Sticks and stones…

Did you have a nickname when you were growing up?  Maybe you still have it to this day.  I had several…the first of which I gave to myself…unbeknownst to me.  My name is Lesa Page (yes my parents spelled both my first name AND my middle name incorrectly).  When I was little, I couldn’t quite pronounce the two words and they came out as Esa Peach.  So, Esa Peach was my very first nickname and some family members to this day will sometimes call me by that name.  When I hit my teenage years, my nicknames became more related to the fact that I am vertically challenged.  A few of those names were:

Little
Little L
Stump – I of course didn’t care for this one too much
L – my dad calls me this today – I think he’s just lazy (smile)
Lesa Page – as a teenager there were so many Lisa’s that my friends called me by my first and middle name.  Kind of wish I would have stuck with that as an adult…I kind of like it.

When my son was a baby and toddler, his nickname was Booper.  My mom was so afraid that was going to stick.  I’m not even sure how Mike and I started calling him that, but it just seemed to fit him.  He was a pudgy little guy and Booper just seemed to work.  I’m sure he is happy that it was short-lived.  His nickname now is Kai (his name is Kyle).

It seems like yesterday that he was that little baby.  I remember holding for the first time.  To be honest, he looked like a little old man…kind of wrinkly and very little hair.  He quickly grew and like I said was a little pudge.  He unfortunately had colic as a baby.  And not the kind where the baby would cry during a certain time of day…it seemed to bother him all the time.  It made me feel so bad for him.  As I held him, his little legs would bunch up and he would throw his little head back with the most heart wrenching cry.  There were many days that I would cry right along with him as I bounced and paced the floors with him.  Man did I do a lot of pacing.

He eventually grew out of that and became a happy little guy.  I can still see his little face when I would walk into his room in the mornings to retrieve him from his crib.  He would say my name with his pacifier pushed to one side of his mouth and would give me the biggest smile.  It was as if his whole world just walked through the door.  I remember his first steps…arms stretched out like Frankenstein, teetering from one foot to the other with the biggest grin on his face.  He was so proud of himself.  He was a stubborn little bugger too.  The terrible twos are an understatement.  He was so smart which I swear made it worse.  Once he got something in his mind, boy was it tough to re-route him.  And the older he got, the harder it got.  Once he hit the elementary school age, it took a lot of creative thinking to stay one step ahead of him.  And when we really got stuck in a battle of the wills, it seemed like humor was the ONLY thing that would snap him out of it.  Good thing I’m a goof ball (smile).  It just took a little humor to break things up and then you could have a conversation with him.

He was always well liked in school by his teachers and classmates…especially the girls.  He was a straight A student all the way through high school.  I think he got a B or two in college, but seemed to always make the deans list even though he struggled terribly with anxiety and depression.  I’m really not sure how he did it.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, we noticed a change in him around the age of 14 and things came to a head when he was 15 and we found out he was gay.  My friendly, preppy, kind boy turned into an angry, depressed, anxiety ridden boy.  The music he listened to changed, the clothes he wore changed, the kind of friends he had changed.  It was as if the internal struggle that he had been going through for years that we were unaware of came out to the surface in every way.  It was terrifying.  It was as if aliens had come in the middle of the night and replaced our child with someone who we didn’t recognize.  All of the hurt that he had hidden for so long was now out in the open.

I wish SO BADLY that I had the resources back then that I have now.  I would have done things SO differently.  I know I hurt him…before I knew he was gay…and after I found out.  You see, I lived in the place where I thought being gay was something that needed to be fixed.  I felt that way because that is what I had learned from the resources I had at the time.  I was given a lot of hope from those resources…unfortunately it was false hope.  Stories of change that were told later turned out to be lies. And I transferred that hope to him.  It gave him hope and when things didn’t change it only added to his frustration, hurt, and depression.

Society gives gay people a lot of grief about being gay.  Names are hurled at them like butch, fag, dyke, fairy…not exactly endearing nicknames.  And despite the little saying of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” they do indeed hurt.  The hard part though is when a gay person’s family is the cause of the hurt…not by name calling necessarily…although that does happen, but by attitudes and statements that are made.  Something I’ve heard more than once from a young gay person before coming out in regards to their family is this….

“They don’t like me….but they don’t know that they don’t like me.”

What we need to understand is that they are absorbing every remark, comment, facial expression, body language, etc. when it comes to our attitudes about gay people.  The first time I heard that from someone…my spirit was crushed because I know that my son felt that way before he came out.  Looking back…it explains a lot.  I’ve never said anything bad about gay people. I’ve worked with them, have a gay family member in my extended family, etc. and I’ve never felt anything but love for them.  But when you come from a place where you think they are broken and can be fixed, it is hurtful.  And I know my son overheard comments from me regarding this.

I don’t write this to make you feel guilty if you have a gay child and have gone about things differently then you would have like to or feel like you have messed up.  I can tell you that I messed up.  You can move past it.  You can ask for the person to forgive you…and then do what is hard and forgive yourself.  I still struggle with that part.  This post is more for everyone else who may or may not have a gay child, family member, or friend.  Be careful what you say and how you say it.  You never know who is listening…and if they are struggling they will be hyper sensitive to your speech and demeanor.  Let’s not have another child think…they don’t like me…but they don’t know that they don’t like me.

Today my son is a young adult.  The other day we were leaving for work at the same time (he is living at home to save money to one day move out).  I was sitting in my car as he walked down to his car that was parked in the cul-de-sac.  As I watched him in my side mirror with his slouchy hat (to control his curls), skinny jeans, and messenger bag slung across his shoulder, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for his forgiving spirit for a mom who didn’t have a clue when he first came out.  I’m so thankful that his spark is back and I once again have my funny, happy boy.  He knows without a doubt that I love him.  But he can also say…

She likes me…and I know she likes me because she shows it in her words and actions.

Love each other…because it matters.

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For he’s a jolly good fella…

It’s been a sad couple of weeks.  There have been some suicides, some of my friends have lost their moms and their dads, a friend lost his sister, our county lost two officers in the line of duty.  There have been many tears shed.  There have been funerals.  One of the officers was killed right in the Panera where I’ve met moms of other gay kids and it’s where we have our PFLAG board meetings.  Really scary…and really sad.  One of the officers funeral processions went by our church. Some of us stood in the parking lot as the procession went by to show our support.  There was a steady stream of cars for one hour.  One hour.  The respect and love that was poured out for those two officers was amazing to see…and humbling. We owe them so much.  All of them who serve and protect us every day.

Funerals are interesting.  Someone recently said we should have a funeral without the dead people.  Why is that?  Because they bring people together.  How many times have you gone to a funeral and seen family that you haven’t seen in years. What’s the common thing we say to each other in those instances?  “I wish we were meeting under better circumstances.” Why don’t we?  The business of life gets in the way all too often.  One of the things that strikes me at every funeral I have ever been to are the stories that the loved ones tell of the person they’ve loved and lost.  Many times I learn things about the person I never knew.  And if I’m at a funeral in support of a friend and didn’t actually know the person who died…I usually leave wishing I had.

So…it’s gotten me to thinking.  Why don’t we tell people how we feel about them while they are still here?  Why do we tell the stories and what they’ve meant to us after they are gone?  As I’ve shared in another post, there were so many things that I wanted to tell my mom, but she died suddenly without warning and then it was too late.  I will probably add to that post as time goes on as it was really painful to write it.

So…this post is dedicated to my dad…who is very much alive and well as I write this (smile).

I have always been a daddy’s girl.  Growing up my dad was like a super hero to me…he still is (smile).  I wanted to go everywhere that he did…even if that meant hanging out at the garage while his car was worked on.  They always told me I was an old soul in a kids body so I never needed to be entertained and I always got along with adults…so sitting there waiting for my dad’s car was no big deal to me.

If you want to know where I get my quirky sense of humor, just talk to my dad.  The apple didn’t fall far from the tree (smile). And if you know me personally, you know I don’t mind making a fool of myself if it means getting a laugh or having fun (just watch one of my Lucille videos).  Got that from my dad.  He would always play the craziest things with me when I was little. At the time, we lived in a house that was basically a living room and kitchen on the first floor.  My dad would sit at the kitchen table, and I would be a “monster” in the living room.  I would put my arms over my head to make myself bigger and would give my most scary roar.  My dad would pretend to be scared.  He was so good at it that I truly believed I was scaring him.  To this day, I can still see his terrified face as the “monster” got closer and closer to him. Then there was the game that my mom hated.  I would pretend to be a puppy.  My dad sitting in the same chair at the kitchen table would make a fuss over me…”oh isn’t that the cutest puppy!”  He would pat me on the head and pretend to give me a treat.  I would act like a “good” puppy until he gave me the treat at which time I would pretend to bite his fingers.  He then would proceed to whack me with a newspaper.  Like I said…it mortified my mom, but I thought it was hilarious and it was one of my favorite “games” to play. He acted like I really bit him…hmmm….maybe he should have been an actor (smile).

 

He spent hours at that same kitchen table doing eye exercises with me when I was little because I had a lazy eye.  Thanks to him it is gone.  He also spent hours going over time-table flash cards to get me caught up to my class (I changed from public to private school in the 3rd grade and was very far behind everyone).  He never gave up on me.

He would read me bedtime stories at night.  Sometimes he would read to me a book that he was reading.  It went over my head, but I didn’t mind…I just liked spending time with my dad.  There was one time when he came into the room where I was waiting for him and he stubbed his toe on the door.  He jumped around holding his foot for what seemed like forever. Still makes me giggle when I think about it today.  I know…not very nice…but remember I got my sense of humor from my dad (smile).

When I was ten, he built our first color television.  He had ordered it through the mail.  It came with big instruction binders and he spent what felt like hours in the basement putting it together.  I remember being so impressed by that…and totally thrilled to have a color television.  As I got older, he would continue to help with my math homework. Algebra and geometry where the bane of my existence…but he persevered and I passed.  He was the master of board games and spent hours playing them with me.  He taught me how to play chess, how to budget my money, how to do my taxes, and many other life skills that help me to this day.

He was the king of embarrassing me as a teenager.  It included fake tripping in the middle of restaurants, answering the door when a date would come to pick me up with a huge sombrero on his head, or a baseball cap with the bill flipped up, wearing his robe.  But making the boyfriends think he was crazy is a dad’s job…right??

I can’t go to a grocery store and see butterscotch krimpets, peanut butter tandykakes, slimjims, or gingersnap cookies without thinking of my dad.  These were all goodies that he would bring me home on grocery shopping day (not all at once of course).  Late night grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches and midnight runs to Dunkin Donuts (which was right up the street from our house in the city) are also fond memories that I have growing up with my dad.

He served in the army beginning at the ripe old age of 17, worked hard for many years enduring strikes and lay-offs, buried his first wife (my mom) when he was 52 and his second wife 10 years after that.  He is married a third time to a wonderful woman who unfortunately is sick with kidney disease.  He has not had an easy time of it, but he still has that silly sense of humor.

He is my biggest supporter of my blog and its controversial topic.  He has accepted his gay grandson without batting an eye. He is smart, and funny, and like I said…still my super hero.  I appreciate all that he has taught me and all the memories he has given me.  I love him to the moon and back.

Dad…I love you more…and you know…love matters.