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.
Monday, May 7, 2012
I, Emilio, take you, Flavia, to be my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
I, Flavia, take you, Emilio, to be my lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
There is nothing remarkable about these vows. They have been spoken millions of times throughout the years by other couples in love. Yet in the moment, at this point in every ceremony, there is a hush in the room. It is at this moment that the two standing before each other become one in marriage. It's a magical moment, one in which many of us dreamed of having.
I try to imagine my parents, young, feeling immortal in many ways. Did they have the maturity, or foresight, to really look ahead and try to imagine how they were going to live out those vows? Did they know that they would raise four young men, and be emotionally tested on a daily basis as they struggled to provide a united front when faced with the challenges of raising children? Could they have known that for better or worse they would hang in there even at times when the sight of, or a word from, each other would make them want to scream or go running for the hills?
I often look back at the early photos of my parents, especially those they took during their courtship. What I see is a young, beautiful and pure girl standing alongside of a leather jacketed, greasy slicked back haired, rough and tumbled sort of a guy. It always confirms what I have often heard, that the right woman can tame the wildest of beasts.
My mother came from a very traditional Mexican Catholic family. Her parents were very old fashioned, and protective, of their seven beautiful daughters. They had two sons whose role was to always have a careful eye for whatever guy came sniffing around them. My mother lost her mother early in life, so about the time my father showed up, there was only her father there to stand guard at the front door. I can tell you this much, he had no interest in promoting the romance that was unfolding between his daughter and this hooligan of a guy. It wasn't until one day this young man showed up at his door, alongside his two parents, to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage that he saw beyond the rough exterior.
Oh how time changes everything, as by the time my brothers and I arrived, this young couple were living out their vows as they worked hard to provide a loving and spiritually guided home for their children. As each of us sons grew to maturity we each had a clear vision, and understanding, of what type of relationship we wanted in our life as well. We had lived day in, and day out, learning exactly what commitment meant.
My mother was a little ahead of her times. She sort of broke the mold of what was expected from a traditional Mexican woman. She sought an education, and in time found her vocation as an educator for high school and young adults. She always balanced this with an impeccably kept home and delicious food placed daily on the table for our family dinners. When we were sick, she cared for us. When we excelled, she cheered us on. When we faltered, she set us back on the right track. And when she was tested, she always responded with unconditional love.
For many years my mother had been sick. She endured ongoing hospitalizations, medical treatments and daily pain. My mother suffered, yet she continued to make every effort to provide for all of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. In spite of her suffering, my mother always had a sense of pride and dignity. My mother had these because of my father.
Sometime in the early hours of May 5, 2012, 56 years to the day, a not so young woman lay beside a not so young man, in the presence of God. They each had the wisdom to know that any day could be their last. Neither took the other for granted. Each laid there expecting to wake. One did. The other did not.
My father is a hero to everyone in my family. My father has been there for my mother every step of the way. For many years he met all of my mother's needs. For many years he put my mother needs before any of his own. For many years my father put his pride aside for the sake of hers. As the children of this loving couple, we have many reasons to be thankful. They have provided us with a strong foundation of love. They have taught us what the word 'love' truly means.
Committed love is not a fairy tale. It's not always easy or pretty. Committed love means you are there for it all. Committed love means that you are willing to present yourself to your spouse with all your gifts and imperfections. Committed love means you are willing to be there in sickness and in health, knowing that you may be the one standing alone when death does then part you.
I know that my mother is now at peace. I know that my mother is now in the presence of God, and surrounded by the many that have passed before her. I personally know of one angel who was there to greet her with a wide beaming smile and a round bald head.
Now we need to each step up and be a constant presence for my father. The days ahead of him will be very challenging. My mother once told me that there could be nothing more difficult for her than losing my father. After my husband died she felt it odd that one of her sons was already a widower, and was walking the grief journey before them. Yet I believe it now gives her comfort knowing that someone will be there to provide guidance.
My gift, our gift, of thanks to our mother will be to see that we take on the commitment she made to our father that someone will be there for him in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
It's funny. Even though I knew that at some point one, or all of my kids, would become parents themselves, I didn't really consider the fact that I would some day be known as Grandpa. I don't know if it was a blow to my ego, with my continual effort to look and stay young, but the idea of being called "Grandpa" kind of scared me. After all, just months before taking on this role I started a new relationship with someone several years younger than me. Well, okay, maybe more than several years younger than me.
Can you be sexy and be a Grandpa?
My only image of being a grandpa is well, my my own father. I look at him and realize, well, he's old! Or older. Not a nice thing to say, but it's true. For months I have worked hard at keeping up with Abel. I want to look my best. I don't want people walking by us down the street and think that I'm some kind of sugar daddy. I die my hair, and most people say it takes 10 years off my age. Well, that's what my hairdresser says, and I give him a rather sizable tip. I put moisturizer on my lightly botox touched up face. And I look youthful. I went out and bought all new form fitting boxer briefs, because you have to look sexy getting in and out of your clothes! Hey, why is there not an equivalent for men of women's granny panties? If there is then I certainly don't want to be caught in those. And as I strut about the bedroom without my shirt on, you can bet that I am using all my strength to suck in my ever growing gut. Just don't ask me to talk, as I can't seem to talk and look fit at the same time.
All this to say that I had my trepidations about being a new grandpa. How do I combine these two new roles; boyfriend and grandpa? How do I balance these two new relationships, with my boyfriend Abel and my new grandson Kenyon? I think I needed some kind of sign that it would all work itself out, and that I would be able to strike that balance with the two new guys in my life. Well, the gods spoke, the heaven's intervened, the cosmos and stars came into alignment, because my grand baby was born on Abel's birthday. I ended up celebrating the birth day of baby Kenyon and the first of hopefully many birthday celebrations with Abel.
So, what's it like being a grandpa? Wonderful. It is the most loving and easy relationship I could have imagined. I love him so much. Everything he does is precious. Every little look, sound and noise makes me smile. I love holding him, feeding him, changing him, and handing him off to his parents when he gets a bit too cranky. It's such a great role that I get to play. Being that the new little family reside in my home, I get to walk into the house everyday after work and lift that beautiful baby close to my heart.
I breathe him in.
He smells like new life!
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
I knew I couldn’t stay away from writing for long. I am one of millions of bloggers out here sharing more than others might need to know, yet needing to express myself somewhere. My focus this time around is different. It’s still me, only this time I hope to be focusing on love, joy and most of all...hope.
I think that most who know me would agree with this blog title. Most would say yes, Dan is quite able-minded. I have a quick wit. I like to consider myself somewhat intelligent. And, I make a daily attempt at keeping myself aware of the busy world around me.
At other times I think of myself as somewhat feeble-minded. I don’t always know which way is up. I’m not always focused on the task at hand. And, I have a tendency to easily get lost in my thoughts.
What I do know is this…I know what I want out of life. I have been through a lot over the years. Some of what I have been through has been wonderful and rewarding. Some of what I have been through has been tough to say the least. I have loved. And, I have lost love. I have also loved, and had my love taken away too soon.
What is important in the end is that I have loved.
What is important in the end is that I have been loved.
I now know that I am capable of so much. I now know that there is an endless cycle of love in life for each of us. I was brought into this world by two loving parents. I was raised alongside three loving brothers. I was raised in a community of loving friends and family. I have developed rich and loving relationships throughout my life that continue to touch my heart every day.
I am able-minded because today I can truly say that I understand that which I have set out to find. For so long I was lost in my grief, and wondered if the joy and simplicity that I see in others was truly meant for me. I now know that in spite of the challenges that I have had to face, life keeps giving back to me. I now know that in spite of the challenges that I have had to face, I keep giving back to life.
I am also feeble-mind because like a fool, I have chosen to risk it all once again. Some might have expected me to crawl under a rock, and hide from the sunshine. Perhaps I did my share of hiding, as it was part of my process. Some might have expected me to come out looking different than I do today. To those that don’t always recognize the ‘me’ today as the ‘me’ that was before it all began, well, this is me now. I view life differently now. My understanding of the cosmos is different now. My spirituality is expressed differently now.
On September 13, 2009 my life changed. On that day my husband’s battle with brain cancer ended. My world fell apart. I experienced a darkness that I never knew existed. With each day that passed I attempted to climb out from the deep despair that I found myself sinking into. I can’t say that it is no longer a struggle, because it still is. What I can say is that I have made it to a new place of wonder. I have found myself in a place that my late husband envisioned for me. He used to talk of my next love in a very matter of fact way. This is what he wanted for me. I must admit that I never truly believe it would happen, or that I was capable of loving again, but here I am.
Today I am not only able-minded, but Abel-minded. I have been with my new love for 7 months now. He fills my heart with a warm gentle glow of love, and he encompasses a peacefulness that is so congruent with who I am today. I see myself reflected in his eyes, and I like what I see. This blog is about this next phase in my life. Very soon Abel and I will be combining our lives. We are making clear decisions about what kind of life we want together. We are laying down plans for a future together.
Whether I am able-minded today or feeble-minded tomorrow, I have so much hope to carry me through.