Saturday, June 12, 2010

I don't generally post here this often, but today....Remembering Patrick..

Today, was truly, a "Flash from the Past."

An old high school friend, Manuella,,,or "Ella," as she goes by now,stopped into Joyworks today. She had a bunch of HER old high School friends(a class below me) in tow. Manuella and I always seem to tear up..thinking of our dear,mutual Friend. Manuella and I were never close,,,,but we will always have a link: our dear friend, my dear, dear,friend Patrick.

Patrick and I became friends our Sophmore year of High School. Oh my Lord, he was SO funny! He had this energy and vibe that just made you love him and want to be around him! We'd get into trouble going to football games and running around in his little Datsun (Nissan for anyone under 35).
Patrick was the guy you hung out with when your weren't dating, didn't have a steady.....he was the best "guy bud" you could EVER have!

We double "dated" for our Junior Prom.....He went with my friend Tony and I went with a preacher's kid,,Rick. We had a great time. Laughter was always the focal point!

Dates aside, we'd go Snow skiing, or to a movie, or go grab a pizza. Oh my lord, he made me laugh till my sides ached! I remember one time when we "played" 'Lost a Contact' in a swanky Store,,,,,,we had all the staff and customers looking for a contact that I supposedly "lost" only I didn't.....Or,,other times, we'd pull up next to cars at intersections and make bizarre faces at the drivers/passengers and drive off. Juvenile? Yep! But we had a Ball!

I lost track of Patrick after his Marriage right out of High School. He married a gal a class "under" us (whom I saw again after many years),,,,they had a huge double wedding with his bride's sister and groom.......About a year later, they were divorced.

Patrick worked for some lucrative Sportswear companies in Seattle and eventually became the Head Administrator (and first Major Stock Holder)for "Cutter and Buck." A very high end line of Golf clothing-which is still growing and going strong.

But, for years, we'd lost track of each other until a mutual High School Friend, Bonnie, married for the first time, late,,,,,in her late 30's and Patrick and I were re-united after many years-it was like we'd never been apart! We rekindled our friendship fast,I was SO glad to have him back in my life!

After a couple of years of lots of phone calls and occaissional get together's /dinners with my sons and mutual friends, I had him to my home one evening. Just the two of us-my boys were elsewhere and no other friends in attendence. Ironically, I'd been watching a Tom Hanks movie as I was preparing dinner......the one where Tom Hanks discover's he has the movie was ending, and I was waiting for Patrick, I was crying my eyes out...

Pat arrived, as usual, bring flowers and dessert or a bottle of wine and I explained WHY I was crying. Apparently it was the perfect opportunity for a Talk between old friends.. .

Patrick told me that night, he was gay. I was the "first" out of his Seattle Circle that he felt comfortable enough telling. He told me he'd been "fighting it" and battling it for years-since he was a young child, actully. He was afraid to tell those he loved. And, He spoke of anxiety and panic attacks,fear of alienation,,,,and he asked me, "Didn't you ever think I was gay?"

My response was,,,"You were MY Patrick. I just loved you for who you were." And frankly, his sexual orientation had never crossed my mind. I loved him. And, loved his parents, who'd also been extended family to me since I was 15 years old.

He shared his internal battle for years...making fun of another classmate who seemed to be "different"-although he always sensed he was more like this classmate than anyone else. Denying his sexuality to himself, to the point of getting married-right out of High School. Hiding from his friends, his family for years. And when, finally opening up about his sexuality being estranged from his parents. I think THAT was the hardest.......for he was SO close to them and it hurt him so that they could not, would not accept who he was.

That evening,when he told me, I was dumbfounded, but all I could say was that I loved him. It hurt me too, that he and his parents were no longer close. And knowing them, I thought that as a hetero parent my biggest concern for my son would be AIDS,,,,,and the potential for losing my child. For the potential Stigma,,,,,and for his long term happiness. All I could say is that I KNEW his parents loved him and eventually I thought they would come around.

Well,,,here, I've got to say that Patrick had ONE truly great love in his life. When it ended, it darn near broke him. He was a monogamous gay man.
He got tested regularly-even though he had ONE partner. His sister came "around" to support him first-and, after he was diagnosed..his parents eventually accepted his lifestyle and sexuality.From the night he told me,,,,I still, could only LOVE him....he was "my Patrick."

So funny,,,,and the only person I knew that had more clothes in his closet than I! He loved my boys,,,,All his friends-gay or straight! Oh, how happy I am that we had that time,,,,,those years together again!

Then, one day, I had Patrick to dinner with the dear mutual friend of ours -the one that had "reconnected us through her wedding and had known him since Grade School. Patrick told us both,that night at dinner he had ALS/Lou Gehrig's disease.
He was optimistic. He had one of the top 3 docs in the Country,,,,,and this doc's patients had lived for many years with the disease.

My Dear, dear Patrick, had the worst form of the disease. He was diagnosed in the Fall and was gone a mere year later. Prior to that I visited him often/ and he travelled. He visited Europe with the help of some of his newer guy friends-who navigated him around in a wheelchair. He took another classmate and neices and nephews on a cruise and to Disneyland. He lived that last year of his life to the utmost.

Today, I lived our memories and our times together again over and over again. I shared memories and tears with his wife of ONE year-who came to understand him for WHO and what he was,,,,who didn't understand at the time why it didn't work, but still loves him, in a different way now.

These former classmates reminded me that Patrick will ALWAYS be a part of my life, of who I am,,,,who I aspire to be! To laugh, oh my,,,did we laugh!
To appreciate,,,,I'll always appreciate who he was and what he meant to me!

Honestly? I teared up today,,,,because he is no longer with me,,,,,but I think of all the fun, the laughs, the antics and I KNOW that is WHY he was in my life. I KNOW that is what he would want me to share with YOU!!! Laugh today! Live it well! And Live your life the best way you can!!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

An Anniversary of Sorts Tomorrow with "My Karl"

I've been pondering the Rain for days. I cannot understand how it just keeps dropping buckets. I have looked back and tried to remember when it has rained SO much in May,,in June. Oh yes, the year 1994, when Karl and I were married. . .

But, I'm going to backtrack. Karl never visited "Willowbrook Lane." I was out on my own, just 21, having returned to Washington State after working as an Assistant Buyer for Nordstrom in Costa Mesa, California. It was a lucractive Job, but I missed my family, my friends and yes, even the rain.

I moved back to Washington,,,,,,and lived a short time with my newly divorced Mother in her new home. It was weird. Moving back, living once again with my mom after leaving home at 17. ( I lived in an apartment that she and my "dad" owned while I finished my Senior High School year.)

I took a job in cosmetics at the "Bon Marche" (Now, part of the Macy's Chain) and I worked part time in a friends Tavern.....Oh my Lord! The Tavern was ajacent to Pulp and Lumber Mills in Everett. The clientele was primarily laborers,,,,,but it was fun, and I was young. I met locals there.

One afternoon, this handsome young man came in with a guy I worked with. They'd been sailing. I looked at this friend, this sailor and my heart skipped a beat. He was lean and tan and had touseled blonde hair that fell into gentle, short ringlets. His eyes were the deepest blue I'd ever seen and his lashes were long, curly and dark. His lips,,,,truly? Were full and pouty and his smile captured my soul. I HAD to Know this man.

And, Man he was,,,as I shortly learned. Not the typical guy I'd dated or knew. He was a father, he was a business partner/owner. He drove a fast red sportscar. He was NOT the typical date/manchild that I was familiar with.

From the onset he explained he was separated. He and his wife met in High School. Married shortly therafter and had two kids. His kids were his world,when he first showed me their pictures, he teared up. And frankly, he told me early on that if he and his "wife" could work things out,,,,,,,he'd go back, to her. I said I understood. And I was young, and he WANTED to be young again and sometimes I saw the pain in his eyes, his face, as he dealt with the deamons of guilt from being away from his young children.

As our relationship grew, I learned he initially grew up in a "normal family." His dad was an Engineer with Boeing. His mother, had a Master's Degree in Literature from Purdue. They were educated and lived the "average American Dream." Karl was their only child. And, Karl's knowledge was diverse and although he was not formally educated, he was very intelligent.

Here,in recalling info on his childhood, I'll never know WHAT came first, but Karl's dad announced one day that he was giving up Engineering at Boeing and was moving to New Zealand to buy a Sheep Ranch, leaving Karl and his mother behing. Karl's Mom, developed early onset Alzheimer's..and shortly thereafter had to live in a Convalescent Home.

Karl was about 10 when all this happened. As an only child, with no nearby relatives to help, he was sent to live in Foster Homes. I'm going to be pefectly candid here. Karl was abused physically, emotionally and sexually when he entered the Foster care system. He eventually shared with me that the sexual abuse came from none other than the HEAD of the County Foster Care Program.

Fortunately, he eventually ended up living with a man and women unable to have children of their own that raised him to adulthood, nutured and encouraged him. He was advised by them to attend Law School, Medical School and the likes. But,he'd connected with his first love in high school, (compensating for his parents dissapearance?) and their young family started shortly there after

He was very intelligent but saw fit to go into his NEW family business-industrial linen cleaning. Karl worked with his Foster Dad/Partner building sucessful cleaning business in laundry/uniforms/linens.When we first met/connected he was successful/driven and focused on his young children.

But Karl also loved to Sail. He had a sailboat he'd named after his gorgeous daughter, The "Brianna Marie." I still have the lifesaver from that first boat. And, he loved to Dive and he'd bring in a "catch" of Crab or fish for us to eat. We'd met at the beginning of Summer and we'd spend days with friends or his young children,,,,,,then 3 and 4. "Bri and "Digger"-Brianna and his son Adrienne. To say that they were beautiful is an understatement. I fell in Love with both of them.........I wanted, truly wanted some of my own.

Inadvertantly, one day, Karl introduced me to the man that would become my husband, and Father to my two boys, now 25 and 29. But prior to that, Karl and I had a Summer and Fall to remember, to cherish and then one day-he told me he HAD to go back to his wife and try again; to work things out; for the kids. I was 21 years old. I cried and smiled and wished him well. I knew that the time we shared was REAL and special,,,,,but there were other "things" in our future...Little did I know then....

I eventually married the man that Karl had introduced me to. We had two boys,,,and after just 4 years of marriage I ended it. His drug use was apparently more important than family and marriage. I dated a bit, casually, but basically spent 13 years with the help of my parents raising my two boys.

Career changes; I was working in advertising and promotional events. I WAS dating,,,,a man quite a bit younger than me, but it was fun and easy. And,,,,,,,as Fate would have it, I reconnected with Karl. He was a photographer now. We had lunch. I told him I was dating. He'd been single for years. He'd become a pilot along with the photography. Did I want to go Flying??? He'd leave messages with my secretary......"Going Flying, want to come?" "No, I'm seeing someone else."

My secretary became my "social secretary." I put Karl off more times than I can imagine. And all the time thinking,,,,,,,,,If I give in,,,,"THIS IS IT!"

Well, yeah, "This was it." I stopped saying no. I fell, again, head over heels. He'd swoop me off in his airplanes or spend time with my then young/eager/vulnerable boys that were dying to have a man in their jaded lives and I FELL....I mean I fell HARD!

And he did too. I remember sitting with him on my front porch when everything was still very "proper" and light and him turning to me and saying " IS THIS REAL?" >"Are YOU REAL??"

One weekend he flew me off in a plane no bigger than a glorified pop can to San Juan Island and he proposed. No question in my mind.

Tomorrow, would have been our 16th wedding Anniversay, had he not died of a cerebral hemmorage as the result of a car accident on Sept 17th, 1994.

Sometimes, I think "what if." I think of him all the time and his wit, his passions, his knowledge. He could quote poets and fix anything. He was a devoted father and stepfather. His last words to me on his Cell were "I love you."

Yeah,,,,it's rainy and it makes me think that the sun broke the afternoon of our wedding. Happy Anniversary my dear, my loving, my adventurous Karl,,,,I imagine your tearing up the Heavens looking for the newest, the latest! (Smile) I'll see you again someday!!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

A weekend with Mary

"My" Mary-

And who should arrive on Willowbrook Lane one day in my brother Ross's suped up cherry red '57 Chevy? A Girl! Well not such a big deal for a teenager to bring a girl home, but then you don't know my brother. In my entire 8 years of life, I'd never seen my brother with a girl, only with a car or a fishing rod.

Apparently, this cute, blonde teenager packed car manuals around the High School until my brother took notice. And notice he did! So one day, he brought her home for dinner.

Sidebar here. My stepdad (or dad as I knew him) grew up in the depression. I'm talking on some dustbowl of a farm in Montana where they darn near starved to death. I truly think he joined the Navy at 17 to ward off starvation, based on the pictures I saw of him. That said, my dad loved to cook and let me tell you, he'd cook (and eat) darn near anything.

Now mind you, I only know this portion of her first visit based on her recollection and it's a wonder she didn't fly out the door that first night! But Mary says that after being introduced to my parents, she commented that something smelled wonderful at which point my dad took her over to the stove and showed her the beef tongue he was cooking. Well, geesh, why didn't he pull out the pickled pigs feet while he was at it!!

To say that Mary has now been part of my family and in my life since I was 9 years old says a lot about her character. Beyond the car manuels that she halled around, she also took up fishing, diving, HUNTING and well, put up with the rest of our family.

In 1965 when my brother flunked out of college the first time (he hated engineering) he was immediately 1-A in the draft. (For anyone under 40 that means first to go to Viet Nam, essentially.) Mary wanted to get married, but Ross wanted to wait until he was out of the service. And wait they did.

I remember after his basic training in Fort Polk LA, he was stationed back up here near Tacoma at Fort Lewis for a short period of time before shipping off to Vietnam. We went to Woolworth's and bought Mary a "Wedding Band" so we could sneak her on base to see Ross. I was 10 years old, it all seemed so secretive and scarey to me. Especially when we arrived on base to see the soldiers on the other side of a chain link fence that seemed a mile high! I swore if we "got caught" getting Mary inside, they'd lock us in the fence and we'd never get out.

I supposed they didn't pay too much attention as my mother had Military ID since my dad was a retired Naval officer. That was the first time I cried seeing my brother and knowing he was going off to war, he was SO skinny!

Mary got a job with GTE, the now defunked telephone company, in Seattle. Although "Willowbrook Lane" was just a (then) 20 minute drive away, it all seemed so cosmopolitan to me. She lived in an apartment with a view of the space needle. She wrote to Ross almost every day and called my mom regularly.

Mary was also a great "Big Sister." She'd take me shopping with her and I'd feel so grown up. In years to follow she'd be with me when I bought my first lipstick, headed together to the jewelers to have our ears pierced, give me her old '45's when she'd earned enough to buy her own "Hi-Fi"-not to mention tell her when I was around 20 that I was on the "Pill" .
"Shelly Louise!"

But meanwhile, we all counted days between letters and "Leaves" allowing Ross to come home. It all came back to me when Andrew was in Iraq. I truly learned first hand what my mother was going through. It was the only time in my life I can really remember my mother crying. I'd wake up in the night to hear her gentle sobs and sniffs and learned that my strong and capable mother was vulnerable too. She was also in the throes of menopause, and although I only witnessed the sudden skin flushes and perspiration then, I understand it well now. I too, started menopause with Andrew in Iraq.

Hormones aside, my brother eventually made it home safe and sound. He never spoke of his time in Viet Nam really, until speaking with Andrew before heading into the Marines. Three medals were mailed home to our home on Willobrook-2 bronze stars and a silver medal. Letters from the Army stated bravery under fire and rescuing fellow officers. Ross was much more concerned about "his girl" and going fishing than medals.

A huge Catholic wedding shortly ensued. Mary dubbed me a "Junior" bridesmaid and I donned my first formal dress and hairdo (closer to God-do you might say) at the age of 11. Their honeymoon consisted of a trip to the San Juan Islands, complete with,,,well, fishing poles! I remember Mary relating getting stung on the bum while sitting on a piece of driftwood at the beach. No metaphor there.....

Ross then re-enrolled in college, starting this time at the Community College instead of the University of Washington. Mary left her job as an "operator" at GTE and went to work for the fast growing Boeing in Everett. They managed apartments for my parents and Ross actually restored car parts and raised aquarium fish for extra monies.

This time, Ross focused his academic energies in Biology, and moved on to the U of W to get his BA,MA and eventually his Phd. He got straight A's all the way through. He went on to work for the Washington State legislature for many years.

They're retired now and live in Port Angeles on the Penninsula with a 300+ degree view of the Sound and Victoria BC is just across the straight. They're grandparents to two gorgeous kids and their son Brodie has worked his way up the Fisheries department. "Grandma and Grandpa" have the grandkids visit often and Connor, the eldest is showing a preference for hunting over fishing, which gets his Grandpa's dander up.

Ross and Mary still have an ongoing love story after all these years, although in so many ways they are different as night and day. Mary is social, my brother reserved. My brother would rather be sitting in a boat drinking out of a thermos than sipping tea out of a china cup. They're some of the lucky ones that grew up together and it's worked. I think both having great senses of humor has helped.

Mary still goes fishing with Ross from time to time, but she loves to go antiquing and has a gorgeous home. We're becoming closer as our families have grown up and our parents gone. I've grown up with Mary and I can't imagine how different my life would have been without the perky little blonde arriving on Willowbrook Lane.

So,,,,this weekend we hit the road,,shop, laugh and "ooh and ahh" and I'm sure there will be one or two antics or stories from the past...

I hope you're creating some new memories this week!