Monday, June 15, 2009

The Second Road Trip

The Second Road Trip –

I am calling this the Second Road trip because in many ways it bookends the road trip from several years ago that we made in a mad scramble to see DreamWeaver’s oldest son get married in Jefferson City. Missouri, and the two trips are both similar, and yet very different. Three years ago we were suddenly contacted by DreamWeaver’s oldest son, The Marine – after a five year estrangement - and asked to attend his wedding. He called on a Monday – the wedding was that Friday!!! We had very little money and almost no hope of making it. Nor were we particularly welcome to be present, both because of anger and tension between DreamWeaver’s ex-husband that has existed for years, and because we are gay. But we went.
For that wedding. we drove 1700 miles from South Carolina in a roughly three days round trip and were present for The Marine and Patience’s wedding. It was wonderful and devastatingly heartbreaking, as we were excluded from almost everything and only had what part we did because the bride’s family stepped in and made a place for us over the anger and rejection of DreamWeaver’s ex. We found out early this year that her second son, The Enlightened One was getting married in Arkansas, a week after his college graduation. And so began the second great road trip. In this case, we had months of knowing in advance. We also heard obliquely through Patience, The Marine's Wife, that we were once again not wanted. And yet we received an invitation in the mail from The Enlightened One and The Scientist. And some things NEVER change – we were still flat broke. So…road trip on!
The first huge hurdle, since The Enlightened One and The Scientist were getting married a week after his graduation was our own school schedule. DreamWeaver is in graduate school, I am an undergrad. The vagaries of college scheduling meant that we were going to have to leave before the week of our exams to get there. So we spent all semester planning with our teachers to take our exams and final projects early and scrambling to make it happen.
Then there is the fact that DreamWeaver’s parents live in Arkansas, only a few hours away from the wedding and DreamWeaver had not seen her parents in 12 years. Any trip to Arkansas had to include time with them. They are in their 70’s and their health is poor. Time was not on her side in this. Also, DreamWeaver’s relationship with her parents is very strained. Her mother has had paranoid schizophrenia all her life. DreamWeaver’s childhood was extremely difficult and abusive due to her mother’s illness and her father’s ineffectual struggle to manage the scenario. She does not have happy memories of her past or a comfortable relationship with her parents and this translated into the feel of returning to the lions den. And none of the family scenarios mentioned above are particularly accepting of homosexuality.
The Marine has rejected his mother because she is gay and has cut her off from her grandchildren. Her ex-husband despises her anyway (the custody battles were epic. There is a law in the state of Arkansas that says that a restraining order to keep a parent from their kids may not be served on school property. That law exists BECAUSE of DreamWeaver and what happened to her! That should give an idea of how bad things got!); he also is very homophobic, so add that into the mix.
DreamWeaver’s Father is a retired Church of Christ preacher whose extremely conservative website once had a page of anti-gay rant on it. We were hearing NOTHING from The Enlightened One and The Scientist, beyond the invitation itself, and getting phone calls from Patience warning us that we were not wanted and to expect to sit in the back if I came with DreamWeaver at all. We were also going to try to see DreamWeaver’s best friend from high school, who wanted to see DreamWeaver, but had written her an “I don’t approve of gays, but I love you anyway” letter. It was shaping up to be a really interesting week....
But we went. We were pretty stone broke, so by pinching every penny in sight, and some charitable help from friends, we arranged to camp out for a week on the campsite at a gorgeous lake, a few miles from where DreamWeaver’s parents live. My car could not make it – the transmission would never make it up in the Arkansas foothills of the Ozarks – we would have had to bury it on the side of the mountain roads up there! Translation – we went in DreamWeaver’s little compact Honda, instead of my station wagon. And her Honda is a gear shift. Have I mentioned that before this trip I could not drive a stick? Have spent most of the spring stalling out the Honda on hills and in parking lots and swearing a lot, but I got to where I could drive it pretty well. We got down to a few weeks before the trip. School was insane.

We finally heard from The Enlightened One, and made arrangements to spend Wednesday with him and The Scientist before the wedding, but had no idea even then what our reception with them was going to be like. We got down to the day to leave, with me sweating out a vicious take home exam in Art History that held us up several hours and that we had to drop off at the school on the way out of town. The car was absolutely STUFFED – I maintain firmly that my dear sweet DreamWeaver over packed just a wee bit. Ahem. Anyway… off down the road we went on Saturday the 9th.We stopped over night in Atlanta and stayed with friends (family to us – Cat’s son Little Raven is our god-son) and that was wonderful. Sunday night we camped out in Mississippi in a state park. And here came the true test of any relationship. Setting up a tent together for the first time. LOL! Actually, it went very well. The weather was not great, drippy and cloudy, but the tent was new and dry and the air mattress well made and we discovered that we camp very well together. So onward we went the next morning. That was where the first fun digression occurred.
We were in Olive Branch, Miss. when we spotted the used bookstore…U-turn! It was a goofy thing to do, but we had promised ourselves that we were on a vacation for us irregardless of family drama, and well, a used bookstore is one of those irresistible things. Ten pounds of books later we were happily back on the road assured of reading material at the camp for the week. No such thing as too many books! (And the prices in that bookstore were exceptional – we barely spent any money! Too bad it’s in Mississippi…or maybe that’s a good thing!)Then we crossed into Arkansas, in the lower part to drive up to the foothills of the Ozarks. It was flat. For miles. Nothing but flat. And flooded fields that might eventually become cotton, soybeans or rice. MILES of fields. Did I mention it was flat? The occasional battered house with 3 even more battered trailers behind it for the successive generations as they married out of high school and moved in behind mom and dad. More wet flooded fields. NO restaurants, few towns and few gas stations. Tons of tiny little Church of Christ churches. More flat fields. Now, I am a mountain girl, from the foothill piedmont of SC and real mountains are less than an hour away heading into NC from where I live. So this became progressively more and more alarming and depressing for me. The Church of Christ presence wasn’t very reassuring either, particularly since they are pretty violently homophobic and I am kinda hard to miss – it’s that flashing dyke sign over my head.
We went through the town where DreamWeaver grew up, and apologies to any Arkansans on the list, but things did not improve. To my eyes, there appeared to be a great deal of bitter poverty, no middle class, and some extreme wealth at the very top, in a very sparse population base. We were no where near Hot Springs or Little Rock where civilization begins, so I admit I was probably not seeing the state in the best light. But it was spooky all the same. Passed a huge billboard that said in 3 foot high letters, “If you love your children, use the rod!” and quoted the pertinent scripture verse. Out of the blue, just sitting by open fields. Down right alarming!But at last we began to climb into the upper part of the state and got into the foothills of the Ozarks! Beautiful, beautiful country! Wow! HOWEVER…similar dynamics prevailed up there. If anything the dichotomy was even worse – extreme wealth, or deep poverty. Nothing in between.
We reached our home sweet home for the week on the beautiful lake there and got a campsite right on the lake. It was well before the season started and we were the only tent campers in the park. Arkansas has had a lot of rain lately…our campsite that was about 5 feet above the waterline was 8A. Campsites 7A though 1A were *ahem* underwater! We could just make out the outline of the table in site 7 beyond us below the surface of the water. Wow. So we pitched our tent, got unpacked (which is where I began to suspect we were a lil’ over packed) and went to see DreamWeaver’s parents.This is where we encountered the first blessing of the trip. We did not know exactly what to expect. DreamWeaver’s mom might be fine, or not, or we might see them once and then only see DreamWeaver’s dad after that if Mom was shook up by the visit, or we might not see them again, period. We just didn’t know. Well, they met us on the porch all smiles and hugged us both! DreamWeaver’s mom called me her other daughter, and her dad was just elated we were there. They were both delighted and talkative and Mom was really engaged and connected with us and with reality! They fed us dinner and then we visited.
The only downside to the first evening was that Dad, whom we knew was a conservative old coot, turned out to be more of a right wingnut than we had anticipated and there were some very strained moments as we listened to him rant. And the man is obsessed with politics, conspiracy theories and his own heroic – in his eyes – stand against the evils of the world. Ooof. I swear he made my dad look like a liberal. But we just kinda nodded and changed subjects as we could and enjoyed everything else about the visit.Tuesday morning we went back over to her parents to help her dad get his old car down to a dealership and sell it, since mom does not drive. We thought we were going to be just us and dad; however, Mom met us at the steps with him and came with us, as happy as could be, which was wonderful – although I think her dad was a bit miffed over not having DreamWeaver to himself at the start. At the dealership, while dad haggled (and they made no gain off him!)DreamWeaver and mom got to visit. I hovered in the background and listened and it was a very moving conversation.
Mom was very open about the progression of her illness, and her meds and how the schizophrenia has impacted her life. Realize that she had been a school teacher with several degrees and certified to teach 7 subjects, specializing in math. To DreamWeaver’s dismay, her mom sadly admitted that she can no longer really read much or even do basic math because of meds and damage from the illness. And her Mom KNOWS what she has lost. It was very sad, and yet she was cheerful and delighted to be with her daughter and it was a deeply moving conversation to see between the two of them.After dad finished skinning the dealership, they wanted to take us out to lunch…which turned out to be miles away, up and over and around the Ozark foot hills to this little tiny Barbeque shop. The food was excellent!

The company however was disturbing. The man who owned the place was a long time friend of Dad’s and came out and sat and visited with us for about an hour after we ate – or rather visited with Dad, as we were all just sort of along for the ride on that conversation. Turns out the man had been a policeman as well down in Texas years ago, as DreamWeaver’s dad had been a policeman up North. They swapped tales of harassing “hippies” –laughing about shaving heads, hosing them down with fire hoses, taking their money and running them out of town broken, all the while complaining about the civil liberties laws that had stopped their “fun”. I was a little sick to my stomach, and Mom, DreamWeaver and I basically shut up and stayed as quiet as possible. It was a disturbing view of DreamWeaver’s father and not one I think that she had seen before. Things got better after we left the restaurant, and headed home.

They took us through areas that had been mowed flat by an F5 tornado the year before – the landscape was all twisted and battered and houses, or what little remained of them, were still torn apart and unrepaired. Eerie. So we got home after this to our little camp site and went gratefully to bed, only to be kept awake by one of the wildest rain and wind storms I have ever weathered in my life.

The wind howled down over the lake, battered the tent, scattered our extra tarps, and pulled one end of the tent up, taking the stakes right out of the ground! I expected to land in Oz at any moment! Somehow we managed to doze off despite the howling of the wind and the rattle of the tent and I awoke in the early morning – still pitch black dark, way before dawn, to unearthly silence. I tiptoed out of the tent, and saw a perfectly clear sky with a million stars over head right where I could reach out and touch them and the lake was so still it was mirror, reflecting every single point of light. It took my breath away!
But later, when I got up after sunrise, the next cloud mass had rolled in, and the sky was grey. That was Wednesday. And The Enlightened One and The Scientistshowed up about 9:00 am to pick us up to go caving. It turned out to be a delightful blessed day! The Scientist was wonderful, happy to meet us and hugged us both. The Enlightened One, who I first met years ago when he was 11 years old and watched grow up, was a cheerful young giant of about 6’3” and met both his Mom and me with enthusiastic bear hugs. We left and ran by Mom and Dad, so that they could see their grandson who they had not seen since he was a small child, and could meet The Scientist, and then we were on our way. We spent a few hilarious hours lost with a GPS navigator that steered us all over creation but where we needed to go, and then we got to Blanchard Springs Caverns. That was amazing for me – I had never been down in a cave before and it was strange and beautiful beyond belief; wonderful twisted landscapes with stalagmites and stalactites and massive pillars of living stone.
We stopped at the gift store and I got a stuffed toy bat to remember the trip by – so we are probably one of the few people who could come home from a primitive camping trip with more stuffed animals than when we started! LOL!
Then, lost again with the malfunctioning GPS – I swear it made me think of Hal from “2001; a Space Odyssey” – we finally arrived for supper at Jerry’s Famous Pizza. Now, this is not a chain restaurant. It is one of a kind, in the middle of NO where in the back roads of Arkansas. It has no website. It is listed in all sorts of travel pages, such as the National Geographic’s Travel guide and really is famous. And it was the absolute best pizza I have ever had in my life and I am something of a pizza connoisseur! Starving, we dug in and ate pizza until we were stuffed.
And then came the moment DreamWeaver and I had been dreading. Nothing had been said much about the wedding all the way through this excellent day, which was a rather glaring omission, given that these two wonderful people were getting married in 4 days. DreamWeaver was too shaken to say much, so I took a deep breath, and very gently, finally brought up the white elephant on the table. What were the plans for the wedding? Where did they want us to sit? Did they want both of us there? Would it be easier if we weren’t present?And The Enlightened One, with a sweet smile on his face, looked at his mom and said, “Mom, you will be seated as part of the wedding party, with the family. You are my parent. I want you there.”
DreamWeaver had tears running down her face, and I was elated. So I asked him, “What do you need me to do?” And he looked at me and smiled even larger and said “You and Mom are my parents. You will be seated as parents, with the family, both of you!” And at that point we about lost it! We were simply amazed! DreamWeaver asked him what his father thought of this, and Aaron grinned and said, well, he doesn’t know yet. I am going to explain this at the rehearsal. By the way, you are both invited to the rehearsal dinner and the rehearsal. That we declined. We said we figured he did not need us on the spot while he set this up with his dad, and he laughed and agreed. So, full of pizza and utter joy, we were dropped off at our campsite that evening and we finished our day with a camp fire and s’mores. (And that night with a second hammering thunder and lightening storm, but we were getting kinda of used to that and the tent did not leak once!)

However…we still had another visit with DreamWeaver’s parents to navigate, we were going to try to see DreamWeaver’s best friend from high school from 20 some odd years ago who was some what homophobic, and there was still the wedding looming ahead…which we figured was going to be interesting to say the least after The Enlightened One sprang this one on his dad Friday night. But that night around the fire, we enjoyed the feeling of being together and of knowing for certain that The Enlightened One and The Scientist loved us unconditionally, with out one scrap of homophobia or judgment.
And that is part one – yeah, it’s a cliff hanger to some degree, but it’s after 1:00 am and I have to get up early. So I will finish the tale tomorrow night…more to come.
…so off to bed we went after our campfire and s’mores and endure the second night of stormy weather we were to face. There wasn’t much wind associated with this one, but it was a lightening and thunder display I will not soon forget! Several times lightening must have struck the lake water beyond us for the bolt of light and the thunder to be that crushingly loud and simultaneously!
At one point I finally began to feel a drip of water and thought the tent had finally begun to leak under the onslaught, but then I realized that the zipper was a little open on the “window” at the end of the tent above us. I reached up and zipped it, and the leak mercifully stopped – our little canvass home was still intact.We slept in a little, and I awoke with the sun up and shining and the storm blown past. DreamWeaver had beaten me out of bed and was fixing breakfast and blessed hot chocolate which was a treat. We relaxed awhile, I cleaned the breakfast debris, and we went and grabbed showers.
From there we went back over to her parent’s house to spend the afternoon. Now, DreamWeaver had brought her jewelry making supplies (beaded necklaces and earrings) and set about making her mom 3 necklaces and matching earrings with her mom sitting and helping and picking out beads. Lovely bonding time for them. Her father kept hovering around the edges and rumbling about politics and I finally heaved a big internal sigh, and cornered him down at the other end of the room with the intent of holding him in conversation and giving Mom and DreamWeaver the time and space they needed for this. And they NEEDED it, because it was very healing to the strain on their relationship that the years of mom’s schizophrenia had created. I have to admit, I really wasn’t looking forward to an afternoon of juggling political conversation with her dad though. So, I tried a different tack. Her father had been a cop, who had become a Church of Christ minister. I asked him how was it that he was not in a church and was retired. And surprisingly what followed was one of the most wonderful conversations I have had in ages. He became a different man when he spoke of the Bible and his faith – a man filled with humility, gentleness and love, not the embittered paranoid wingnut we had been tiptoeing around for the past 4 days! I could scarce credit it! He very gently indicated that his retirement from the ministry had been due to his wife’s health and that I can totally believe. Being a minister’s wife is not compatible with struggling with paranoid schizophrenia and listening to DreamWeaver’s tales about that time, which was when mom’s illness worsened to the point of finally committing her and the diagnosis of her life long symptoms lead me to believe that it was a hellish time for the whole family. I can see why he retired, particularly since he is her sole care.
After he touched on that very briefly, he then began to talk about the Bible and some of the things he was studying and the conversation took off! Not to put to fine a point on it, I was raised in a Presbyterian church that took scripture memorization and knowledge very seriously, as did the Christian Schools I attended growing up. I KNOW my Bible, which I give thanks for because since I came out over the years, that knowledge has more than once given me the ability to talk myself out of a corner with someone out to “save” me from being gay. In this case, with DreamWeaver’s father, it was instead a joy of our shared love for God’s word. We both took turns quoting scripture and being delighted with the other’s ability to finish the verse or even quote the passage beyond it. We talked about faith and works and love and forgiveness, and the earthly church’s short comings. It was amazing…I went from gritting my teeth, expecting to have a tedious afternoon listening to conservative ranting, and instead was filled with joy and fellowship with this brother in Christ. I could barely believe it.

I don’t know where the break point is inside him with his bitterness and hate that he can spout, and the gentle loving retired minister whose heart is so filled with compassion. I suspect there is a great deal of personal pain and emotional damage to have so splintered him. I was simply very grateful to see the man that DreamWeaver had described to me all those years ago and to meet him at last. And never once did he broach homosexuality or turn the conversation that direction. Not once. And that is an interesting point. Remember, I have known DreamWeaver for almost 11 years. We were friends for years before we fell in love and became a couple. So DreamWeaver’s dad had heard of me in conversations for a long time, and he knows I am gay. Knew I was gay before DreamWeaver and I became more than friends. So his restraint and lack of confrontation was absolutely amazing. I don’t know too many ministers who would have passed up a shot like that, especially ones with an antigay website! All I know was, it was a blessed afternoon for all of us, and DreamWeaver and her mom enjoyed their time together as well.

Back we went to our little campsite and called DreamWeaver’s high school friend, to see about setting up a visit with her. We were also debating what to do the next night, Friday night before the wedding. We really didn’t want to try to get ready in the tent. We had done very well visiting with DreamWeaver’s parents but we knew it could get overloaded for her mom any moment, so we were wary about the idea of spending the night there or invading in a scramble to get ready for the wedding. And our slim cash flow looked a little thin for a hotel room. And here is where we got our second blessed shock, or was it the third or fourth? Her friend, upon hearing our situation, promptly invited us to come spend the night with her on Friday night! Remember, this is DreamWeaver’s friend that when DreamWeaver came out to her a few years ago by letter, wrote her a “homosexuality is evil and I will pray for you” letter, and then maintained her distance after that. So this was the LAST thing we had expected and not even considered!

Her friend also lived down in the little town where DreamWeaver grew up, which was on our way out and to the church. Gratefully we took her up on it and went home to our little tent much relieved, though a little apprehensive over staying the night with her. I fully expected to be sleeping on a couch somewhere or in a different room, but I would deal with that if I had to, under these circumstances. Our last night on the lake was the only night we had clear beautiful weather with the stars out all night long, and we got a good sound sleep uninterrupted by the elements! Which was a good thing; because we faced a huge task that morning when we awoke…packing up the campsite and stowing everything back into the little tiny Honda. Ooog.

Well, I was determined that however it went back into the car, somehow I was going to get us a little more rearview visibility out the back. I think I managed a little. I’d shove things around until I could not stand it, and sit and take a break while DreamWeaver took over. Then vice versa. The tent was the easiest thing to drop, thank goodness – we even managed the unbelievable and got it folded up back into its carry bag, correctly, like it was packed from the factory. That might qualify as a miracle unto itself! It took us a few hours, and we were hot and sweaty and mildly grumpy with inanimate objects by the end, but we managed without really losing our tempers, which after a week in a storm lashed tent and a tick infested campsite, I think was really amazing! I haven’t mentioned the ticks. I am not really going to talk about the ticks. I don’t even want to remember the ticks. Or the mosquitoes – which qualify as the Arkansas state bird in my opinion…with landing gear and lights! Little blood sucking vampires! A brief digression on the flora and fauna – plenty of both. We lost count of the deer we saw; we also saw a coyote, a (living) armadillo and tons of cheerful little frogs! We also developed a fondness for the lizard at the bathhouse that greeted us when we showered. We unfortunately saw way too many flattened road kill armadillos all along the way. Worse than possums in SC. So I count myself blessed to have seen a living one. As for plants – that state was solid ragweed from one end to the other! By the time we left DreamWeaver’s allergies had kicked into high gear and she is only now beginning to breathe normally. Note to self…next trip back, don’t go in the spring!

We finally had the car loaded, we showered and stopped by to retrieve our go-to-wedding clothes from her parents and say good bye. That was a little sad…it had turned out to be such a wonderful visit, unexpectedly, and I think it was hard on both sides to let go. They asked us to come back soon, next year if we could. Who knows…but we hugged them and finally got back on the road. We did find a Laundromat on the way out, and managed to get clothing clean. We called her friend to let her know we’d be there as soon as the dryers stopped spinning. She said we could have used her washer and dryer, until we pointed out we had six loads worth of smelly camping clothing, and she hastily backed down her offer which we thought was hilarious.

So we got on the road and got there in time for Pizza – which we had offered to pick up, but she wouldn’t hear of it, and already had it ready when we got there. We were fortunate to overlap with her son and daughter being there. Her daughter was doing her laundry before proudly heading off to her new apartment and had brought her little shiztu dog with her. The dog, Benton and I bonded and I was immediately drafted into throwing Benton’s rather slobbery tennis ball for him…repeatedly…all evening…every 30 seconds! The family was taking bets on who would tire first, the dog or me. I won. He finally took his ball and collapsed on the air conditioning vent to the cheers of everyone else who had never managed to slow him down before! But he was a really cute puppy!

Their son was also there very briefly – he was just graduated from college as a theater major and was leaving in the morning for a year long job in West Virginia as an actor with a theater troupe. I spent awhile talking with him about the theater, acting, back stage chaos (I have done a little of that) and productions we had seen. That included telling him about seeing “The Laramie Project” which he was familiar with and had also seen. Definitely a GLBT ally. Which was very cool! DreamWeaver and her friend had a great visit, which was very precious for both of them. I got to listen to a lot of school reminisces and gossip, which was fun! And then, very late with everyone needing to get up early, we got our sleeping gear and clothing out of the car.

And there came a moment I have to tell about. DreamWeaver called me to come outside to the car, so I went out and looked where she was pointing. In the field next to the house, were hundreds of thousands of Fireflies blinking and winking, until the night was constantly ablaze with the strobing light! It looked like the light of faery land come to earth, unearthly and immortally beautiful! I had only once in my life ever seen them like that before back in my own teens. DreamWeaver had never seen them like that. We stood there, arms around each other for I don’t know how long, entranced by the glowing fiery trails in the night. It was one more blessing, unlooked for, and treasured.

And, probably with anguished howls from those who are reading this runaway missive, I am going to break once more and finish it in a part three. I am starting another mural tomorrow, so I have to be able to get up and function in the morning. So stay tuned…And I will finish it in part three.


So…the day of the Wedding dawned. Debbie and her family had scattered to the four winds before we woke up due to work and travel schedules. We got up, got dressed. And yes…I wore a dress. I actually went and bought that dress just for this. Laurence should be posting a picture of the wedding party with me in a dress in it, as proof. �In fact…a momentary side trip backwards of several weeks before the trip…


The Story of the Dress

I was insisting on wearing a dress to Aaron and Kim’s wedding…I mean, things were tense enough without me strolling into the church in male or semi male attire, or even feminine pantsuits, seriously.

DreamWeaver, who is so femme she doesn’t even clock on anybody’s radar as gay unless I am standing next to her (we refer to me as the gay accessory…) was the one balking at me wearing the dress. Which is a real switch, because normally the butch/GID is going “over my dead body am I putting on a dress” while the femme is the one saying “it’s just for one morning, you can do this! It’s a really bad place to stick out…” DreamWeaver was horrified at the idea of asking her beloved GID partner to don a dress. And she insists that while I look really good in one, it’s just WRONG! I love her!

But I really, really felt that the situation called for some attempt to blend in with the natives, as it were. If nothing else, it was The Enlightened One and The Scientist's day. Everyone was to be looking at them and not at the defiant butch cross dressing in their midst. And with that point, I convinced her. HOWEVER, that does not mean that I went cheerfully to my fate as we stepped into Ross’s women’s department. I confess…I wanted to bolt. I growled. I whined. I groaned over some of the current (hideous) fashions. DreamWeaver, God bless her, alternately hugged me, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, or tossed selections left and right as they were discarded, with a gentle patience and humor. She is amazing! She finally herded me into the women’s dressing room with five selections against all odds, squeezed us into a changing stall and started tossing dresses on and off me.

We actually found two. (One summer weight that was spring green and that’s the one I wore to the wedding and one that would work around the seasons – funerals and weddings do occur, and sometimes you just gotta. Although, if people would just please manage to schedule marry’in’s or bury’in’s in the winter once in a while?! I have a kilt of Official SC tartan, hand sewn, and hand woven in Sky, that I love to wear. Spring/Summer, it’s right out though! Amazingly dense thick wool…) Having made my selections, I scrambled to the front, while DreamWeaver prudently gave me some space for a bit…or maybe she needed the space to avoid committing murder, I don’t know. Or maybe something caught her eye, shopping. At any rate, I made it to the registers up front, with 2 dresses, a blouse (went with one of the dresses, and some tops for DreamWeaver), total about 120.00 before tax. (And please note, we went through the tags and added it up, against our budget, so I KNOW that’s how much we had.)

I got to the registers and spotted the person working the far register…Mohawk, tattoos, piercings and all. Oh thank God, a normal human being! I went and got in her line! So I got up to her and plonked down the armful of fabric on the counter…and suddenly spotted the gay pride tattoo on her arm!!! Family! So I said to her – “You gotta understand…butch dyke buying dress for partners sons wedding…” She winced and replied “Oh I am so sorry! My sister got married last summer and made me wear a dress! I so get it!” So we laughed and commiserated and she rang up our purchases and said “Ok, that’ll be 69.45” My jaw dropped. I said, “Whoa, hold it! That’s about 120 dollars there, you hit the wrong button. Your registers gonna be screwed! Ring that up again!” She said, “OK.”, re-rang it all, and repeated “its 69.45.” and grinned at me. She had given me her employee discount, I saw it come up that time, and she refused to budge. So with heartfelt thanks to her, DreamWeaver and I went out of the store feeling that there is indeed a community and Family that we are a part of. And someday we will pay that forward! And that is the story of the dress.


Back to us in Arkansas…armed with directions and a severe case of nerves, we set out for the church. Aaron had not called and said that there were any problems, but he also had not called and reassured us that everything was ok either. Which could mean anything…we could get there and be seated amid severe frosty disapproval possibly at best. Not fun.We found the church. In we went to the front foyer. And there of course, wereDreamWeaver’s ex-husband/ The Enlightened One's dad, and his step mother, right there as we stepped in. They saw us…they lit up, smiled, came over, DreamWeaver's ex-husband HUGGED DreamWeaver and shook my hand, and his wife hugged us both!!!!

They were glad to see us, and directed us to get in line, “Come on, parents here…you go in first on the row, just make space!”Our jaws dropped in total shock. We don’t know what The Enlightened ONe DID, but as far as I am concerned, he should bottle it and sell it – they could end the war in Iraq in a week! The other thought that comes to mind (for those that catch the reference to the old movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”) was that these were the alien pods and the real people were stashed in the basement somewhere! I remember very clearly the level of hate and disapproval radiating off these two people 3 years ago when we went to the Marine, the older son’s wedding, and nothing we have encountered indirectly and directly over those years has ever indicated any change in this up until that moment! This might qualify as a Biblical miracle as far as we are concerned! We were also included, as parents, in the pictures afterwards with the grooms family! Simply amazing!
The wedding was beautiful, and simple and wonderful. The reception was also simple – they were going to Disney for their honeymoon, so the wedding cake topper was a Precious Moments couple wearing Mouseketeer ears! There was also a groom’s cake made of Twinkies that were made into little groomsmen and a bride with icing!We also stole a few minutes and saw The Enlightened One (in the reception area) and The Scientist in the dressing room (gorgeous bride!) before the wedding. And we ran into The Marine. Now, The Marine is the one who invited us to his and Patience’s wedding 3 years ago over violent disapproval, after being estranged from his mom for 5 years. Then months later, when his daughter Beauty was born, he had us come up and spend the weekend and see our granddaughter, Beauty. Then The Marine went off to Iraq for about 8 months. And when he came home, he backed away from us again, worse than before. We have not seen Beauty since she was born. And now her little brother Wisdom, who was born a few months ago – well, they did not call to let us know when he was born. We found out about 2 weeks after the fact when we checked on-line photos. The Marine refuses to have any contact and we maintain a tenuous connection through Patience who is caught in the middle of this.

Well, there was The Marine, in his gorgeous dress uniform as his brother’s best man. And DreamWeaver went up to him and hugged him before he really knew he was there. And he hugged her back so hard…and then stiffened and pulled away. And that’s kinda how it went the rest of the day…he would relax and be his old self with us (he hugged me) and then he would remember he wasn’t having anything to do with us, and would back away. It was painful to see and painful to experience. There is no doubt that he is confused, conflicted, loves his mom and yet doesn’t know what to do, and it is a torment to him. But that doesn’t change the fact that he is causing DreamWeaver deep pain, and is basically a very angry immature young man.

Beauty doesn’t have a clue who we are, or who DreamWeaver is. DreamWeaver was just that nice lady who spoke to her for a few minutes. No clue that is her grandmother. And The Marine and Patience never let DreamWeaver hold the baby. She only got to see him up close at all because I saw Patience with the baby in the carrier heading out of the church at the end and headed her off and talked to her until DreamWeaver caught up, and that’s how we got to see the baby. But not hold him.

Patince at that point, agonized over the situation, told us that the problem was – “no offense to you, Cameron, never, but –“ that we were gay. I laughed a little and said, “Um, DUH? We figured that out awhile back, Patience.” She told us that we could call her ANY time, whether or not The Marine was home, but that she could talk more freely if The Marine wasn’t there, and to please call. Ouch. Something tells me, she isn’t any happier than we are about the situation.And then everyone left, the bride and groom on a cloud of blown bubbles and well wishers in the lobby (and they snuck back to change clothes 15 minutes later, having evaded chasers and we got to hug them one more time), and it was over and we made our own escape. Phew!

The day went fabulously, beyond our wildest hopes, dreams or anticipation! With of course, the exception of The Marine, and the division from him and the grandchildren. It is so ironic, that 3 years ago we went to his wedding with so much hope for healing with him, and saw the beginning of that healing, only to see it die, and things become worse than before. A friend has raised the point that he is absolutely immersed in military culture…his relationship with his dad is also not easy (long story for another time, and maybe DreamWeaver’s place to tell It).

So the military is The Marine's all in all. And that puts him in a virulently homophobic environment, that is being rocked by the “don’t ask don’t tell” controversy. And he appears to have bought into it completely on top of whatever he may have absorbed from a conservative upbringing in Arkansas. That is a guess, but it is a shrewd guess, I think. I would welcome comments and thoughts on this.

So, our next stop was a gas station and five minutes later we were in blessed casual (and in my case, male) attire and rolling down the road to home. We plowed straight through to Memphis and caught a Jazz festival on Beale Street which was fantastic. Ate in a little restaurant with a wonderful singer. Then pushed on, and pretty much drove straight through the night (with a couple of nap spots in safe places) until we arrived in Montgomery, Alabama. Which was a little bit of a different route, but we went for a reason.

This past semester in my Art History class, I did a report and power point presentation on Maya Lin’s Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Maya Lin is the brilliant artist and architect who designed the Vietnam War Memorial in the early1980’s, and has gone on to produce many other powerful works, some that continue this connection to social and political issues and have become activist statements. In Montgomery, Alabama, around the corner from the church where Dr. King served as pastor during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955-1956, and the capitol steps where the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march ended in 1965, the soft sound of running water heralds the approach to the Civil Rights Memorial Center where Maya Lin’s water table stands. It is a waist high inverted cone of black granite; the polished surface of the base serves as the “table top”.

Carved into the surface around the edge are the names of the people who died in the civil rights movement between 1934 and 1968 as well as the events that took place in those dramatic years. Across the names and places and dates, runs water, reflecting literally and figuratively the words of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Biblical quote from the book of Amos, “…until Justice rolls down like waters and Righteousness like a mighty stream.” And DreamWeaver and I HAD to see it! Particularly after being ringside for the Soul Force Bus Ride at Bob Jones!

Of course, when we got there, it was raining. No, let me correct that. It was pouring! And we had the place to ourselves. So, me being me…I proved that I did not have the sense to come in out of the rain, bailed out of the car, as is, no rain gear and lost myself in the site and the water streaming down the black wall, walking around the table, reading the inscriptions of those who died and those who triumphed, known and unknown, letting my hands trail through the water flowing over the table (which is how Maya Lin wants it to be experienced – by touch.)

And DreamWeaver being who she is, decorously came up with a rain poncho and an umbrella and got pictures (and also ran her hands through the water and over the black wall). We both had tears in our eyes. I looked at the gay pride bracelet on my wrist against the stark black granite of the Civil Rights Memorial and wondered if the GLBT community will ever have a memorial, and if maybe someday, Maya Lin could design ours…

From there it was simply a reverse. We stopped back in with The Fiber Geek and Cat in Atlanta, going in, as we had going out, and reached home mid-Monday afternoon, a little over a week after we left. And that is the great road trip of 2009! Our next goal is a short camping trip maybe before fall semester down state in SC to see Brookgreen Gardens over a weekend…a true vacation, just for us (and our stuffed animals and our tent.) without anybody else’s agenda or drama driving us. Until then…school starts next week and I am painting on a new mural, DreamWeaver is working and seeing clients, and we are back into our everyday life we love and share together.

Blessings to all!

1 comment:

  1. It astounds me that all of that fit into a week. The range of emotions and how The Enlightened One involved you both in the wedding are amazing.
    Again, the story of the dress makes me warm and fuzzy.