August 30, 2009

It's A Guy Thing

I dare not let my son see this photo. Embiggen to find out why.

Image courtesy of Romain Laurent Photography. You should check out his website.

August 29, 2009


I went to a funeral this afternoon. It was for the father of a good friend. He was in his 80’s and had been in good health until a recent diagnosis of cancer that came swiftly.

During the service a few family members came up to speak about memories. Every one of their recollections was about how Dad/Granddad had made them feel loved. Only the pastor mentioned his accomplishments, which were admirable.

As often happens to people in their middle years, I have begun to assess the time I have left, should I be lucky enough to follow my mother’s lead. I’m going to turn 56 this fall. That gives me maybe ten years of influence, then another ten years or so of activity. Only twenty years to accomplish whatever I wish to achieve. The previous twenty years have flown by.

Whatever achievements I manage, the people that are important to me will remember only the things I did that made them feel loved. That’s the real wake-up call. Will they look back and believe the love I know I have for them? What visible evidence am I providing?

When time comes to an end, all that is left is love. May I be aware daily of the true legacy to leave.

August 27, 2009

Checking In

I'd hoped to have something clever or funny or profound for you, and this is all I've got. But I'm still alive.

I have been on the annual staff retreat in which we discussed building up each other, the congregation, and the faith. It was a good time for us together and one of the few times in which I really feel a part of the staff. I'm part time and tucked away from main offices—the joke is "phantom staff"—so it was good to learn more about each other. The retreat was in the wooded hills of southern Indiana, the part of the state that is really beautiful. Stars were out in the clear sky. No cars in the distance, no TV. A moment's peace in a hectic schedule.

We wrapped up with a tour of churches in Columbus, IN, a city that is famous for its diverse and stunning architecture. I've got pictures but no backup explanations for what we saw. Maybe I can get a post out of that yet.

Back in the office, I'm getting ten days' work done in the shortened week, preparing to go to NC again on Monday to drive my parents back to Florida. Short trip this time: just a few hours in NC before we leave, but I get a couple of days in FL to unwind before returning to a busy fall calendar at work.

September begins the busy season at church, culminating in early January. My new boss, an associate pastor, seems to be really well-suited for this job, and I like her. She's going to be good for the church and the children.

Things are going so well with our family, but I hesitate to say it out loud. So many people are not doing well, economically and personally. Let us lift up each other wherever and whenever possible.

August 26, 2009

A Celebration Of Life

"Moments" by Will Hoffman

Simple moments, when seen as discrete events, show us how beautiful life really is.

Thanks and a hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

August 22, 2009

Opie's Gone

Opie, age 20, was taken to the vet this morning and put to sleep. He had stopped eating a few days ago, and it was time.

He was such a sweet cat, always calm and cheerful, glad to see just about anyone. He lived his entire life in this house, a companion to his mother who also lived to age 20. We will really miss him.

August 20, 2009

August 19, 2009


Aug. 19, 2009 5:45:39 PM
I have a meeting tonight until 9. See you shortly thereafter.
Mwah, Birdie

Aug. 19, 2009 6:03:03 PM
I will allow it.
Love, Abe

August 18, 2009

To The Barebackers

An online conversation about unprotected sex began with the publication of Father Tony’s recent column in the South Florida Blade. Other bloggers have responded with essays of their own, The Milkman's being especially eloquent. I offer here a different point of view.

You who continue to have unprotected sex:

You think this is only about your right to choose. You think that you should have carte blanche on how you live and whether you die young or not.

Let me tell you from terrible experience: this isn’t all about you.

If you contract HIV, your quality of life will be irrevocably altered. If you have good insurance, you will still have to deal with reactions to harsh and costly medications. If you do not have insurance, you will likely lose your job because of the hours you will spend in clinics and the emergency room.

In the end, though, it comes down to this: do you have anyone who loves you? Anyone at all? When money, health and time run out, when that end of life comes, the people who love you will have to watch you die.

Those who love you will try to help you keep a sense of “normal,” taking you to the store for food which you cannot eat, keeping watch on you so that you don’t wander away, and hurrying you through the line before you soil yourself in public.

They will have to stand by helplessly while you slowly starve on a diet of up to 4000 calories a day, because the simple yeast infection which ravages your digestive system won’t let the food stay in your body long enough for the nutrients to be absorbed.

Those who haven’t seen you in a long time will try to hide with forced smiles their shock at your appearance when they first see you, looking for all the world like an aging prisoner of a concentration camp, with joints bigger than your limbs, sunken eyes, bleeding gums.

The people who love you will push you to the TV room in a wheelchair in which you are strapped with a belt across your slender chest because you will be too weak to sit upright. Before you are bedridden and hooked to IVs, they will watch the hospice nurses carry you in their arms to set you down in the living room to talk about things that don’t matter at all.

Those who love you will agonize over what to do when you hallucinate that there are insects crawling all over you, helping you to brush them off so that your panic will subside.

They will try to stop their tears when you have no idea who they are or that they have traveled hundreds of miles to make sure you know they love you.

One who loves you will hold you as you struggle to stay in this life, giving you permission to leave; and, with a final whispery sigh, you will go.

The people who love you will ultimately be grateful for the peace—yours and theirs—that your death will bring, even though they will always be haunted by the images of your slow and excruciating demise.

Those who love you will most likely go through this in silence, for even today no one wants to talk about it.

You who have unprotected sex do in fact have the right to choose. My brother and those many thousands who were decimated by this cruel disease did not have what you do today: a sort of informed consent. You know how to stop HIV from spreading.

Image courtesy of Tony Adams

The greatest enemy of autonomy is self-destruction. Police yourselves. Claim the brotherhood you share by honoring the deaths of those who came before you. Choose love. Choose life.

August 12, 2009

Bear With Me

After returning from vacation to the bustle of Real Life, I have stolen a moment to tell you about my latest blogger confirmation: I have met BearToast Joe, who also comments as Bear Me Out.

We met last week at a café in a small mountain town, ostensibly to have breakfast and chat. In an outcome that is becoming more of a theme and less of a surprise, we talked through lunch without eating, finally saying goodbye mid-afternoon. The time flew.

Joe greeted me from the sidewalk with a bear hug. I do mean that; the man is huge. But his embrace was warm and friendly. Anyone who reads his blog would expect that, as I did. We sat down inside and forgot the rest of the world for a while.

Joe is a man of strong faith who is greatly concerned for his family and friends as he makes the transition to an out gay man. His large frame is burdened under the heavy weight of his conscience, wanting nothing for himself except the life he was born to live. The peace that this new life will bring is being made difficult by others’ expectations, and he is working hard to help them come to terms with this “new” man—who is the same Joe they’ve always known.

Joe was able to give me some input as I outlined some of the strategies I have in place for my church. I’m always open to ideas, since I feel like I’m making this up as I go along.

We ended up at a table outside so that he could take a brief puff on his pipe. His baseball cap features Smokey Bear. Perfect.

We had a wonderful time, laughing at ourselves over our foibles, sharing our stories of struggle. It was what anyone would ask of limited time with a friend. And I am proud to call Joe my friend.

* * * * *

Another blogger friend of mine was supposed to join me later, but Java’s life right now is in such turmoil that making all the arrangements for a visit was just too much. I know how badly she wanted to come.

She is really struggling with family issues, and it is taking its toll on her own emotional health. Please visit Java and give her some virtual hugs.

Top image courtesy of the Interwebs.

August 7, 2009

Highlands And The Nantahala

Remember me?

I’m nearing the end of a two-week vacation, the longest I’ve had in memory. Last weekend I drove my parents and their dog from Sarasota to a small town high in the foothills of the Smokies, Highlands, NC.

You might remember Highlands from last year’s post. My parents rent a house for a month every summer to escape the heat of Florida. I’ve managed to join them every year for the past twenty years. (Everyone in the family is invited, and we take turns descending upon the house.) Abe brought Ben and our nephew to join us.

I’ve been busy in a vacation sort of way, doing a whole lot of nothing that somehow manages to take all of my time. I’ve grabbed a few moments online at our local ice cream parlor, never long enough to do more than hop around and visit briefly. I’ve missed our conversations, but a break serves to make one fonder.

Highlands continues to change and grow more expensive. But one change from years ago remains one of my favorite buildings: the local Episcopal church manages with panache to successfully combine modern with traditional.

Every year we drive or hike up to the top of Sunset Rock that overlooks the town. Ben and his cousin joined us.

That’s the town on the right of the horizon view.

This time we also took a short path to the other side of the peak to a smaller outcropping that faces an eastern valley: Sunrise Rock.

Of course, with the boys here, we had to do some whitewater. On Tuesday I took them to the Nantahala River Gorge, where we’ve gone before. When we arrived the air was still too cool for me to voluntarily enter 52° water. We wandered around, waiting for the sun to rise high enough to warm the river valley. Ben skipped rocks while we stood on the gravel beach.

We weren’t sure if this was going to be a good ride; the river was about six inches deep here at the end of the run, and it was barely moving. Ben was wondering aloud if we should even try, thinking there would be places we’d have to portage our inflatable kayaks. Then we noticed that we were having to speak louder. The water was rising. It rose a foot in less than five minutes, and suddenly we were standing in water watching rapids roar in front of us. (I learned from a staff member that a dam upriver was opened every day at 8:00a. The water reached us at 11:00a in full force.) I had never seen the river so high.

Every time I do this, I start by wondering what on earth I was thinking. And I end every ride eager to do it again. Instead of the usual two Class II rapids, we navigated at least five. My nephew, age 16, did pretty much the entire river backward and grinning until I made him turn around for the finale Class III falls. He fell out of his boat over Nantahala Falls, but he still managed to retrieve his paddle and his boat and climb back in just in time to beach. (Later on I was even more impressed that his flipflops never came off his feet in all that whitewater.)

I took this shot of Nantahala Falls while scouting it before we started. This raft holds six; we were each on one-man “duckies.”

The trick to a successful passage here is to stay in the whitewater close to the boulder. If you enter the falls further to the right (from this view), you risk catching the back of your raft in the turbulence. That’s what happened to my nephew, who thinks the picture we bought of his dunking is “awesome.”

On Wednesday, I was thrilled to meet up with BearToast Joe in Brevard while disappointed that Java couldn’t make it. I’ll write a separate post about that shortly.

We have one more day here. I don’t shop here any more; I’m not interested in accruing more stuff. Maybe we can get a hike in before we have to return to the Real World on Saturday.