no greater love…than that of a mother for her child…

Mother holds Child

Mother holds Child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 A mom myself, I’m particularly sensitive to stories of moms and their offspring. I personally know many who continue to give of themselves in an effort to smoothe life’s path for their children. As much as is possible, that is. Yes, the umbilical cord is severed; but no, it is not.

Close friends Katy and Becky hover nearby as their children contend with life’s difficulties.

Katy’s son and daughter forge ahead in spite of illnesses that are disabling, physically and emotionally. Their spirits, however, continue to soar under the watchful eye of their mom whose generosity of spirit knows no bounds.

Three ballet dancers

Three ballet dancers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Becky has not allowed the naysayers to get in the way of her son’s desire to dance professionally. She has helped him wend his way through life’s ups and downs while managing ADHD and depression. That he graduated cum laude with a double major from Indiana’s Butler University and has been a member of a couple of ballet companies since, is in no small way owing to my friend’s perseverance on his behalf.

Friends Mary and Zorianna, she who keeps my tresses trimmed and colored, each have a daughter and a son. In their early 20s, they are still growing into adulthood. Not such an easy task in the current economy. College fees and lack of jobs are enough to have parents talking to themselves without letup. Better that my friends and I vent with one another, to let off steam. 

Skateboarder in Grants Pass, Oregon. Category:...

Skateboarder in Grants Pass, Oregon. Category:Skateboarding (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Exercise instructor and good friend Kristina parents with steadfast understanding. Her son, a professional skateboarder with a board named after him, has pursued his love of the sport since he was 16. Now in his early 20s, he proudly pays a monthly mortgage on a home in Oregon. And his mom is only too willing to make the 4 hour trek to help with household repairs that pop up. God bless her!

Kristina’s daughter graduated with a degree in theatre arts. Satisfied doing a stint with a traveling company that entertained school-age children and a year or so with local theatre groups, she redirected her focus to becoming a nutritionist. An extrovert by nature, Kristina’s daughter eventually opted out from behind textbooks to work full-time in a health food store. It’s for sure she’ll work her way up the corporate ladder for she’s got the ambition and the discipline to go after what she wants.

Of all the stories that touch my heart, my friend Barbara’s is the saddest. In her 70s, I’m not certain she will get the happy ending she so desires.

Jeogori

Jeogori (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Barb and her husband, both Caucasian, cherish the Korean daughter they adopted as a baby. Enfolding her within their warm embrace, they gave themselves totally to raising their beloved child. They encouraged their daughter to learn about her own culture and were happy to welcome a Korean son-in-law into their family. As fate would have it, their daughter’s in-laws and college friends heavily influenced her withdrawal from her adoptive family.

Infrequent visits with her daughter, who resides out-of-state, and their 2 grandsons brings tears to Barb’s eyes. The boys had spent summers with their grandparents but no longer do so, because of the strained relationship between their mom and her adoptive parents.

Fortunately my friend and her husband have a son upon whom they dote, as well as his family. But they continue to hope their daughter might someday have a change of heart. They love her dearly. It’s evident each time Barb and I speak of our daughters. She always commends the closeness I share with mine.

Happy..Happy.. Mother's Day :-)..

…there’s no sacrifice too great or love too abundant…for a mom whose child is life’s greatest…reward…

………hugmamma.  🙂

good samaritan…#13

The Good Samaritan

Image via Wikipedia

It’s been awhile since I’ve added to this list of people deserving of recognition for unselfish acts of generosity or kindness, or both. Tonight as we were dining out on casual fare at a local favorite, COHO, in recognition of our daughter’s last night with her old folks before flying on to a wedding in Colorado, and then home to prepare for her ballet company‘s next season, my husband related a very touching story about a coworker. And because we’ve been married 41 years, I knew the punch line before he said it. In fact I held my hand up to his mouth, telling him not to say anymore because I was already choking back tears. You see, my heart strings are tied to my tear ducts. So it’s an automatic reflex. My heart aches…my eyes tear.

Newborn Feet

Image via Wikipedia

My husband’s co-worker and her husband have one young child whom they adopted as a newborn, from someone serving in the military. A loving couple who dote on their youngster, they were getting ready to adopt a second baby. Upon flying east to meet with the young parents, it was learned that they were giving up their newborn for the money. Having lost their jobs, and with another child to care for, letting someone adopt their second child was their only financial option. Not one they wanted to take advantage of, but felt they had no choice. And the punch line is…do you know it already?

Detail from the

Image via Wikipedia

My husband’s co-worker and her husband gave the baby’s parents the money…without taking the child in exchange. We’re probably talking thousands of dollars…given from parents who know full well what their first adopted child means to them…the whole world. The icing on the cake is that they will be the baby’s Godparents, and he will bear the names of a member of each side of their families. So as my wise 25-year-old daughter said…while one baby was the intended adoptee…

an entire family…was adopted…enough to bring tears…to anyone’s eyes………hugmamma.  

a special relationship, daughter and father

Readers of my blog from the start, know that I was fatherless as a child, my dad having died when I was one. Age 30 at the time, my mom never remarried. I don’t know how she felt about remaining a widow, but I remember wishing she had a husband. I would have happily helped her pick one.

When my mom worked as laundress, part-time cook, and sometime-chaperone at a Catholic orphanage in Paia, Maui, Mr. Chalmers worked there as groundskeeper. He was tall, with sandy-blonde hair that fell gently across his brow. I remember thinking his blue eyes were kind-looking. Even as a youngster in elementary school, I sensed there was chemistry between my mom and this “hauole,” Hawaiian for “foreigner.” But it went nowhere.

As I reflect back, and I have many times, I wonder if my mom felt uncertain in the company of a “hauole” man, being that she was native Hawaiian. The cultures are so different, especially back then, in the 50s. Perhaps she felt him too different, even while she might have found him attractive. All I know is I liked him, I wanted a dad, and I wished my mom would have brought Mr. Chalmers home to our family!

When I was littler, I wished my mom had married “uncle” Lot who lived next door with his sister, “aunty” Miriam. They weren’t family but they made us feel as though we were.”Uncle” would cradle me in his lap, where I’d curl up, my sleepy head nestled against his shoulder. Maybe uncle wasn’t my mom’s “cup of tea,” but he was most definitely mine.

Then there was our next door neighbor, and landlord, Ah Sing. We’d moved to one of his family’s rentals when I was beginning kindergarten. Unfortunately he was already wed, to my best friend Leola’s mom. Her dad seemed a better match for my mom who was friendly and warm like Ah Sing, both having Hawaiian blood coursing through their veins. His wife, on the other hand, was Chinese. She reminded me of the ice queen in the “Narnia” movies. So there went another great candidate for my dad!

But the “piece de resistance” was Dr. James Fleming. He too would’ve made a great pairing with my mom, in my limited child’s experience. He was a little plump, like my mom. And though he wore wire-rimmed glasses and sported a crew cut, though slightly longer, he was still attractive. He had a broad smile, a twinkle in his eye, and always gave me a big, orange gumdrop at the end of each visit. When he vaccinated me with an injection in the arm, I’m sure I cried. The needle looked like it would’ve been used on a horse, not on my scrawny arm. But Dr. Fleming made me feel brave, and would reward me with 2 pieces of candy. Now what kid wouldn’t want him for a dad! But alas, he already had 3 sons, and a wife. No matter, I continued to fantasize.

Dr. Fleming was of the Lahaina, Maui Flemings. Throughout my childhood, up until I was 16 and left for college, we often frequented a beach near their home, named after the family. I’m not sure if it’s still known as Flemings Beach. It might have been renamed something more befitting the island’s commercial growth, especially if the Fleming’s no longer own property in the vicinity. But even before I learned he was wealthy, Dr. Fleming was the knight in shining armor sitting astride a white horse, who would come galloping along to whisk my mom, and me, off into the sunset. Yes, even then I was a romantic.

When I was older, probably of middle school age, my mom revealed a secret, one I wished I’d known earlier. She told me when I was born, Dr. Fleming offered to adopt me. He’d have welcomed a daughter into a family of all boys. Obviously, my mom declined, but I’m sure she lingered over her decision. She had 8 other mouths to feed, although some of the older ones might have since left home, to make a life for themselves.

What would I have done if I’d known of the adoption earlier? Probably just what my mom did, think about it, but then reject the idea vehemently. After all, my mom and older siblings were my world. One of my brothers was adopted by a childless couple. I’m not sure how he felt about being given away at the time. Did he cry, refuse, sulk? I never asked. I’m not sure if he’d tell me now, at 71.

Writing this blog has proven cathartic, therapeutic. What’s become increasingly apparent these last 6 months, is not growing up with a father has impacted me more than I’d realized. There’s a void no one can completely fill. It’s as though my life has listed since birth, like a sailboat that never righted itself. Thank goodness family and friends have helped anchor me, ensuring that I’m not set adrift. I’ve learned to accept my imperfect life, my listing, continuing to “sail” far and wide. The world that passes before my “bow,” is the same one seen from the bow of a sailboat that maneuvers perfectly.

My daughter has been nurtured by two parents, who love her dearly. And I have been lovingly nurtured by she and my husband. Going forward in life, she and I agree that we’re blessed to be “drinking” from glasses that are always half-full. But I’m so thankful that my daughter has my husband for a father. He would have been my choice as a dad too, if he’d been an adult to my child. But watching him with our daughter, more than compensates for the father I never had.

a father-daughter tradition, hugs for…hugmamma.

oprah’s half-sister, patricia

Now that Oprah’s leaving her talk show after 25 years, I’ve become more of a regular viewer than in all the years past. Never a fan of shows that sensationalize the problems of others, I pretty much stayed away from all day time talk shows. Oprah has definitely evolved from her early days as TV talk host, making her show more varied, with professional as well as amateur, singers and dancers gracing the stage from time to time. Again, however, I was still selective. Too, I wasn’t one to sit in front of the flat screen panel for hours on end.

Now that Oprah is nearing the end of her run on NBC, I’ve managed to catch some of her shows, especially since I’ve finally registered that it’s always on at 4 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. One of my favorite segments to date, after Oprah’s interviews with Lisa Marie Presley and Katherine Jackson, was yesterday’s when it was revealed that the talk show hostess has a half-sister.

What moved me, yes to tears, was the obvious connection between siblings who have only recently found one another. Patricia, the younger of the 2, was given up for adoption in the hospital, immediately after birth. Her life thereafter was spent in and out of many foster homes, some good, some bad. Many years later she decided to search for her birth mother. When she contacted the Milwaukee Social Services Department she learned she had siblings. She saw their names and birth dates on records sent to her by the department, but her mother’s name was withheld.

While watching Oprah’s show one day, Patricia saw Oprah’s mom who revealed details about her other children. Patricia called her own daughter to join in watching the program. It became clear to both, that Oprah’s siblings were, in fact, Patricia’s as well, according to her birth documents.

Since that time in 2007, Patricia tried to make contact with Oprah, without success. Even Patricia’s pastor communicated with Oprah’s pastor to no avail. When Oprah learned that something was afoot, she confronted the executive producer of her show who confirmed that she might indeed have a sibling of whom Oprah wasn’t aware.

Yesterday’s show included a home video of this past Thanksgiving Day when Oprah met Patricia for the first time in her humble home, over dinner. Both looked joyful beyond words to have found one another. And in closing her show, Oprah expressed her gratitude to her half-sister for not having sold her story to the media long before now. That, Oprah felt, was a sign of Patricia’s true character. And what did she get from all this, Oprah asked Patricia? “Family! I got family, nieces and nephews…and you, Oprah.” In that moment, I felt, and Oprah probably did as well, that Patricia had given her sister the greatest gift anyone could ever give billionaire Oprah Winfrey: pure, unadulterated love. As a bonus, Patricia gave her 2 grown children, family, which they hadn’t had before.

Oprah has everything money can buy, and some. It warms my heart to see her in the company of simple people, like us. Celebrities are fine, but they’re not like us. So when Oprah is in their company, she seems unavailable to “normal” folk. While she certainly enjoys the friendship of the elite, she seems to relish time with those from whom she came. Oprah’s roots run deep. Every so often, her roots are “uncovered.” That’s the Oprah Winfrey I enjoy seeing.

hugs for patricia, who never gave up on herself, and Oprah…hugmamma.

elizabeth edwards, a mom

One of my earliest posts was of Elizabeth Edwards, who lost her battle with cancer today, dying at age 61. Exactly my age, I had nothing in common with her, yet I had everything in common with her, everything that mattered, that is. She was a mom who cherished her children, as much as I cherish my daughter. That made us sisters in faith. Birthing and nurturing a child is primal. When that invisible cord is severed by the death of an offspring, a mother who has invested, carries that loss forever. Edwards seemed to return her dead son’s memory to the womb from whence he came. There he remained in safe-keeping, until she could be with him again. I would do the same, if I lived longer than my child.

So while the media rehashes Elizabeth Edwards’ life, mainly its tragedies, including the disease which finally claimed her life, and the public scandal of her husband John’s infidelity, and the resulting birth of his mistress’ baby, I remember Edwards’ legacy as a mom, just a mom like me. She willingly enabled the lives of those she loved, helping them be the best they could be. All she wanted in return, was their love, and support. That’s all I want. Even when life takes a detour, and Edwards’ life took many detours, as has mine, we adjust for the good of those we love, and our own good.

“Resilience,” authored by Elizabeth Edwards, read as a love story, that special narrative between mother and child. In that instance, “blood is thicker than water,” even in the case of adoptions. Moms always give their life’s blood to their children. It’s part and parcel of maternal love. I may not agree with the manner in which Angelina Jolie garnered a father for her children, but I grant that she genuinely loves them.

Moms lives are “messy,” things never happening exactly as planned. But their maternal love is steadfast, as much as it is possible within the framework of their own personal “baggage.” I don’t think they set out to be bad moms; life happens. So while Edwards’ life seemed wrought with discord, loss of a son, loss of her marriage, loss of her life; her soul was like the eye of a hurricane, calm and steady, knowing that the storm always passes. Elizabeth Edward’s cyclonic life has finally brought her to the serene shores of eternal salvation, with her beloved son, Wade.

for a mom who weathered life’s storm… with love and courage… huge hugs…hugmamma.

“blessed are the children”

Fr. Bryan was his usual, charismatic self. At 38 years old, he’s got the talent and ability to run a business, so the Catholic church is lucky to have him, especially at the salary they must pay him. I’m betting it’s less than $20,000 a year. Today’s homily was proof of his capability to manage the “firm.”

Our parish must submit a 20 year plan for its projected growth. Father indicated that we are a suburban congregation on an urban plot of land. Physical expansion is nearly maxed out. To assist in his plan, Father conducted paper surveys during masses, over the course of 2 weekends. The first dealt with the demographics of the churchgoers; today’s asked which of 4 options we favored. Should we maintain the status quo? Should we stay put, expanding to the max, including constructing a parking garage? Should we consolidate the elementary, middle and high schools on one campus? Should we consolidate all of the church buildings, and the schools onto one compound? Of course, the price tag escalates with each option, from half-a-million dollars to $18 million. 

Father explained that when parishioners asked how soon various and sundry items would be fixed or initiated, he would tell them “We need to come up with a plan.” Interestingly enough he made more sense than my husband who tells me to show him a business plan, when I’ve expressed the desire to open an antique/gift shop. Another question often asked of Father is how long he’ll continue to be our pastor. He told us today that his 3 year contract is up in the spring. We’ll know then whether or not he’ll be renewed for another 6 years. 

Maybe parishioners are wondering  whether or not they want to commit millions of dollars, if Father Bryan is not around to enjoy the “fruits” of his labor. That’s what happened with the parish’s last major church remodel, about 10 years ago. Father Clark accomplished the task with a league of faithful volunteers. He was soon reassigned, and when another priest took his place, many left because the new pastor was not blest with people skills. Even my patient, long-suffering husband experienced moments of frustration. And that’s saying something.

While Father Bryan was speaking about our parish’s “mission,” since today was Mission Sunday, I was admiring the loving relationship of adoptive Caucasian parents for their Hispanic, 7 or 8-year-old son. Sitting in the pew in front of us, I first noticed the husband rubbing the small of his wife’s back in a very loving way. Initially I thought they might have had a little spat, and he was trying to get back into her good graces. But then I noticed the youngster between them, arms wrapped around his father’s waist. For a few minutes, I was distracted by something Father said. When my eyes returned to watching the family, the boy had his arms around his father’s leg. The man looked to be a little over 6 feet tall. Later, mother and son had their arms around one another, she stroking the arm he held across her tummy.

If ever I felt a child belonged to his parents, he was standing right in front of me. The aura emanating from that family was so organic, their love so natural. The difference in their ethnicities meant nothing to them, and yet it spoke volumes about them. I couldn’t help but lean forward, touching the mother on her shoulder, and telling her “I love how you love your son.” She smiled her thanks, sidling over to her son, both of them moving closer to her husband, his father. Tears welled in my eyes, which I had to quell before they trickled down my cheeks. My daughter put her arm around my waist, love in her eyes. She too smiled upon the family, and understood what a blessing they were, especially for those who beheld them.

While I listened to the wisdom of one mother’s son, I beheld another who was so loved by his parents. God touches us, when we least expect it.

all God’s children, hugs for…hugmamma.

putting a “face” on the “unknown” (an update)

I received information that requires I update my previous post, the “unknown,” put a “face” on it.

My nephew and his partner were married in San Fransisco in 2009. The happy news is that he was the one who had nursed my nephew back from a near fatal illness, that must have been a nightmare for all who love him, especially his parents, my sister and her husband, who then cared for my mom years later, during her decade long bout with Alzheimer’s. I’m not sure they’d agree that God only gives us what He thinks we can handle. But I’m certain their reward is their children and grandchildren. 

My nephew’s 2 daughters had been in the L.A. Social System before their adoption, and they now attend the school where their dad teaches 5th grade. Writing these words brings a lot of warmth to my heart. Two young girls, one 12 and one 6, were rescued from a system, an orphanage of sorts, and restored into the welcoming arms of a loving family. I would hate to imagine where those youngsters might be today, if not for their dads. From my perspective, the product of a dysfunctional, straight family, 2 fabulous dads who love 2 “broken” children, deserve a lot of thanks and support, in their efforts to create a normal home in a society too quick to judge. My great-nieces, young innocents, are another couple of faces of the Human Rights Campaign.

the “unknown”, less so…hugmamma.

putting a “face” on the “unknown”

Glad I stepped away from the keyboard to visit with dear friends last night. Because of them I overcame my reluctance to get gussied up for a fundraising event in the city. My husband knew nothing about the organization sponsoring the dinner; he didn’t know what the letters “HRC” represented. The hours slipped by quickly, as we listened and learned about the “Human Rights Campaign.” 

We’ve attended other fundraisers over the years, ballet balls, zoo events, symphony dinners, among others. At the ballet ball, I remember ending the night rocking to the deejay’s music on the dance floor. At zoo events, I thought it was cool to visit the butterfly house, and witness the jaguar feeding, afterhours. And at a symphony fundraising dinner, my husband bought me my favorite watch, which I wear every day. Unlike these, last night’s event had no gimmicks, unless one considers the guest speakers as the “drawing card.” If so then, in my estimation, they were the most relevant “gimmicks” I’ve ever entailed.

Washington’s U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke of her genuine efforts on behalf of her constituents. She focused on 2 in particular, who wrote letters asking for  her help. One was sent by a young girl whose dream it is to proudly serve her country in the military, but isn’t allowed to do so while proudly “owning” who she is, because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The other letter was written by a dedicated teacher of 30 years, who tried to help a young student suffering the harassment of peers after she “came out.” Failing to garner official support for the youngster’s plight, the teacher informed the girl. Three days later, she committed suicide.

In his turn at the podium Joe Solmonese, HRC President for 5 years, brought me “up to speed” on the organization’s efforts to achieve total equality for a segment of the population that has been disenfranchised for too long. I was especially impressed when he emphasized that they are NOT victims, that they will not be deterred in their efforts, no matter what obstacles they encounter as they campaign for their freedom and rights. In the evening’s program, Mr. Solmonese wrote, in part, “Our community’s voice has never been more influential and never have we had a more friendly audience in our lawmakers. With your support, HRC can make our community’s voice heard loud and clear.”

A Child Protection Social Worker, Janice Langbehn, related a moving story of “man’s inhumanity to man,” to coin a phrase from a long ago episode of “All in the Family,” where Gloria attempted to explain a simple truth to her family. While she elicited chuckles from the viewing audience, including me, Ms. Langbehn’s words resonated with both my husband and I. With her legal partner, Lisa, and 3 of their 4 adopted children, they celebrated their 15th anniversary in February 2007, by boarding a ship in Miami to cruise to the Bahamas. While waiting to sail, Lisa oversaw a basketball game the kids were playing. Within 20 minutes they ran to their stateroom to get Janice, telling her that Lisa was sick. Janice and the children made their way to “Jackson Memorial Ryder Trauma Center, where Lisa had been taken. When her family, Janice and the youngsters, arrived they were told by a trauma social worker that Miami and Florida were “an anti-gay city and state” and were not allowed to visit Lisa or receive any news of her condition. Despite securing the couples Medical POA required by the Center, Lisa’s family continued to meet with resistance, until Janice accompanied a priest who gave her partner the Last Rites. The children were also finally allowed a few minutes with their mom. But in the end, Lisa died alone on February 19, 2007. Since then Janice has publicly spoken on behalf of change to homophobic policies like those of Jackson Memorial. In April of this year, President Obama phoned Janice apologizing for “the treatment her family received and described the Presidential Memorandum he sent to HHS to direct Federal Regulations to allow same-sex couples the same hospital visitation rights as other families.”

What makes Langbehn’s story even more compelling is the dedication with which she and her partner committed their lives to helping children. “Their love and life together was defined by their care and passion for aiding special needs children. In 1992 they were the first openly gay foster parents in their county, fostering 25 children, 4 of which they adopted, and all with special needs due to drug and HIV exposure. Janice’s long history of social work and care for children began while employed with DSHS and the State of Washington as a Sex Offender treatment provider in a juvenile prison. She saw a need to intervene earlier in a child’s life and so became a Child Protection Social Worker. Janice completed her first Master’s in Public Administration in 1995 and in 1997 was accepted to the University of Washington Master in Social Work Program. In April of 1999, Janice was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. From 1996 until Lisa’s untimely death in 2007, the two were intimately involved in their children’s lives. They managed HIV appointments, taught first communion classes, volunteered in the children’s school and began a successful Girl Scout troop.” Janice continues to speak out as part of “the educational process that comes with the fight for equality.” To a standing ovation and thunderous applause, she was honored with the HRC Equality Award.

Introducing the final speaker of the evening, was a dentist who shared a childhood secret with us. He had always dreamed of becoming a figure skater. But he put aside his dreams, and fulfilled his mother’s dream instead. Forty years later, thanks to Johnny Weir, the dentist is taking ice skating lessons. Bravo!

The name meant nothing to me, until a video clip showed Johnny Weir in the spotlight, representing the U.S. at the last winter Olympics. He is a flamboyant figure skater, in his style, dress and makeup. He was not my favorite, so I wasn’t as impressed with his performance as I was with some of his competitors. But after hearing his story, I have more admiration for him, as a person. Starting late, he taught himself to ice skate at age 12 on the frozen ponds in back of the cornfields at his home in Amish country, Pennsylvania. With the love and support of amazing parents and younger brother, Weir “hopped, skipped, and jumped” his way into figure skating history, capturing the hearts of millions around the world (he is knowns as the “people’s skater”), and U.S. Figure Skating’s 2010 Reader’s Choice Award for Skater of the Year (Michelle Kwan Trophy). 

Weir makes no excuses for being gay, embracing his “fabulosity.” Having concluded that he wasn’t representative of the image of the U.S. Olympic figure skater, and would therefore not medal, he decided to do his best, for himself. So he brought to his dynamic performance 13 years of hard work, sacrifice and passion for his craft. When he finished skating, and stood up from a back bend, his eyes were met with an arena of waving flags from around the world. I understood his joy, for as a ballerina, my daughter strives to connect with an audience appreciative of her talent, sacrifice, hard work, and passion for her art.

I think in our own personal struggles to come to terms with life, we don’t see that others are also struggling. I’m guilty of such tunnel vision. It’s human nature to think there’s not enough time or energy to be stretched so thin. Some of us are more capable than others, depending upon our own circumstances of health, finances, and commitments. We needn’t all react exactly alike; we can’t, by virtue of our individual DNA. Perhaps what we all CAN and SHOULD DO, is “put a face on the unknown.”    

Senator Patty Murray, HRC President Joe Solmonese, Johnny Weir, the dentist, and most prominently, Janice Langbehn and her children, are the “faces” of the Human Rights Campaign. America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are no longer the “unknown.” I now know who they are. Each is someone’s child living on the periphery of society, “assigned” rights which are already theirs by virtue of their citizenship in the human race, and their birthright as U.S. citizens. I don’t feel their rights are mine to give or withhold. I believe they’re inalienable, as written in our Constitution. I am a spiritual person, a member of the Catholic church. I think religion offers us sound principles with which to live our lives, but I think we’ve succumbed to using religion as a weapon to pass judgment upon, and excommunicate, those who are non-compliant. I’m not God, and I don’t want to be God. As with Oprah, the job has serious responsibilities which I’m not equipped to handle. Better I leave it to the experts, God in his domain, and Oprah in hers.

I’ve been fortunate to know the men behind the “faces,” good friends we’ve known since moving to the Pacific Northwest. Leon and Ken made me feel comfortable and welcome, when I met them at the first gathering my husband and I attended at his boss’s home, 13 years ago. Before their arrival, I felt self-conscious and awkward, being a stay-at-home mom trying to mingle with career people. The 2 men were interested in knowing more about me, and soon we were joking and laughing like old friends. Through the years, our friendship has remained steadfast, and I’m able to relax in their company as soon as I see them. They’ve never had an “agenda,” other than to know that I’m fine. I always welcome that concern in friends, straight, or gay.

My friendship with Brent and Rick is more recent, although my husband’s known them for several years, because he and Rick are employed by the same company. Although I was acquainted with both men, I got to know Brent better when we accompanied our significant others on a business trip to Victoria, BC. As with Leon and Ken, I felt comfortable in Brent’s company because he made me feel my contribution to the conversation was valuable. Although he’s taking college courses toward becoming a social worker, I never felt like my 60’s college experience was arcane. In fact, Brent complimented my common sense approach to life. That’s music to the ears of a senior citizen! A smart man 20 years my junior is inspired by what I might have to say. Kind of novel in this day and age. Needless to say, I’m very happy to be in the company of Brent and Rick, 2 men with discerning tastes for quality of life for all, including the elderly.

Personally I know that I’m unlikely to be swayed in my opinions unless I can put a “face” on the “unknown,” whatever that might be. Rather than having someone force me to think differently, I’m inclined to change because of personal motivation. I don’t think any of us like being browbeaten into a decision. My husband and I made a contribution to the HRC, because last night we were educated about their worthwhile efforts, and because Leon, Ken, Brent and Rick are real “faces” for the cause of human rights.

Another real “face” is a nephew of mine who “came out” to his parents decades ago. He was a wonderful, young man when I knew him. He played the piano beautifully; he seemed a sensitive soul. Having lost touch, I learned years later that he’d contracted a near fatal disease. His partner at the time helped nurse my nephew back to complete health. He has shared his life with another partner for many years, adopting 2 girls who had been students in my nephew’s middle school class, several years ago. Before they became a family, the youngsters were in and out of foster homes.

Children are my concern, because of my childhood experiences, and because I wish all children would know the unconditional love and support to be who they are, and not what others want them to be. Our gay peers are intelligent, resourceful and hard-working. They will evince long-term change through their commitment not to return to the “dark ages” of society’s earlier days. We can either embrace the inevitable and co-exist, all striving to live our best lives, or we can maintain our isolation from certain segments of society, holding onto historical prejudices. It’s our choice; it’s our freedom. I choose, that others might enjoy the same freedom. I may have an island mentality about driving on freeways, and fear of black bears, but not in matters that are substantive. In these cases, I prefer to draw from the “aloha spirit” inherent in my native fibre, and welcome all as “ohana” (family).

hugs for conquering our fear of the “unknown”, by putting a “face” to it…hugmamma.