or the year before. This anniversary celebrates a new beginning.
September 23, 2012 I woke up like any other day. I dropped my son off at school and then moved on to my job. Throughout the day I was anxious about the upcoming evening. I had been chatting online and on the phone with a very sweet guy. With each conversation I was amazed at how at ease I felt, and how it suddenly gave me something to look forward to. I had met other guys online before, and it never really worked out. It seemed that there was always an easy rapport when exchanging email or text. Then it always came down to what I call the science test, or "chemistry." Because of past failed attempts I was prepared for the realization that this one could also go nowhere. Yet, I was willing to try.
On the evening of September 23, 2012 I drove up to designated meeting place, and began looking around for my date. It was actually a planned casual outing to buy concert tickets for our official date. As I continued to look around all I could see was some guy riding around on a skateboard. It took me a few minutes, but I suddenly remembered that this guy was a skateboarder, and perhaps he decided to leave his truck at home.
That was it. That was the beginning of a year filled with filled with love, kindness, patience and passion. It was the beginning of something I never expected. It was a year of exactly what my late husband Michael wanted for me.
It was new love. It was a new beginning.
Interesting that these two dates are two years apart, yet with only 10 days separating their observance. I don't know how my heart, my body or my soul will respond to the first of these anniversaries. I know that I will mourn the loss of Michael in my life and in this world. Both Abel and I have discussed the awkwardness of these two anniversaries being so close together. I know that for my part I want to let the day of September 13th be what it is. I want to mindfully recognize the loss of Michael while also celebrating his life. I then want to move forward in anticipation of the next date.
September 23, 2012. The anniversary of new love. This will be a day to acknowledge how far Abel and I have come within the past year. Abel is now a member of my family, both within my home and throughout the homes of my many relatives. Abel is recognized as the man I love, and the man who loves me in return. Abel is now by my side, willing to be there come what may. It has been a wonderful first year with him, yet it has also been quite a challenging one. To reach this first year anniversary together is a sign of our commitment to each other. In this year we have both had to be there for each other during times of major loss. We have each had our ups and downs, and we have come through them more committed to each other than the day before.
Anniversary: The annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event.
A day that commemorates or celebrates a past event.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
This was my third Camp Widow, as I have been a "member" of the widowed community for three years now. This year I assisted again at the reception desk, had some focused sharing with two other LGBT widowed campers and took a group of alumni on an afternoon of food, drinks and hiking at the beautiful Torrey Pines. Funny, someone at the reception desk said to me, "Dan, you have been here all four years, right?" I said no, I hadn't, then felt her disappointment when I reminded her that I didn't qualify four years ago. Damn, had he died a few months earlier.
Okay, my morbid sense of humor. But it is exactly what Mike would have thought and said.
Anyway, this year was significantly different for me. The last two years I attended on my own. This year, not. I met Abel one month after last year's camp. Yes, in just a little over a month we will be celebrating our first year together. And it has been a wonderfully rewarding year.
I was very pleased that Abel chose to attend part of the weekend with me at camp. I felt it was important for him to participate in this part of my life. Some might have expected me to say that this, Camp Widow, or being widowed, was something in my past, but let me tell you, it's not. These last three years of being widowed have been the most challenging years of my life thus far, and I must also say, have been extremely rewarding. I have grown and changed so much over these years. I have been at my worst, had lost faith and hope, and have emerged a changed person. The person that Abel met and fell in love with is a different person that Michael met and fell in love with many years ago.
During my journey I have had the constant companionship of so many other wounded widows and widowers. We have held each other up and have watched each other take those baby steps toward a sense of healing. We can now look at each other now with tears of joy in our eyes. I have also met some lovely new partners and spouses of these widowed friends. Each of these individuals have contributed to my being willing and able to trust falling in love again.
Now let me be honest here. This past year has certainly not been an easy one for Abel and I. We each have our individual scars that need healing, and we each have worked to understand each other's journey. This weekend Abel got to take a first hand peek into mine. I want to thank each fellow camper that greeted Abel with such sweet care and acceptance. I want to thank each person that shared a bit of their journey with him. I want to thank Michele for such a beautiful workshop about taking a chance on love. Her words had both of us walking away with such emotion!
Here is where I am today. I love my husband Michael. Yes, I still actively love him. I love Abel. Yes, I have two loves. Yet for me, this is the difference. One is present, one is not. What I had with Michael was wonderful, challenging, and and not without problems. It was real. What I have with Abel is wonderful, challenging and well, just as real.
Each day I choose to keep moving forward. Each day I appreciate having had Michael in my life. Each day I appreciate the new man that lies next to me.
I have found joy. Having hope in a future that is full of love allowed me to find that joy.
Abel brings me joy. My children bring me joy. My grandchild brings me joy. Each of you bring me joy.
Looking forward to going camping again in the near future.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
This is an open letter to the family I may never meet. I respect that you have your beliefs, and that my relationship to you may lay outside your comfort zone. I too come from a family of beliefs, and at one point they too were not so comfortable with my relationship to them. That changed, and so in my heart, I have to believe that in time our circumstances may change as well.
Let me introduce myself to you.
I am a bit older than Abel, yet he tells me age is of no importance to him. My family and friends consider me youthful, so the age difference is also of little importance to them. I am a Latin man. A second generation Mexican American. I was raised in a Catholic home, where Christ and his teachings were an integral part of our daily lives. At one point in my early twenties I felt a calling to become a priest, and studied in a seminary for a few years. In time I felt a different calling, and chose to return home. I graduated from college, and focused my studies on marriage and family counseling. Soon after graduation I took a job with Child Protective Services, and stayed there until my early retirement after 21 years of service. Soon after beginning this career I chose to adopt a child, which was my daughter. She was 6 months old when she joined my life. Later down the road two of her brothers also needed a home, and at different points in time I adopted them, one at 18 months of age, and the other at 3 months of age. My children are much older now, 21, 18 and 14 years of age. This year something very special happened on March 10th, a significant day for both of us. It is the day that Abel was born, and it was the day my first grandchild was born. I love my grandchild very much. I love Abel very much. I'm sure you love him too. This is not my first committed relationship. About 6 years ago I shared my home and my life with another man. We were also committed to each other. In 2007 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and in 2009 he died. During those two years I took care of him with the help of his mother. In September 2009 I held him in my arms as he took his last breath in the comfort of our own home.
I consider myself a loving and spiritual man. I have benefited from a very close and loving family. My parents had 4 sons, and taught each of us to respect others, and to make family our priority. I don't know if you are aware, but I lost my mother just last month. It was, and still is, a very difficult loss to bear. Fortunately for me, I had Abel there by my side to give me love and support. I know that Abel's life may not have turned out the way you expected. My family may have felt the same years ago. I still consider myself a Christian, yet also integrate some eastern philosophies into my daily life. My life is full. I have a steady job, and own a home here in San Diego. My adult daughter and her baby live here with Abel and I, so we are fortunate to be a part of my grandson's life. He brings us such joy. Abel is learning to become a step-parent to my 14 year old son. My son thinks the world of Abel, and is so thankful that he came into our lives. I too have a son that lives his life in a way that is not to my liking. He has been up in northern California for 6 months, and has chosen a lifestyle that he is proud of. Although he has chosen a path that worries me, I do love and respect him. When he is able, he calls me several times a week. I think it is important for him that I am here for him, and he needs to know that I see value in how he lives his life. I hope that he chooses another path in the future, but for now, all I can do is love him.
Although you may not consider me a part of your life right now, I consider you a part of my family. If Abel loves you, then I love you too. If Abel worries about one of you, so too, do I. If any of you need my help in any way, all you need do is ask, and I will be there for you. If you one day visit our home you will see that we are not unlike most families. We work. We go to school. We share in the care of our home. We cook dinner, and eat together at the table every night. We greet each other with a hug or a kiss, and we tell each other of our love and appreciation every night.
This is me. Of course there is more to me, yet I must start somewhere. I know that it is unlikely that you will come across my written words, yet if by chance you do, they are here for you.
With love, and an open heart.
Monday, May 28, 2012
Well, it happened. After much talk, and an ample amount of planning, Abel and I have combined our lives, and are now under one roof.
It's a big step, yet it feels like the right move. My life couldn't be any more different than it was just two years ago. I feel like a different person, having endured so much, and having gained so much. For those in the know, I lost my late husband to a brain tumor in September 2009. After many months of grieving in our home in San Francisco I decided what I needed, what my family needed, was a change of environment. I sold the house, took an early retirement, and landed in sunny San Diego.
Because my husband knew he was dying, he had plenty of time to reflect on our life together, and what he wanted for me in the future. What he wanted, and what he truly believed would happen, was that I would find a new love, and that I live happily ever after. As for me, it was difficult to imagine myself with someone else. Yet that is what happened. Almost two years to the day, I met Abel.
I love Abel with all my heart. I can safely say, he loves me as well. Our hearts, and our spirits, are quite in sync. We seem to have a simple, uncomplicated love for each other. There are challenges, yet those challenges are not between us. The challenges we face as a couple have more to do with those we love the most. His family, and my children. At first glance Abel and I appear very similar. We are both Mexican American men that come from big loving families, yet we come from very different religious traditions. While my family has come to terms with my life as a gay man, his has strong convictions that are in conflict with who we are. While Abel has grown to care very much about my children, being a part of a family of teens, a young adult, and a grandchild is a tall order for a new relationship.
How do we face these challenges? We talk.
How do we get through the tough times? We support each other.
What is our plan? It's simple. To love each other one day at a time.