Friday, November 28, 2014

The Day After (Thanksgiving) Thoughts

Brother's Thanksgiving Photo 2014

Well, you all know the old adage that "the holidays are the saddest time of the year" for many.  That is the time of the year suicides spike up.  This condition is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  

Certain people may feel anxious of depressed around the winter holidays due to seasonal affective disorder.  

The winter holiday season, including Christmas, Hanukkah, and Thanksgiving, for most people is a fun time of the year filled with parties, celebrations, and social gatherings with family and friends.  But for many people, it is a time filled with sadness, loneliness, and anxiety.

I have to say that for most of my life I have been rather immune to SAD.  However, yesterday, perhaps for the first time I did feel a wave of sadness and loneliness wash over me.  

As is usual for me, I worked at my front desk job at the hotel.  I've been doing this for about thirteen years now.  In the past I've been so busy with my job that I didn't have time to sit and reflect on the "family" part of the holiday.  I was content to enjoy the "family" part of the holiday (Thanksgiving this time) by watching other families interact.  

So yesterday I was doing fine until I came across the photo at the top of this post.  It was posted by my niece to her Facebook page.  It is of her father (my brother) and her brother (my nephew) and her two children.  When I saw this photo for probably the first time in my life (that I can remember) I felt that Wave of sadness and loneliness.  Perhaps I shouldn't be writing about something as personal as this (no names lest I further embarrass members of my family) but this is how I felt then and how I feel now.  So I'm not exempt.

Why do I feel this way?  I'm estranged from both of my brothers and their families.  This event happened last year when Bill and I got married.  I sent out Christmas cards with our marriage photo on it.

Our wedding day July 2013 (on our 49th anniversary)

I did it on purpose, not only to announce our wedding to my family and friends but also to see who my friends were and who were not. 

This action on my part was very similar to what I did in the spring of 1963 when I came out as a gay man to everyone I knew.  I didn't want to live a lie and I wanted to sort out my true friends.  At that time I lost well over half of my "friends" and became temporarily estranged from my family.

Ironically it was a Thanksgiving dinner that brought back some kind of rapprochement with my family.  After my coming out (party), I lost contact with my family for about two years.  Then on Thanksgiving 1967 my Mother contacted me when I was living with Bill in Pennsauken, New Jersey.  She asked me to come to Thanksgiving dinner.  I thought about her invite and told her I would only come if Bill (who she had not met at that time) could come with me.  She relented and Bill and I had our first of many Thanksgiving dinners with my family.  

Bill and my parents - 1975

Ironically Bill and my Mother became very good friends as he did with my father.  But what I didn't realize at that time, I was living a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" existence.  They knew we were gay, just don't advertise it.  We were . . . . tolerated

Then came last year when I sent out the infamous Christmas card with our wedding photo plastered all over the front.  Apparently that did it.  Even with my other brother.  

So how do I feel about this folks?  Sad for sure but you know what?  I either have to be accepted for who I am, legally wedded and out Big Time, or not.  

I don't think I'll ever see my brothers again or their families.  Not that I don't love my brothers, I do.  But they and their families have a different view on marriage than I do and I will no longer be discounted as a human being because I am gay and had the audacity to get married . . . .and publicly and proclaim it.  How dare I? 

My brother, me and Bill 2012

Of course I realize that my brothers and their families are very conservative.  The "conservative" that hates Obama and everything about Democrats.  THAT conservative.  The conservative that says "You're okay to be gay just don't SHOVE it in our faces" (like getting married publicly, i.e., embarrass us)." 

Hey, I don't mind that they are conservative, we're all entitled to our own deeply held views and I respect that.  What I don't respect is anyone, especially family trying to put me into a box of their convenience. It isn't going to happen folks.  Not with me, not at this time or ever. 

So of course it was with an unexpected sadness that I saw those happy faces of some of my family yesterday.  I have to admit I was even surprised by my reaction.  Oh I'm sure some of my blog readers will urge me to "reconcile" but you know what folks?  On this I'm not compromising.  I've compromised for most of my life on who I am just to make others feel comfortable, especially family.  I'm at the age now where, on some things, especially on who I am, I don't compromise any more.  

So until I receive a "Congratulations Uncle Ronnie on your marriage to Bill", I will remain the gay uncle who used to take the family pictures at the holidays. Sad, isn't it?

My family and our first holiday (Christmas) picture when Bill met them - 1969 (Bill took the picture, Bill was never in the holiday pictures because he was "just my friend" and didn't qualify as a spouse)


Jack said...

I am sitting here ironically going through the same exact feelings you are. My whole family gathered yesterday at my nephew's house for Thanksgiving. I gathered with two for Thanksgiving. It has taken most of my life to realize that my family is important to me. They have been in and out of my life over the years and my parents were the glue that held us together. Both parents are gone now and the rest of the family is all congregated in one place. I would move there in a hot minute but my circumstances don't allow that right now. I am fortunate that they welcome me into their lives although daily participation is limited because of the distance.
It's sad that both of your brothers are missing out on a brother who was part of their lives for close to 70 years or more and I find it cold and shallow on their part to be able to reject you. There will come a time when they realize that their short sightedness was a mistake, and that will probably come when you are gone and they cannot reach out. They will be left with their thoughts of what might have or should have been.
Meanwhile, rest assured that you are loved by many and admired by many more.

Tony said...

Ron, there is a thing where people feel bad about their lives after comparing themselves to all the "happy pictures" on Facebook. I think it can be as depressing as SAD!! The people in your brother's picture are smiling, but who knows if they are happy, or what their expressions were before and after the picture. Conservative people who are truly content have NO fear of gay men, bacon, or Obama. Conservatives are living on a slippery slope right now, and if your brother is so insecure with his beliefs that he is threatened by a wedding picture, then he is the sad one. I commend you for NOT being quiet, and sending out a card that was reasonable in every way, and that would have been perfectly accepted had their been a wife in the picture instead of a husband. I fear that homophobia and blind faith in imaginary beings will always be an appealing choice for some segment of people, but I do long for the day when that choice no longer includes having an affect on how gays, women, and minorities are perceived and treated.

Ron said...

I hesitate to write such personal feelings on my blog but sometimes I just have to vent or else I go down that slope of depression. In my family as it is probably in many other families as long as you "didn't talk about it", I was tolerated. Somewhat like the child or adult who is defective but the family is willing to overlook because they're "family". I probably knew that all my life since I came out, especially when Bill was with me all the time but when it came to formalizing our relationship that's when the brothers took off. The one shouted at me over the phone "Oh Ronnie always has to bring up the GAY THING!" and I just got tired of that discussion so I stopped. My other brother, who is a fundamentalist pastor, of course is probably mightily embarrassed as is his family (I don't know because he's never said anything to me since that Christmas card went out, whereas he was in regular contact with me - FaceTime - before. Now there is just hat huge silence. Of course I am saddened by these events but I cannot in good conscience go back on who I am and discount myself and Bill just to give them their desired level of comfort. Unfortunately their children (my nieces and nephew) feel the same way because I hear NOTHING from them. The family reunion that I held last year that not one of them had the respect for me to attend even though my one brother's family lived only a few miles away, was the final nail in our relationship. They will always be my brothers and I will always love them but I will not and cannot accept the relationship as a discounted human being.

Ron said...

Thank you as always for your thoughtful, kind and generous comments. In my family too our parents is what held us together, my mother especially. She died a few years ago and I noticed that the "family" thing just isn't there any more, even with the nieces and nephew and the grand nieces and nephews. I'm just the gay old "Uncle Ronnie" and his strange "lifestyle." Most days I'm pretty good with that but last night seeing that picture of the family, when I used to take all the family pictures, just hit me the wrong (sad) way. I was surprised by my reaction but there it is. Maybe I was suppressing my feelings. They're be a few sad days here for sure but life does go on. I'm pretty happy with my life as it is now. You know it's funny but last week I was thinking of all my grand nephews and not one deigned to name them "Ronald." That would have been a nice touch. Maybe I was feeling that way because I don't have children of my own. LIfe goes on.

Tony said...

You are not a discounted human being, and neither are any gay men or women. Your family's behavior is what is embarrassing, not yours, and they should hang their pious heads in shame. I can understand fear of what is not understood, but in today's modern culture there is scant excuse for this behavior, ESPECIALLY among the younger relatives who are most likely exposed to gays at school. Even my Mormon kids love their gay uncle, and express it easily, so I know it is possible. Leave them be, hold your head high, and let them stew uncomfortably in their fear, ignorance, and hypocritical behavior.

Jay M. said...

This is really sad. I get you, Ron. I was afraid of the same thing with my family, and thus my brothers don't know I'm gay...yet. That is going to change, and let the cards fall where they may. The fact I seldom see the oldest might simply mean that I see him less (hard to do), the youngest won't care. My sister and her fiance, as well as her daughter and her husband know. They couldn't care less. Your brothers are idiots. To push away a brother because he doesn't live his life to their "standards" is stupid and unfeeling. Unfortunately, you're no the only one to whom this has happened. We've got a lot of work to do out there, to be accepted unconditionally by (nearly) everyone! I thank you for being you, and helping to blaze that trail. You're an inspiration to me, Ron!

Happy Day After Thanksgiving! I'm off for more leftovers!
Peace <3

Roger said...

You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn't depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family. Ron you have a family that is far and wide across the country who enjoy you everyday!

Ron said...

Thank you Roger. What you say is true. My friends are my family now. It is a shame that my brothers and their family can't accept me as a full fledged human being. They're not mean or evil people but they just cannot accept the reality that Bill and I are married and that marriage is every bit as valid as their marriages. Even some of my best friends can't accept that fact. They will go to their graves convinced that somehow I am less which of course is not true. But this I know, I'm not going to go to the end of my days living their reality. I will live my reality.

Ron said...

Both of my brothers are hardheaded in their own way. One is very vociferous and the other is quiet about his views and beliefs but both are very uncomfortable with me coming out with my marriage. I didn't realize how much that would throw them for a loop. There is definitely a price to pay for coming out but to me it is worth it, even if it means losing some of your family and long time friends. I am either accepted as I am or not at all. I don't compromise on who I am. And as to those Thanksgiving leftovers . . . I was sort of hoping someone would give me a few slices of turkey but no such luck. Oh well, maybe next year.

Ron said...

Unfortunately I don't think their attitude towards me will ever change. I'm damaged goods in their eyes and because I had the temerity to get married, I think that was unforgivable in their eyes as well as some of my longtime childhood friends. Bill was alright as my "friend" but married? They just couldn't handle that reality.

I made a decision a long time ago not to be the "Uncle George" of my family. My Mother's older brother, Uncle George, never married. Handsome, intelligent, self-sufficient, likable, everything a woman could want in a husband but good old Uncle George never married. I broached that subject with my Mother towards the end of her life but she just refused to believe that her brother was gay. I wonder what she would have thought he if had gotten married but of course that would have been impossible because he was from a different era (born 1920). Uncle George lived his whole life in the closet. I choose not to take that route. Thus when I die there will be no doubt as to if I was gay or not. Yep, I'll go down in family history as the first gay member of my family to have a same sex marriage. I've even recorded that fact on my family tree which I'm sure causes my many fellow Tipton relatives in the South (where my father was born) much consternation. But I will not be discounted as a human being.

Travel said...

You have to be true to yourself first, or you lose yourself. Take care, know you are loved and appreciated by many.

Amanda said...

Tony is absolutely right! You should re-read both his replies to you. I completely agree with him.

Ron said...

Thank you David.


Ron said...

Thank you Nadege.

Raybeard said...

I hope they all have, at the very least, a twinge of conscience whenever they think of you, Ron. If they do then they will fully realise how to remedy it. I can't believe that you''re never mentioned simply because you found happiness - or rather, it's what I want to think.

Postcard Cindy said...

Ron, Your brothers seem very small minded and cruel to me, along with their families. They should be happy that you and Bill are finally afforded the same rights they have enjoyed. Small minded people make me very frustrated and angry! Still it's better to have a few true friends than many "fake" ones.

Cindy from Sonoma

Unknown said...

Hi Ron, I'm sorry you were feeling a little sad this past Thanksgiving holiday. I hope you know that you do have friends like me who are always thinking about you. I wanted to give you a call to chat Thursday when you were working at the inn, but I thought I better not I didn't want to bother you at work. I had the talk with my family 4 years ago, right now their fine with me just don't bring up the subject. I need to check my friend blogs more often, sorry for being a procrastinator. Randy in NEB.

Ron said...

Thank you Cindy. It's always good to hear from you. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

Ron said...

Good to hear from you! Thank you for your well wishes. Actually it was good you didn't call me at work because I got into trouble a few weeks ago when the owner came in and caught me talking on FaceTime to Pat. We're banned from taking personal phone conversations now while we're at work unless it's an emergency.
I hope you had a good Thanksgiving and all is going well for you.

Ron said...

I broke the cardinal rule, I dared to get married legally. They can't handle that reality. They all live in a bubble of their own making and having their brother/uncle actually get married . . . . total freak out. So now I'm a non-person. By the way, I have found happiness and have had it for the past fifty years. The only difference is now that I have all the financial benefits and legal protections that straight couples have taken for granted since forever. They just can't handle it.