WEEKEND Beach Bum
|by Eric Morrison|
|You Can Always Go Home Again!
You can never go home again, or so the saying goes, but I'm not buying it. I understand the meaning of the old adagethat once you leave the nest, nothing will ever be the same when you return. I suppose that's true of everything in life. Once you've left something behind, you can revisit it, but you can't recapture exactly that special magic that made it what it once was. I've learned from experience, for example, that once you break up with a boyfriend or partner, you cannot reconcile. You may play the "sex with the ex" game, but in the morning, you'll probably feel empty and maybe even a tinge used. There is an exception to every rule, of course, but I don't know many people who've been successful at rekindling a love once lost. Even if you do, I think it will always feel just a little bit different, perhaps a little tarnished. When I visit where little Eric grew up, though, it's still special, even if it is undeniably different.
After college, I struggled with learning to call where I grew up "my parents' house" and not "home." Even now, when a friend asks me what I'm doing for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I sometimes catch myself mid-sentence: "I'm going....to my parents' house." I suppose I was fortunate that I grew up in the same location for all eighteen years of my pre-adult life. I was not a so-called military brat or the son of a traveling business executive who was frequently uprooted, jumping from town to town, leaving friends and memories behind like sad, dead leaves falling off my shoes in autumn. For that, I am grateful. I grew up in the small, southern Delaware town of Bridgeville. Before the advent of Route 1, Bridgeville was a sleepy town from September through May and a gridlocked gateway to the beaches during the summer months. Drive through Bridgevillehome of the annual "Apple/Scrapple Festival"and the town sign still warmly, if somewhat obviously, reminds you that, "If you lived here...you'd be home now."
I consider myself extremely fortunate that this gay man is still welcomed "home" with open arms and accepting hearts. Not all LGBT people have that luxury. I'm reminded of my first lover, whose father tried to suffocate him in his sleep with a pillow the night after he came out. I'm reminded of the sad story of Matthew Shepard, beaten to death and strung up to dry in the hot sun like new leather in his hometown. I'm reminded of the gay friends I've known over the years who say they can't bear to travel through their hometown. Even when I consider the death threats I received from a co-worker during the summer after college when I returned to my parents' house, I consider myself very lucky. At least those death threats weren't coming from my own family, strained as our relations were after I first came out.
Although the road to arriving at my family's acceptance was sometimes a rough one, we're now at a point, and have been for some time, where they see me as "Eric who happens to be gay," not "gay Eric." "Eric has blonde hair. Eric has two arms. Eric is not a morning person. Eric is gay. Eric likes cherry cheesecake, spinach, and Wawa coffee. Oh, and Eric likes men." It takes a while to get to that point with any family, no matter how open-minded or accepting they may be. For a parent, letting go of a son's or daughter's presumed heterosexuality means letting go of long-held dreamsthe blushing bride, the star football player. It's a little selfish, I suppose, but it's also very natural. It's only unnatural when parents refuse to let go of those never-to-be notions and, instead, persecute the child. Nothing can be more unnatural than a parent shunning his own flesh and blood, for whatever reason.
Even my boyfriends and partners have always been welcomed at my parents' house. The Christmas after I came out, my then-boyfriend spent Christmas morning with the crazy Morrison clan. When he walked out of the bedroom shortly after sunrise, sporting a dapper suit and tie, my mother laughed. "We don't dress up for Christmas morning around here," she said, probably embarrassed for him. "Jeans or sweatpants will be just fine." Later in the day, he and I were snuggling on the couch together when I thought my mother wasn't looking. I wasn't ashamed to cuddle with a man in front of my mother, but I wouldn't want to cuddle with a woman in front of my mother. Later in the evening, Mom asked me, "You didn't think I saw you and A.J. hugging and kissing on the couch earlier, did you?" My face turned a charming shade of crimson. "Did you think I'd be upset? It didn't bother me." If I bring someone special home for the weekend, even today, separate beds are the rule. The rule is the same for my heterosexual brother who's almost 40 years old. It's a respect thing, not a sexual orientation thing.
During my latest visit with my parents, Mom and I were poking around the yard. In the wee hours of one recent weekday morning, a drunk and drugged driver careened across my parents' front lawn, causing minimal but noticeable damage, which we were inspecting. I couldn't help but to remark on how much the two trees in the side yard had grown, both of them planted by me when I was much younger. "You're telling me," Mom chuckled. "We had to get the tree-trimming company out here a few weeks ago to get that one out of the power lines. When you asked to plant those trees when you were little, I only let you plant them because I thought they would die. I didn't want these trees here, but they're here now and I kind of like them." My overly analytical mind could not miss the parallel. My parents did not want a gay son anymore than they wanted those trees in the yard, but now that they have one, I know that they accept and "kind of like" me, too. And as long as I remember to put the toilet seat down and don't talk during the big NASCAR race, I'm always welcome at "home."
Eric hopes you have a "home" to go to as wonderful as his. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 11 August 12, 2005