Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Unitarian General Assembly, Day 1

So the day finally arrived. I met Robin outside after work and she dropped me off at the convention center. I rushed inside, and immediately headed for the exhibit hall. I wanted to purchase a Standing on the Side of Love t-shirt. I got one, but of course after getting home found out it did not fit. Ah well, I'll try tomorrow. I know this, I plan to spend some time shopping in there.

Hardly however had I gotten there before it was time for ingathering. I walked up with Kate, as other First Universalist church members began to come together near the Prairie Star room. For readers that don't know, Prairie Star is the conference we are part of. What followed was a bit of a warmup session. Lots of clapping, cheering, getting ready for the main event.

Then it was time to head for the main hall for the first plenary session. So I have one thing to say. It is really such an awesome experience to be in a giant hall like that surrounded by thousands of similar-minded liberal religionists. There were introductions, the parade of banners, music from Ann Reed and Peter Mayer. Ann sang the song commissioned by my congregation for our 150th Anniversary. Then the Plenary, more singing and a generally festive time for all.

I know this. It is exactly what I needed. For someone who has been sick for so long, my strength is really being challenged. But the wonderfully positive energy is healing in it's own right. I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Most Remarkable Frijole

Today was so very hard. My friend for almost 11 years had to say goodbye to this world. He was named Frijole, but we also called him the Luv Hawg. Cats each have their own distinct personality. This cat thought he was a dog.

I mean really, he followed me around the house constantly, and loved to play with our rat terrier Lucy the Wonder Dog.

Okay there is more to this story. I'd met a woman at work. She and I had agreed to meet up. So one Friday night in September of '99, she came to visit. She lived north of Houston. I already had plans to play cards with friends, so I asked her if she wanted to go over there. My friends also said they had two cats for me. "Are they tabbies?" My friend worked at a vet and I told her I'd wanted Tabbies.

She laughed, "they're black tabbies." Well we showed up that night, and they were two of the sweetest black kittens you would ever see. I realized it didn't have to be tabbies at all.We took them back to my place. At the time we wondered what we would name them. The female became Miss Emily aka Miss Thang. She would look so proper, and then tag you with a claw when you least expected it. She reminded me of the Emily's of literature. She definitely had a dark side.

The other cat though was just plain silly, jumping around everywhere. "He's like a jumping bean!" So it was that he became Frijole.

Early on, he was top cat, alpha. Then his sister got sick and had to have surgery. After surgery she would not eat. Finally the vet had us give her steroids. Whoa! The demons had been released. She took that alpha position and never gave it back. Never stopped eating either. A week from now she's going on a diet.

Not to worry, he was content to play a bit, and love a lot. Neither cat liked to be held, but they would lie next to you, or if I was lying down he would crawl up on my chest, emitting a purr that would wake the dead. When we got Lucy, he found his playmate. He'd plop down and roll over on his back, meowing in faux distress. Lucy would run in (Lucy's a rat terrier) and pick and nudge and they would wrestle. Then Lucy would get excited and run figure 8's around him. Then he would run away, only to come back, lay down and repeat as needed.

My babies always knew when I was hurting, but especially Frijole would come and lie down beside me, snuggling in close as if to say "it's okay."

He was a healthy cat most of his life. Then one day he began to lose weight. We at first thought it was a phase. But he kept getting skinnier, and we took him to the vet. His Kidneys were going. Soon we were giving him fluids every other day. Frijole craved love all the time, but it was different and we both saw that. He was needy, and he had never been a needy cat before. He didn't like the fluid injections. He didn't fight, but he just let out a mournful cry. Finally he stopped eating all together.

Today, we made that final trip to the vet. The folks at VCA Cedar Animal Clinic were just wonderful. He got his little iv, I held and loved him for awhile. Then Doctor Prince came in and with a final farewell, Frijole AKA Luv Hawg passed over to the other side. There was no struggle. He seemed to understand that it was time to go. Today, lots of tears, and memories for a lifetime. I'll miss you little man. You left this world very much loved.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Memories of a Father

Life with my dad was generally a bit of a roller coaster. It had to be difficult for him. First he was on the road all the time with his job. He would come home, then hear a litany of my sins, upon which I would be (sometimes for the second time) punished. We fought constantly. For a long time I gave him the lion's share of the blame, but that's not true. I was as stubborn and obstinate as he was and that could be a problem

But there was the gentle, loving side to him as well. The side I often refused to see. How he spent hours with me helping with this or that assignment, or teaching me to letter properly on poster board. I once complained that he never hugged us, and Mom exclaimed, "You never let him." There were the videos showing it was indeed the case. Mea culpa Dad. How I wish you were alive today so we could talk about those things. I was too often incredibly selfish and self centered.

The truth is, I was gay and transgender in a world where we barely had names for them and the names were not good. My parents tried to protect me from my true self. My guess is deep inside I was carrying a pretty good resentment over that. I was also scared to death. Yeah I know, I had a good cover act. But fear ruled so much of what I did back then. Heaven knows I tried, but the feelings kept coming up, no matter how hard I tried to quash them.

I remember the cookouts in the back yard. He'd dug a pit, then purchased a new trash can where he cut out the bottom and laid a grill over it. We'd collect the fallen limbs off the trees in our yard, mostly pecan and persimmon and use them as fuel. We'd either cook over the open fire, or alternately do coffee can casseroles, meat and vegetables in a coffee can covered with foil cooked in those hot coals. He'd show us the constellations and sometimes he'd let us kids sleep outside under the stars. He went all out at Christmas time, and under the tree would be toys galore. He rarely bought us things during the year, but at Christmas, well that was his time. Early in the morning, sleepy and bleary, I'd wonder into the living room. Somehow there would come this squeal of delight, and my brother would come in, and they would drag out of bed even though going there just a few hours earlier. Dad's camera would be waiting and the lights ready to be turned on to capture one more Christmas at the Wicks household.

He so wanted me to excel at math, and that was my worst subject. I wonder today if it really was or was I just being stubborn once again? Oh and could he ever tell stories. The man would weave characters and plot, settling back into his chair to weave the latest tale, mostly true, but occasionally with a flourish or point of humor. It was from him I learned to tell stories. Okay, him and mom, because they were both good at it. "I was surveying a line through some of the deepest forest you ever saw," he said. "There was a gully just ahead. Well I had to cross that gully, but just as I leapt, I looked down to see the nastiest rattler you ever saw."

"What happened then?" We were breathless wondering how he would get out of this fix.

"You know how time slows down when it gets really scary? Well time slowed down for me and I sort of floated there till he crawled out of the way."

We'd all laugh and tease about his floating in that gully.

He died too soon, and we were both denied the opportunity to see each other as adults. Though I was 20 when he passed away, I was still his child. Our last time together was a fight. A few days later he called, a man of his time not able to apologize but hoping to make amends. I was being stubborn as usual. A couple days later he died from a heart attack. Years later I would put a chair in front of me and apologize to him and it was heart felt.

During some difficult times, Dad came to me in my dreams. He was a friend and a sage, helping me through some pretty tough times. Perhaps it was all in my head. Whatever it was, it worked, and the words said were words he would've said.

Over the years, I've had a chance to go back, look at the films and photographs, pull up the memories, and re-create a more realistic picture of my Dad. It has been worth the journey to discover a pretty remarkable guy actually. In spite of my best efforts, he molded me to become a person who could survive in this crazy world. He taught me lessons that not only have lasted a life time, but I profit from every day. Oh how I would love to sit around and just talk for hours with him today. Happy Father's Day Dad. Come back and visit me in my dreams anytime. I love you so very much.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

United Corporations of America

"The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too
expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theatre."
Frank Zappa 1977

This quotation reflects exactly the way I feel today. Still another story of news reporters being banned from beeches, prevented from interviewing cleanup workers, unable to photograph oil soaked birds along our Gulf coast. Some are private cops hired by BP. Others are National Guard troops on behalf of the government.

A moment of prayer on behalf of our dearly departed Freedom of Press.

Public beaches? It seems that public beach is at the whim of a corporate powered federal government. Folks, it is time to take back our country, the sooner the better. President Obama, I supported you. Time after time I'm meeting with disappointment. Your crack down on whistleblowers. Your insistence on keeping those "special internment places." Your love of secrecy. This however is the greatest disappointment of all. Sir, democracy only works with the full light of exposure on it. I blame you because you made it clear you are the one in charge. Before us is unfolding a tragedy of monumental consequence and you guys are playing politics as usual.

Sir, if you persist in using force of power to trump the press, if you persist in hiding facts rather than keeping us informed, if you persist in allowing BP to run this show despite your insistence otherwise, we will rise up against you. If you and others in power really believe corporations and their money trumps the people, get ready for an education in what we REALLY are all about. My rights are guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. It is bigger than Democrat or Republican or President or Congress. I'm a democrat. That is the party that most often reflects my beliefs. But I am an American first. This atrocity must not be allowed to continue.

We want our country back. We the people, not we the corporations.