Monday, December 10, 2018

Siblings, by Ricky

Before I was born, “It was a very good year. It was a very good year for small town girls [mother] and soft summer nights” [dad got her pregnant in October]. Mom and Dad hid the pregnancy from everyone by getting married in November, 1947, before it became obvious she was with child [a big scandal back then]. Immediately after, they moved from Minnesota to Lawndale, California.

After 8 months of pregnant pauses, I was born on the 9th of June 1948, another very good year for small little boys just entering the world. My mother’s sister told me about 40 years later, that I was supposed to be half of a set of twins, but sometime during the 8 months prior to my birth, the other half was spontaneously aborted. No one knew why, but I do. The first reason was two in the womb is very crowded and there was no privacy. That fact combined with the second reason ("The Other" was a straight homophobic bully) was justification for me to kick him out of my wombicile. Some may call this fratricide but I call it interior remodeling. Thus, I was born an only child. So like Harry Potter, I was the boy who lived.

The next seven years passed quickly. Mother reported all my shenanigans to my dad who was the disciplinarian in their relationship. I got lots of spankings as I was rather headstrong. So, after stresses became too much for them to handle, my parents decided to divorce in 1955 without telling me or me being aware of the impending disaster to be fall me. At the beginning of the summer of 1956 just before my 8th birthday, I was sent to live with my mother’s parents on their farm in central Minnesota. In the summer of 1957 I turned 9 and my mother came to Minnesota to attend the wedding of her sister. I thought she would take me back home to California but she would not/could not. In December at Christmas vacation from school, at age 9 ½ my father came to Minnesota for one week during Christmas and New Year’s Day. The night before he left, without me, he told me of the divorce, that mom had remarried, was pregnant with twins due to be born any day now, and I had a step-brother age 14 ½. In May, 1958, Mom and my step-father brought the twins to Minnesota to show off to my grandparents and to finally bring me back to California in a new home and family situation.

My step-brother, Gene, and I got along really well considering the difference in ages. We could talk and play together well enough. We never argued or fought. We took turns caring for the twin babies as they grew until he had to go into the Navy. He was on the USS Ticonderoga, the aircraft carrier involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident which propelled President Johnson into escalating the Vietnam (undeclared) War.

Gene survived the Navy experience and led a normal life. He married and fathered a daughter. He worked hard, unlike me, and passed away about 5-years ago.

The twins also grew and we talked, played, and had fun together. I loved them a lot. They both grew and prospered in the normal ways. Dale also went into the Navy and survived and eventually married a woman who had four nearly grown teen and a preteen girls. He never had children of his own. He passed away four years ago. Gale is still alive and living in her home in South Lake Tahoe. She had two children who spawned several kids of their own and she now has about 10 grandchildren. All of my siblings and I went to school at South Lake Tahoe. (Gene for 4-years of high school, me from 5th grade to first year of college, Dale and Gale from K-12th grades.)

Of course my children and grandchildren are all siblings to each other respectively. One daughter is currently working for McDonald’s at their headquarters in central Chicago in the Computer Security Department for a 6-figure salary. The next daughter is working for a law firm in the Denver Tech Center area. My son is married and working somewhere in New York but lives in New Jersey. He has two children, a boy and a girl. My youngest daughter is in the Air Force in Tucson, Arizona. She also is married and has four children, three girls and one boy. All of my children are very close and are frequently communicating with each other. Family life doesn’t get much better than that.
© 10 December 2018 

 About the Author 

I was born in June of 1948 in Los Angeles, living first in Lawndale and then in Redondo Beach.  Just prior to turning 8 years old in 1956, I was sent to live with my grandparents on their farm in Isanti County, Minnesota for two years during which time my parents divorced.

When united with my mother and stepfather two years later in 1958, I lived first at Emerald Bay and then at South Lake Tahoe, California, graduating from South Tahoe High School in 1966.  After three tours of duty with the Air Force, I moved to Denver, Colorado where I lived with my wife and four children until her passing away from complications of breast cancer four days after the 9-11-2001 terrorist attack.

I came out as a gay man in the summer of 2010.   I find writing these memories to be therapeutic.

My story blog is:

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

When I Identified, by Phillip Hoyle

In college I was studying to be a minister and a musician. I had been in preparation for both for years in a family deeply involved in the church’s work of education, administration, eldership, and music. In this last category Dad was the church organist and all of us kids sang in church and school choirs. In undergraduate years I studied Bible and theology and eventually added a major in sacred music. Choral and vocal music were my great passion. I also liked teaching although not preaching.

Identifying just where I would work in the church showed me how much I treasured the music and educational ministries. I worked hard in these areas for years directing choirs, developing music libraries, writing curriculum resources, organizing special events, supporting time-worn groups like Sunday School, teacher training, Bible studies, and the like. I organized drama programs, directed musicals, planned special services and events, especially around holidays. I excelled in and enjoyed such work. I also did pastoral work, for example, making hospital calls, visits to care homes, marrying couples, burying the dead, memorializing people who figured large in the congregation or completely unknown to me. I preached but never identified as a preacher.

In seminary I learned that the Master of Ministry degree was the last surviving graduate professional degree designated as ‘generalist’. Given my experiences in several churches before I attended seminary, that idea seemed an apt description. While I liked the wide variety of work it demanded, I found myself more and more drawn to the artistic parts of events. If a design called for crafts, my goal was to make them art projects with freedom. I thought that this was the best way to communicate with children something lasting and religious. I wanted the kids to learn things they couldn’t forget and learn skills as well as information. So I planned art projects and eventually wanted to do that work myself beginning with collage, graduating to mixed media, drawing, and eventually painting. I attended art workshops. I enjoyed art for myself as well as for my church related work.

In Albuquerque, Cecelia Daniels, a woman in the congregation, gave me a book telling me she wanted to teach it with me. I read the book but didn’t really like Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way with its workshop approach and New Age and sometimes magical idea. I knew that Cecelia had years of training in group process and sensitivity training. I wanted to learn from her more than I wanted to teach. The thirteen weeks of the course somewhat changed my self-understanding. It also facilitated changes in other participants. Cameron’s Artistic Recovery spoke to me. While I hated the affirmations Cameron insisted I use daily, I wrote them anyway, even the one: “I, Phillip Hoyle, am a brilliant and prolific artist.” I forced myself to affirm that idea daily for many years always thinking: I’m not so sure about brilliant or prolific. (I still write it occasionally and still get emotionally stopped.) I know the problem is that I was a musician who didn’t really think of himself as an artist, a writer who didn’t think of himself as an artist. I realized I was always an artist mustered the courage to identify myself as one.

Identification as an artist was just as much a challenge to me as identifying myself as bisexual.

OH, this story was about WHEN.

I realized I was in love with a man when I was 30 years old. That was 40 years ago. I realized I was an artist when I was around 40 years old. Of course there were hints years before related to both identities. I wonder: is coming out or coming in or coming to really all that difficult? I suspect so, AND I suspect there are more identities to be adopted in the years to come. I just hope I’ll be sentient enough, brash enough, and happy enough to make them.

© 25 June 2018

About the Author

Phillip Hoyle lives in Denver and spends his time writing, painting, and socializing. In general he keeps busy with groups of writers and artists. Following thirty-two years in church work and fifteen in a therapeutic massage practice, he now focuses on creating beauty. He volunteers at The Center leading the SAGE program “Telling Your Story.”

He also blogs at

Monday, July 30, 2018

Running Away, by Gillian

I thought about this in the sense of escaping, but we're going to write about escape in a very few weeks so I'll skip that idea.

So now what? I guess I'll just have to re-cover some old ground and pepper it with quotations to make it seem more interesting!

Writing or talking of my mad dash from the closet, I have often likened it to hurtling along on a runaway train over which I had little, if any, control. It was almost as if I had never actually made that conscious decision to come out, although of course I had, at some level. But it didn't feel like that. It simply felt as if some wild-west movie train with a big old cow-catcher on the front had scooped me up and run away with me. (As Kimberly McCreight says, in Reconstructing Amelia, 'Sometimes its hard to tell how fast the current's moving until you're headed over a waterfall.''') I had no objection, but I was just along for the ride until we got wherever we were going. Doug Cooper, in Outside In, asks, 'Am I running away or moving forward?' It's difficult to feel firmly that you are moving forward when you have very little vision of where you are going. Yet in a way, I did know. I knew I was going to be openly gay. What I did not know was what exactly that meant. But that was not truly having no destination; rather it was having no experience or knowledge of that destination. As Glenda Millard says, in A Small Free Kiss in the Dark, 'Running away was easy; not knowing what to do next was the hard part.'

As a child I never remember harboring thoughts of running away, or wanting to. On the other hand I was often accused of letting my imagination run away with me. Thinking back on that now, it sounds very like a somewhat passive form of running away; which, in turn, sounds typical of me - back to the cowcatcher and that runaway train. I seem to have a pattern of allowing things to happen to me rather than proactively forcing the pace.

And, as I continue thoughts along that vein, that seems still to be true. Now it is time constantly running away with me. I am not running away from or towards anything. Life is close to perfect right where I am. But alas time is not content to let me be. Time rushes headlong at me from the moment I put a foot on the floor in the morning. It grabs me up and rushes me through the day. I am by nature an early riser; nevertheless before I have even planned my day it is lunchtime and before I actually start anything it's suppertime which means it's almost bedtime. Life is one constant rush to keep up with itself.

Why does it do that when we are running out of time, anyway? Surely time should slow down in order to preserve as much as possible of what is left; but no, off it speeds in a rush towards the point where it, or at least our portion of it, will, inevitably, run out.

And on that cheery note I shall give up on this topic. But I want one erudite end quote; something that will anchor my ramblings with style. I don't even have to turn to The Web, I already have the perfect words stored midst the jumble of quotations in my head.

“How did it get so late so soon?
It's night before it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”

Dr. Suess

© March 2018

About the Author

I was born and raised in England. After graduation from college there, I moved to the U.S. and, having discovered Colorado, never left. I have lived in the Denver-Boulder area since 1965, working for 30 years at IBM. I married, raised four stepchildren, then got divorced after finally, in my forties, accepting myself as a lesbian. I have been with my wonderful partner Betsy for thirty years. We have been married since 2013.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Leaving, by Betsy

My cycling adventure, an amazing trip across the country in 2005, has given me endless material for story time. Once again I call on my journal to remind me of the many places we found ourselves leaving and the experiences which followed the many “leavings” that took place. Leaving Dog Beach in San Diego, the tour’s place of origin, was by far the most exciting departure from anywhere that I can recall ever making. Reading from my journal: “Saturday, March 20: The first day we left from Dog Beach. We dipped our tires in the Pacific Ocean, rode out of San Diego and started up the coastal range. This was a 33 mile ride. It was a day of city traffic and then climbing. We climbed almost 2000 feet.” There are a couple of places where it was too steep for me to ride, so I had to walk, pushing my bike. This was the first of many such walks on this trip. Cycling clip-in shoes are not designed for walking. They have metal devises installed on the soles that clip into devises on the pedals. Once on the bike, shoes clipped to pedals, one is not stuck in this clipped-in position as a quick flick of the ankle releases you from the pedals. It turns out this is ever so handy when you come to a stop and have to put your foot on the ground.

Back to the journal: “Glenda, who is our oldest member—I thought I was the oldest—Glenda didn’t want anyone to know how old she was. She disclosed her secret to the Fox News people when they were interviewing us at the start of the trip on Dog Beach. Fox News is a bad choice when revealing something you don’t want anyone else to know. I guess she couldn’t resist the notoriety of being the most …whatever.” I remember how cold I was when we arrived at our first night’s stop—a place called Alpine, CA. Our accommodations provided a Jacuzzi which was most welcome. Another memorable departure on that cycling adventure happened a couple of weeks into the trip.

It was Sunday morning, April 3rd. We had been instructed the night before by our leader Susan as follows: “Now ladies, I know we are all tired having just completed a 90 mile ride today. But I want you to be alert enough to remember to turn your clocks back one hour as we switch to day light saving time at midnight. Now be sure to get up an hour early because we will lose an hour tomorrow. We have a long ride and i want everyone in before dark.” Yawning and stretching we all promised we would get with the correct time. We obediently turned our clocks back before going to sleep. Up an hour early in the morning and it’s pitch dark. Now breakfast is over and it’s time to saddle up and leave. We never leave in the dark. But we know we must because our leader told us we would lose an hour today so dark or not, we better get on the road. We LOSE an hour today. Let’s get going. Wait, a couple of the women have tires that went flat over night. That creates a serious delay for several of us. We need about 5 women to hold flashlights while four women fix the two flats. We’re finally leaving and it’s still dark.

It was about mid-morning coffee time, at the first SAG stop. After a few sips of the beloved beverage, it dawned on just about everyone at the same time: we actually gain an hour today. This is spring. Spring forward, right. We were supposed to turn our clocks forward an hour. We could have stayed in bed an extra hour. Where is leader Susan? I want to kill her. Moral of that story. Just because you are paying your leader to direct you, doesn’t mean you turn off your brain completely. We rode across 8 different states. That meant leaving California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi on our bicycles. I clearly remember celebrating our entry into a new state at the end of the day with drinks at dinner. Except for the state’s welcome sign on the road, leaving one state and entering another was more of the same: pedal, pedal, pedal. But it was exciting and satisfying to be able to mark our progress with a huge sign on the road as we rode out of Texas: “Welcome to Louisiana.” This was especially true after pedaling for nearly three weeks as we journeyed through the endless countryside. We thought Texas would never end. Texas was full of exciting encounters, however. First there was the border patrol outside of El Paso. We cyclist were not suspect, but Bo Peep our SAG wagon was stopped and searched. The search took a long time, too. That vehicle was full of supplies. Fortunately nothing suspicious. In Texas we encountered every kind of terrain and environmental condition known to man: mountain passes, magnificent wildflowers, dessert flat, wind, rain , heat, cold, cities, wide open roads with nothing in sight except fields and more road. The scenic terrain of the Texas Hill Country may not have been the longest or highest in elevation, but those hills were definitely the steepest. One thing that remained the same throughout the state of Texas was the rough surface of the roads. This I found to be very annoying and hard on my aging joints. “Chip-seal” they called it. I called it cheap road surface. For this one reason I was thrilled when we arrived at our last Texas stop. Tomorrow we would leave Texas. We were at our Super 8 Motel in a small town in East Texas having our usual evening map meeting to prepare for the next day’s ride. We were told by Susan to be alert when riding in Louisiana, the state we would enter tomorrow just after crossing the Sabine River. “ Louisiana has lots of dogs,” she warned—“loose dogs.

There are no laws requiring people to keep their dogs under control in Louisiana. They love to run out at you and nip at your ankles.” “Oh dear,” I thought. “I think maybe I’ll bargain for more rough road in preference to loose, angry dogs. “Just look them in the eye and firmly yell ‘NO.” was Susan’s advise. Our leader’s counsel did nothing to ease my anxiety at the time, but I found on the couple of occasions when the foreseen event actually took place, the firm ‘no’ worked.

Leaving Texas felt good that time. A few weeks later leaving the Florida panhandle and approaching the Atlantic coast felt different. It was bittersweet. We were all aware this adventure was coming to an end. At this point in Florida I was having trouble focusing on anything other than pushing my pedals. Again from my journal: “It hasn’t fully registered in my head the fact that we have just ridden across the country 3165 miles. I expect it will sink in at some point, or maybe not. It’s a bit overwhelming. No question about it, it was the trip of a lifetime and a most extraordinary experience and a most extraordinary group of people.” Over the 58 days we made 52 departures from locations across eight different states. On those early morning departures, I was never more motivated to leave a place and so totally focused on arriving at the next place. I’m glad I have the day to day journal of the trip. I’m also grateful for the occasional appropriate story time topic to push me to get out the journal and relive some of the magical moments.

© 7 November 2016

About the Author

Betsy has been active in the GLBT community including PFLAG, the Denver Women’s Chorus, OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change), and the GLBT Community Center. She has been retired from the human services field for 20 years. Since her retirement, her major activities have included tennis, camping, traveling, teaching skiing as a volunteer instructor with the National Sports Center for the Disabled, reading, writing, and learning. Betsy came out as a lesbian after 25 years of marriage. She has a close relationship with her three children and four grandchildren. Betsy says her greatest and most meaningful enjoyment comes from sharing her life with her partner of 30 years, Gillian Edwards.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Springtime, by Ricky

It is written that in the springtime a young man’s heart turns to romance and love. Who are we kidding? It turns to sex. Romance and love may follow, but not always. To be completely honest, once puberty strikes, a male’s mind (not heart) turns to sex all year long. Any season is highly conducive for the event to be accomplished.

Unfortunately, I am no longer young enough or my heart strong enough to enjoy springtime in the Rockies, except for the 1942 movie. So instead, my heart and my mind take flights of fancy. Fancy this or fancy that or just fancysizing that I am young again revisiting the happy times and events of my past. Or, perhaps I should say the way way past.

Nonetheless, it really is spring and if my autumn, if not winter, memory was any better, I would probably be making a fool of myself while walking down the sidewalk. How? By fancying that set of broad shoulders, those tan legs, cute faces, kissable pouty lips, and gorgeous blue eyes (no offence to you brown and hazel eyed people it is just that I like blue) and flirting with a tall, dark, and handsome server at the Irish Snug. Oh. Wait a minute, that last one I actually do. So maybe my memory is still a summer memory, but I am just as foolish.

© 16 April 2018

About the Author

I was born in June of 1948 in Los Angeles, living first in Lawndale and then in Redondo Beach. Just prior to turning 8 years old in 1956, I began living with my grandparents on their farm in Isanti County, Minnesota for two years during which time my parents divorced.

When united with my mother and stepfather two years later in 1958, I lived first at Emerald Bay and then at South Lake Tahoe, California, graduating from South Tahoe High School in 1966. After three tours of duty with the Air Force, I moved to Denver, Colorado where I lived with my wife and four children until her passing away from complications of breast cancer four days after the 9-11 terrorist attack.

I came out as a gay man in the summer of 2010. I find writing these memories to be therapeutic.

My story blog is

Monday, July 23, 2018

Keyhole, by Phillip Hoyle

These days I sometimes have trouble fitting the key into the keyhole. Luckily, since retirement, I carry only one rather ordinary key. The problem is not with our front door lock. No, it’s the specialized keys that cause me the greatest challenge, like those on the free lockers at the Denver Art Museum. The funny key doesn’t want to go in either way I try, upside or down. I’m sure it’s due to my rather clumsy ways and inaccurate perception of angles. But I persist and do eventually get the key in, retrieve my backpack and the refunded quarter as well.

But another meaning of keyhole intrigues me. I recall as a child hoping to peek through a keyhole and see something unusual. Could one solve a mystery with just one peek? I looked but never saw anything interesting. If I knew the room already, the view was too focused. If I didn’t know it, I had no idea what I was looking at. But these were mostly childhood games of imagination.

My fascination with exotic places, one fed by my constant reading, took me around the world in my mind, introduced me to new cultures, customs, and costumes. Of course such views were limited to keyhole glimpses. I wanted more. I kept reading. I had a few other experiences living in an army town, where I appreciated my schoolmates, quite a few who came from or had lived in other countries, ones who sometimes looked and dressed differently. I liked that; I liked them. I scoured National Geographic magazines whenever they were available. I found myself engaged rather than put off by difference.

But was I only deluded? Was I making keyhole peeks to see only what I thought was there? I’m sure in many ways the answer is yes. That seems to be the way things are. But I kept looking, reading, and saying ‘hi’ to the unusual. I liked life in Kansas but still kept looking around through keyholes and kept scanning the horizon.

Here there is a larger story. By here I mean in this very room where LGBTQA folk tell their stories. Telling Your Story gatherings provide keyhole glimpses into other people’s perspectives and lives. Along with the public libraries and local museums, I count our weekly storytelling my greatest Denver life gift. I like providing these glimpses, but mostly I love hearing them, each one an invitation to see a wider world.

Recently I sent one of the stories I had told this group to the writing critique group I am a part of. The varied responses surprised me. Of course, that group’s purpose is to figure out what the piece is about, advise the writer what the reader found effective, and to share questions raised by the story or some detail in it—in that order. I was surprised to find that questions about my actions (as well as my writing) came in the opening statements. Somehow my behaviors in midlife seemed so bad they had to be confronted from the beginning. I’ll not go into the content of that here, but I thought how different that was compared with this SAGE group’s reactions when I first read the story. The discussion in the critique group was lively. In it one participant suggested that perhaps her reaction came from not knowing how to write to an LGBT audience. As the talk continued, another exasperated person said, “I feel like I’ve become the Church Lady.”

I became acutely aware how different were the responses of the two groups. In saying these things I’m not critical of my critique group’s insights or of their rather visceral reactions. Of course, I have done things that have not been good. I just thought moral issues were differentiated from writing issues and separated from them. Maybe what they saw through the keyhole of that story surprised them. Of course I forgive them. They’re nice people and one of them is certainly as queer as I am.

I do believe that assumptions get in the way for some readers and listeners when the experiences described seem too different. Prejudice has a lot to do with that as does the keyhole effect of not seeing the larger picture. Glimpses can give only micro views.

But then I remember I’ve always liked the peculiar, had long hoped someday to say with Dorothy, “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

© 16 July 2018

About the Author

Phillip Hoyle lives in Denver and spends his time writing, painting, and socializing. In general he keeps busy with groups of writers and artists. Following thirty-two years in church work and fifteen in a therapeutic massage practice, he now focuses on creating beauty. He volunteers at The Center leading the SAGE program “Telling Your Story.”

He also blogs at

Friday, July 20, 2018

Escape, by Pat Gourley

Ah, escape, the act of breaking free. This word could well be one more synonym for “coming out”. This does seem to be a recurring theme, if one chooses to so interpret, for many of our Story Telling topics. It may be stretching a metaphor, something I seem at times to excel at, but I think we can view our LGBT Community Center here in Denver as an escape hatch and participation in this group for many as an accelerant. For me personally it has not been so much an accelerant as a re-fueling station. Story Telling has been a validation for me that what started in the mid-1970’s, thanks to the hard work and dedication of a small cadre of like-minded queer folk, was certainly worth the effort. I was not part of that initial group but did hitch my wagon to the Center in 1976.

Areas many of us LGBTQ folks have had experience trying to escape are the mental health issues we face in significantly greater proportions than the non-Queer community. Many of us have had very significant issues with depression, anxiety, addiction and suicide. The suicide rates remain, for LGBTQ youth in particular, disturbingly high even in this supposed age of post-liberation. The Trans community in particular is at grave risk for both suicide and murder.

Mental health issues among LBGTQ people are complex and in need of contextualization, intersectionality analysis and exploration with knowledgeable queer professional providers. It would be nice to see these issues addressed with the same depth and vigor that the sexual habits and health of gay men have been addressed in the last 40 plus years. Yes, certainly HIV was and remains a strong incentive to address how we fuck and the potential consequences of that but I must wonder about the very significant current and historical carnage from unaddressed mental health needs. These issues were prematurely thinning our numbers centuries before HIV came along and continue to this day.

A word of caution though in addressing depression in particular involves you and your provider not simply reaching for a pill or pills to address the problem. I am in no way saying that anti-depression medications do not serve a role and have been actual lifesavers for many. Do though proceed with caution, often easier said than done in our extremely fucked-up health care system so dominated by Big Pharma.

I read an interesting article in the NYT Sunday morning about how hard it is for many people to get off of antidepressants. They focused primarily on the difficulty some people had specifically getting off of Zoloft and Cymbalta.

I’ve included a link to the article since I think it is important that the whole thing be read by anyone considering stopping their antidepressant or for that matter whether or to start one. This might be a great article to take to your mental health provider or primary care person if you think issues of depression are something that need to be addressed for you personally. It might piss them off a bit but they will get over it or you will hopefully find a new provider, though admittedly not an easy task in the current health care environment in this country.

Another piece I ran across in writing this was an article in The Guardian from May of last year by a fellow named Alexander Leon. He argues that we should be and I quote “ defiant in our acceptance of mental health problems in the same way we would about our sexuality or gender identity”.

A link to the piece:

Rather than describe our mental health issues as weakness, or perhaps a reason to seek out conversion therapy, a healthier and more spot on way to look at these issues is as “battle scars” to be addressed, a term used by Leon in the Guardian article. What is really remarkable is that so many of us have survived an at times unrelenting societal onslaught since an early age as a result of our budding identities. I am a firm believer that pharmaceuticals may sometimes play a role in addressing these battle scars but they should always be used in conjunction with strong Queer community support. So welcome one and all to SAGE Story Telling at the LGBT Community Center of Colorado and a grand escape from the often at times suffocating “hetero-normative” world we are born into.

© April 2018

About the Author

I was born in La Porte, Indiana in 1949, raised on a farm and schooled by Holy Cross nuns. The bulk of my adult life, some 40 plus years, was spent in Denver, Colorado as a nurse, gardener and gay/AIDS activist. I have currently returned to Denver after an extended sabbatical in San Francisco, California.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

When I Knew, by Nicholas

Don’t you get tired of being asked, well, when did you know? I don’t know. Or, I always knew. When did you know? 

You know how it goes. If I knew then what I know now would I have done what I did? Or would I have done it sooner? 

When I knew was when I knew enough to know that I didn’t want to know. 

When I knew was when I noticed that my eyes were drawn to seeing men and that women were just walking by.

When I knew was when I began to see those men when they weren’t around. 

When I knew was when I began to see those men when my eyes were closed. 

When I knew was when I was out with a date and she gazed longingly at me while I was thinking: I should go. 

When I knew was when I saw men ballet dancers doing beautiful things with their beautiful bodies. Swaying, leaping, turning, lunging.

When I knew was when I saw a picture in the newspaper of men mourning the passage of a referendum rescinding a civil rights ordinance in St. Paul, Minnesota. I wanted to be with them.

When I knew was when I said to myself: I am goddam sick of being alone.

When I knew was when I walked up to the booth for Gay Rights at the Ohio state fair and said, I’m with you.

When I knew was when I knew I wanted to love those men.

When I knew was when I knew I wanted to be loved by those men.

When I knew was when a friend, soon to be a boyfriend, held me in his arms and got me naked. I’ve been naked ever since.

When I knew was when I a stranger walked into a Dignity meeting and said: God, I’m home.
That’s when I knew

© 2 April 2018

About the Author

Nicholas grew up in Cleveland, then grew up in San Francisco, and is now growing up in Denver. He retired from work with non-profits in 2009 and now bicycles, gardens, cooks, does yoga, writes stories, and loves to go out for coffee.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Rolling Thunder, by Gillian

My mother was peeling potatoes. I was standing beside her shelling peas. It was not a dark and stormy night, but it was a relatively dark and very stormy morning. As we prepared Sunday lunch the thunder crashed above us, echoing up and down the valley where we lived as it always did. My dad came into the kitchen, saying, as he always did when it thundered,

"By 'eck, 'ear that thunder rrrroll."

(I chose this topic because I wanted to be able to say that! It wasn't until I returned home after a year's absence that I realized how strong a Welsh accent my father had. Of course, in my own defense, he was a man of so few words that perhaps it was not so surprising that I had never noticed his accent. By 'eck, 'ear that thunder rrrroll was about as verbose as he ever got!)

Mum and Dad and I all loved thunder storms. But this time my mother got a bit carried away in her enthusiasm and, potato peeler still in hand, opened the outside door to get a better look. Well, my mother never was the most practical of people! Simply opening the door invited the lightning bolt right in. It hit the knife blade, burned across the floor from Mum's feet to the chimney corner, up the wall and it was gone. It happened so fast we might have thought we imagined it except for the black scorched trail it left behind. My mother felt nothing and, though speechless with surprise, was unhurt.

That little incident might, I suppose, have dampened my enthusiasm for thunder storms but it did not. Roaming around this country in our camper van for twenty years, Betsy and I have sat in many a campground, cozy inside our van, reveling in the thunder crashes and the lightning flashes, the rain streaming down the windows as the van rocked in the howling wind. We watched smugly as the poor unfortunate tent campers struggled, out in the pouring rain, to prevent their wildly flapping tents from taking flight and chased rolling camp-chairs through the trees. The most memorable that I recall was on a hilltop in Missouri from which there was a spectacular 360 degrees view. In any direction we looked, countless streaks of lightning ripped across the angry black sky, the lightning flashes lighting up the night all around us. It really was breathtaking.

I still love thunder storms, and still greet then eagerly, but must confess that in recent years they have tended to come, around here anyway, with accompanying hail storms which a do not welcome. They can be so damaging to so many things, not the least of which is one's bank account.

Whenever I hear a good clap of serious thunder, I immediately hear my dad's voice rejoicing.

"By 'eck, 'ear that thunder rrrroll!"

But sadly my love of the expression rolling thunder was dampened during the Vietnam War, when Operation Rolling Thunder consisted of a sustained aerial bombardment of North Vietnam lasting from 1965 to 1968. During that period it is estimated that we killed approximately 72,000 North Vietnamese civilians. Of course, I really had to dig to find those numbers. We rarely hear of actual human beings dying. We hear that during Operation Rolling Thunder we dropped 864,000 tons of bombs on the North, inflicting physical damage valued at $370 million. Nice clean unemotional impersonal statistics, proudly proclaimed under the inoffensive name Rolling Thunder.

Of course none of this began or ended with Vietnam. I am no military historian - nor do I want to be - but I think this practice of naming military operations began in World War Two for purposes of secrecy. And of course it involved many countries, not just the U.S. The Allies had operations under such harmless names as Primrose and Croquet, Stonewall and Teardrop. The Nazis had Wonderland, Rainbow, Reindeer and Buffalo. At least I can understand the need for secrecy, but today there is nothing secret about these operational names. Rather we shout them out for the world to hear, these harmless-sounding names. Desert Storm suggested nothing worse than a little blowing sand. Valiant Guardian, in Iraq, had something of the kindly uncle about it. Operation Crescent Wind in Afghanistan, an effort to bomb hell out of The Taliban, is suggestive of nothing more violent than a gentle parasail above the cliffs. If we called these Operations what they really are, they would boast names like Operation Spreading Terror or Operation Killing Anything That Moves. But we sanitize everything. We don't murder innocent civilians. Instead we have collateral damage. Miriam-Webster defines collateral as: secondary, subordinate, indirect. I'll bet it doesn't seem any of those things to those who become collateral damage.

Good Lord, how on earth did I get so far off track? I suggested, and then chose, the anodyne topic of Rolling Thunder in order to have a gentle trip down Memory Lane. But somewhere I took a wrong turn and ended up in The Land of Ranting and Raving.


The End

© November 2017

About the Author

I was born and raised in England. After graduation from college there, I moved to the U.S. and, having discovered Colorado, never left. I have lived in the Denver-Boulder area since 1965, working for 30 years at IBM. I married, raised four stepchildren, then got divorced after finally, in my forties, accepting myself as a lesbian. I have been with my wonderful partner Betsy for thirty years. We have been married since 2013.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Eye of the Storm, by Phillip Hoyle

I must have entered into the relationship through the eye of the storm. Our connection was pacific, even inspiring at the beginning, but somehow the eye passed and I found myself caught up in a hurricane of problems.

The calm beauty of our first nights together featured a sexual exploration like I had never before experienced, the two of us touching, responding, initiating, enjoying a reciprocal openness and delight. That second morning when I had to leave early—well 3:00 a.m.—to feed my visiting family, he again said, in a childlike voice, “Don’t go.”

“I have to go, but the kids leave today. I’ll meet you after work; we’ll have the whole night together. I’ll fix you breakfast.”

“I want to fix you breakfast,” he insisted.

That third night turned out like I’d hoped, and we basked in one another’s presence, held onto each other, actually slept in his bed. And then I was introduced to his skill as a cook, that breakfast the first of many meals we shared in following months.

But within a few weeks I knew he was HIV positive, was in deep legal trouble facing a third degree sexual assault charge, had twice tried to kill himself, had serious financial problems, was just newly out to his parents, was getting medical attention through Denver Health, had recently been in the hospital, had decided he wanted to stay well, and wanted me to move in with him right away. I also found out he was college educated, creative, funny, sweet, and made my heart pound extra fast whenever he showed up—always late. I was hopelessly in love with this guy in a way I had never experienced before. He said he was in love with me as well.

The storm brought many trips to the hospital and clinic for tests, imaging appointments, surgical procedures, examinations of new symptoms, introductions of new medications, and more. Fortunately the intensity of these problems was matched by the intensity of our enthusiasm for one another. Our days provided new revelations of our pasts, experiments of intimacy, delight in giving ourselves to each other through conversation, touch, laughter, dance, and food. Our storm was not a fight but rather an accommodation to delights that we hoped would have a long future. But as the weeks went on the specter of failure kept trying to get through the door that had been left ajar in spite of our love. We watched the building intensity of the storm, the complications of treatments, the appearance of symptom after symptom, the confusion of diagnoses. We were both wearing down, not in our love or commitment, but in our imagination of a future. And there were other challenges: work, exhaustion, and fear. Fear was my largest challenge. I had lost too many people from my life in the prior six years: parents, my marriage, a good friend, and the too-recent death of another lover. My grief over that loss had not sufficiently subsided. Still I was not thinking of running away. We were tight Rafael and I. But I wished I weren’t going through all this again, especially when I had never had such feelings of love with another human being.

My lover’s parents lived in Mexico. They had little English; I had little Spanish. I had wanted to meet them before another hospitalization. That didn’t happen. I met them as my lover’s condition complicated, as his death neared. The storm ended then, at least the main part of it. Yet a storm lingers in me. Fifteen years later it still roars on occasion.

The ancient Etruscans believed that once grief visits it never goes away. I have many joys, and in my old age can list grief after grief. Now I work hard to welcome grief as a friend, even when my losses do not feel particularly friendly. I keep looking for the eyes in new storms I encounter and appreciate the ways their calm equips me to live with acceptance and supports my overall joy in life.

© 9 July 2018

About the Author

Phillip Hoyle lives in Denver and spends his time writing, painting, and socializing. In general he keeps busy with groups of writers and artists. Following thirty-two years in church work and fifteen in a therapeutic massage practice, he now focuses on creating beauty. He volunteers at The Center leading the SAGE program “Telling Your Story.”

He also blogs at

Monday, July 9, 2018

Coping with Loved Ones, by Ricky

          Children do not “cope” with loved ones – they “survive” loved ones.  Babies survive being accidentally dropped when they are covered in soapy bath water or are squirming at the wrong time when a parent’s attention is distracted or any number of similar circumstances.  Most parents love (and would never deliberately hurt) their children, but legitimate mishaps do occur.

          Young children cope by using survival instincts, like staying out of sight of a raging parent, if they can.  Some hide under the bed; some escape to a friend’s house or apartment.  Some assume an adult role and make coffee for their hung-over parent.  Others care for younger siblings to the exclusion of their own social needs.  Some turn to illegal drugs and alcohol, while others just run away from home.  Unfortunately, some must do all of the above to one degree or another.

          Once a child’s brain develops increased capacity for reason, logic, and problem-solving, survival skills can grow into rudimentary coping skills.  Skills like thinking ahead to possible consequences for one’s actions (for example, do not do anything that might make mom or dad angry).  Trying to become the perfect child is another example.  Another skill is to keep secrets by not telling your parents anything that would upset them even if you only think some information might upset them and make them angry.  Closely associated with keeping secrets are the twin skills of avoiding telling the whole truth or outright lying.  These two skills can lead to major consequences when discovered by parents.

          One type of survival-mechanism children use is totally involuntary and effective but can leave permanent damage to a child’s physical or emotional development.  I am referring to the case where the situation a child is in, is so terrible that the child’s subconscious intervenes, and mentally the child “goes” somewhere else in their head.  Other situations may not be so terrible, but still cause a child mental, emotional, and physical pain.

          At the age of 9 ½, when I was told about my parent’s divorce, my mother’s remarriage, pregnancy, and my new stepfather and stepbrother, I developed the classic symptoms of shock along with depression.  Then my father, who was the one who told me about the divorce, left the next morning.  After spending the weekend moping, crying, scared, and confused, my subconscious “turned off” my emotions dealing with loss.  I became emotionally incomplete, which has a major impact on my life even to this day.  Perhaps not feeling negative emotions actually helped me survive the confusion over my orientation, having to babysit my siblings instead of attending after-school activities, and so forth during my high school years.

          Survival and coping skills learned in childhood and adolescence, can serve an adult well, if developed properly.  Are there any straight or GLBT parents who have not experienced challenges when raising children through their various stages of development?  Things like: potty training; the terrible two’s; the 2AM “Daddy. I want a glass of water.”; the midnight through 6AM feedings every two-hours; “All the girls wear makeup.  Why can’t I?”; diaper changing ad nauseum; underachieving at school; overachieving at mischievousness; various childhood illnesses; dental and doctor appointments; conflicting school and family activities; “I hate that food item!”; “Can I have a $20 advance on my allowance?”; “Sir, this is officer Bob.  Could you please come to the police station and pick up your son?  He’s had a bit too much to drink for a 13-year old.”; “Mom, now that I am 12, can I have a 16-year old boyfriend?”; “Mom.  I’m bleeding between my legs.”; “Son, do that in private or at least lock the bathroom door.”; “No you can’t watch a PG-13 movie until you are 13 and no R-rated movies until you are 30.”; “Mom, Dad – I’m gay/lesbian.”; and a host of other such issues too numerous to list.

          How does an adult cope with those challenges?  You do the best that you can with the knowledge and skills you learned as a child in how your parents manipulated you.

          But there are some of life’s challenges that no one can really prepare for.  Divorce is hard enough on the adult but especially devastating for a child or even adolescents.  Some adults and children have friends to be a social support during the stressful times.  Others turn to their religious faith for comfort.  Some just get depressed and withdraw and many children take their own life.

          My most stressful time was when I was temporarily caring for my wife’s mother, an Alzheimer patient.  Her regular caregiver (and partner) needed to take a month-long vacation.  My children and I split up the time with me taking two-weeks and the others taking one-week each.  The first night I stayed with my mother-in-law, she decided that she was in my apartment and spent much of the time between 1AM and 6AM (while I was asleep), packing her things and loading her car so she could drive to her house (the one she sold several years previous).  For the rest of the two-weeks I was there, I was in survival mode and not much good for anything. 

          I left my car there for my children to use while there, and I took the train back to Denver.  The train took 3-days to go from Jacksonville to Denver by way of Washington DC and Chicago.  I needed every one of those days to decompress and relax.

          Even knowing what to expect from an Alzheimer patient, who can really prepare for the reality.  I truly understand how loving children can place their Alzheimer parents into a nursing type facility, as the stress is tremendous.  What I do not understand is how the staff of those facilities can provide the care they do without shutting off their emotions.

          People do not really cope with situations.  They maneuver about mentally and physically until the “crisis” passes and they become survivors.

© 14 October 2012 

About the Author 

I was born in June of 1948 in Los Angeles, living first in Lawndale and then in Redondo Beach.  Just prior to turning 8 years old in 1956, I was sent to live with my grandparents on their farm in Isanti County, Minnesota for two years during which time my parents divorced.

When united with my mother and stepfather two years later in 1958, I lived first at Emerald Bay and then at South Lake Tahoe, California, graduating from South Tahoe High School in 1966.  After three tours of duty with the Air Force, I moved to Denver, Colorado where I lived with my wife and four children until her passing away from complications of breast cancer four days after the 9-11-2001 terrorist attack.

I came out as a gay man in the summer of 2010.   I find writing these memories to be therapeutic.

My story blog is: 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Running Away, by Pat Gourley

“I don’t make history. I am history”

Joan Baez

As with many quotes, I begin my pieces with this one is tangential. In fact, it is so tangential that I may not be able to twist it around to the topic but I liked it so much after reading it in a recent New York Times (NYT) interview with her I had to use it.

I suppose one could easily make “running away” a metaphor for staying in the closet and this may have been the case for me personally way back when. Perhaps a physical running away was what my moving to Denver in 1972 with a straight woman and three other closeted gay men was really all about. None of us on this sojourn to the Queen City of the Plains were “out” to any of the others but suspicions were running high. Give us a bit of a break though since the powerful ripples created by Stonewall had yet to make it in any big way to the middle part of America we were fleeing from.

Though I pretty much was over any running away from being queer by the mid-1970’s I have still managed to do my fair share of running away in other areas of my life. I could have for example jumped-in head first to Radical Fairie politics and I think probably have actually moved in with Harry Hay and John Burnside or at least hitched my wagon to that trip in a much more intense way than I did. Harry ever so subtly over the years was always encouraging me to do more implying that I was not living up to my queer potential.

Running away though may have its advantages at times. For me in 1980 falling in love with the man who would be my loving companion until his death in 1995 had many advantages. This choice of staying in Denver rather than picking up and moving to L.A. to be near and much more involved with Hay and the Radical Fairies worked out well. And let’s face it I think I made a much better nurse than I would have made a full-time Queer Activist even one in the orbit of the mercurial and prophetic Harry Hay.

I could go on about other areas where I have turned tail and headed for the hills but enough about me. The newspaper the Wichita Eagle first reported this past week the death in Wichita Kansas of Adrian Lamo at the age of 37. Yes, I will be quoting from the Wichita Eagle which will probably never happen again though remember the Koch Brothers are also from Wichita, with Koch Industries based there, so never say never.

Lamo was a very adept hacker. Most notably he hacked into the NYT and Microsoft among others in the early 2000’s and was convicted of computer fraud in 2004.

His greatest notoriety though came from turning Chelsea Manning into the Feds in 2010. Manning had shared with him that she had turned over to Wikileaks a large trove of classified documents pertaining to the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan including clear evidence of American war crimes.

Manning had reached out to Lamo as someone she thought she could trust admiring, I suppose, his brazen hacks into very powerful organizations. And perhaps and I am speculating here she felt she could trust someone with clear ties to the LGBTQ community. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors had in 1998 appointed Lamo to the City’s LGBTQQ Youth task forcefile://localhost/. https/

Lamo testified against Manning at her trial in 2013 and she was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in federal prison. This was the harshest sentence ever for a whistleblower. Barack Obama though commuted her sentence in 2016. A full pardon with honors and recognition as a true patriot would have been more appropriate but we’ll take the reduced sentence.

Quoting a friend of Lamo’s, one Lorraine Murphy, from the Wichita Eagle piece of March 16th, 2018 she described him “as someone who bounced around a great deal… He was a believer in the geographic cure. Whatever goes wrong in your life, moving will make it better.”

The “geographic cure” is something synonymous I would say with “running away” and engaged in I suspect in a disproportionate manner historically by queer folk everywhere.

Lamo was quite open apparently about queer aspects of his life but he seems to have been a poor soul often running away from something. I certainly do not know enough about the man to speculate what sort of ghosts were chasing him. Unfortunately, he is now dead and Chelsea Manning is alive and thriving and running for elected office in Virginia. Maybe the better part of valor is to face things head-on and not pick up and run away.

And though she may think she is no longer making history Joan Baez has never as far as I can tell ever run away from anything and neither did Chelsea Manning. Both women are heroines I can try to emulate in my own life and invoke when the temptation to run away presents itself, as it certainly will again.

© March 2018

About the Author

I was born in La Porte, Indiana in 1949, raised on a farm and schooled by Holy Cross nuns. The bulk of my adult life, some 40 plus years, was spent in Denver, Colorado as a nurse, gardener and gay/AIDS activist. I have currently returned to Denver after an extended sabbatical in San Francisco, California.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Reading, by Gillian

I was probably lonely as a child. I had good friends at school but when school was out I had no nearby children to play with, and I had no siblings. But I don't recall ever feeling lonely as I was always accompanied by friends from books. (I originally wrote 'from fiction' but as The Bible was one of the few books available to me, I imagine some might take exception to including The Bible as fiction.)

I say few books were available not because of any failure on the part of my family to love books, but because paper was scarce in post-war Britain and so few books were published. There was a library in the local town but that was a long and infrequent bus ride away.

So my personal book collection contained four Winnie the Pooh books, published long before the war and once belonging to my mother, an old and very tattered family Bible, and a book called Mystery at Witchend by Malcolm Saville, a prolific author of children's books in Britain in the 1940's and '50's.

So I roamed the countryside accompanied sometimes by the roly poly Pooh and a bouncing Tigger, sometimes by all or some of the five children from Witchend who formed The Lone Pine Club and together had many harmless adventures and solved gentle crimes with never a hint of violence. Indeed the only violence I ever read about was in The Bible. But the Jesus who occasionally accompanied me was the gentle fatherly figure depicted in The Children's Pictorial Bible which we read in Sunday School. Because of one of the pictures in this book, my friend Jesus always had a lamb draped around his neck like a fat wooly scarf. Looking back I rather suspect that my child mind had confused the picture of Jesus with one of the shepherds greeting His birth, but never mind. As Jesus and I frequently walked through fields dotted with grazing sheep my vision was appropriate enough.

Fast forward a few decades. I am in my early forties and finally coming out to myself, and very shortly after, to others. So. I was homosexual. A lesbian. What did that mean? Obviously I knew the meaning of the words, the definition, but what did it mean? To me, to my life. Where did I go from here? I felt very alone. Who could I talk to about all this? My friends might be very supportive, but what could they tell me? No-one I knew would have any answers.

So of course I turned to books and headed for the library. This was before the advent of internet so I searched through the catalog card files, in their long narrow boxes, for the pertinent categories. Although I was 'out' to anyone who mattered, I must confess to peeking furtively over my shoulder as I searched the LESBIAN section, the word seeming about a foot high and glaringly obvious to all who passed by.

There was amazingly little available regarding lesbians at that time, fiction or non-fiction.

What little there was, was awful. I rushed home with the few books on the library shelf, avidly read them, and wondered why I had bothered. Beyond depressing, they were just plain frightening. If this was where I was headed, I was in serious trouble. The Well of Loneliness, by Radcliffe Hall, was my introduction to lesbian fiction; one of the most depressing books I have ever read. The title alone, if you know that is the road you are now taking, is enough to to make you rush back in the closet and throw away the key. This book has become something of 'classic' in the lesbian world, in the sense that most of us have read it, though not a 'classic' in a positive sense as any mention of it is greeted by groans. I don't recall now the titles of the other few books, but in all of them the lesbian character seemed destined for a life of abject misery, or suicide, or else they are saved by a return to heterosexuality. My reaction to this introduction to lesbian fiction was, essentially, what the hell have I done??

So, lacking new characters to jump from the pages and accompany me, I thought longingly of my childhood buddies. Somehow I didn't think they would be much help. Pooh Bear would just sink his chubby head further into his honey pot, Tigger and Kanga are too busy bouncing and hopping to listen. Eeyore would say, as always,

'It doesn't matter anyway.'

But it does. It matters very much.

Those kids from the heterogeneous, clean-scrubbed families of Witchend, would look ascanse at each other and say,

'Oh dear oh dear but this is awfully difficult,'

and probably run home to mother.

I, who do not identify as a Christian, actually did have a little chat with Jesus. And He actually helped. Asking myself the question what would Jesus do, I answered myself, with every confidence, that he would love me and accept me whoever and whatever I am.

Pretty soon, I discovered Beebo's bookstore in Louisville and discovered that there really were positive portrayals of fictional lesbians. Claimed as the first of these is Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt, in which neither of the two women has a nervous breakdown, dies tragically, faces a lonely and desolate future, commits suicide, or returns to being with a male. But by then I no longer had need for fictitious playmates. Women at Beebo's had introduced me to the life-saving - or at least lesbian-saving - Boulder group TLC, The Lesbian Connection, which in turn introduced me to many wonderful women; real women, who in turn led me to my Beautiful Betsy.

With a real woman like that, who needs fiction?

© November 2017

About the Author

I was born and raised in England. After graduation from college there, I moved to the U.S. and, having discovered Colorado, never left. I have lived in the Denver-Boulder area since 1965, working for 30 years at IBM. I married, raised four stepchildren, then got divorced after finally, in my forties, accepting myself as a lesbian. I have been with my wonderful partner Betsy for thirty years. We have been married since 2013.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Get Over It, by Terry Dart

Kind of cranky sounding. But crankiness can be par for the course when one has gone past middle age. There have to be some perks to the added aches and pains of ageing.

Well, get over that we are older. Our appearance is no longer like the “unearned beauty” of the young. We move slowly, may drive more cautiously and more slowly.

We may not be hell bound to hurry everything we are doing, to rush hither and thither.

We may use such expressions as thither and thither, cool, or far out. We may want you to shut up during the movie. Or, we may talk during the movie. However that would be rogue behavior, since the rude-aged usually have died off before having had a chance to develop a sturdy, consistent rudeness.

Perhaps we elders have things we should “get over,” But at our ages we can forgive ourselves for putting that off.

This is quite brief; even briefer than usual for me. Too bad we aren’t discussing books we have read or poetry or sports or the importance of Mount Rushmore, or the Fourth of July, or current events, or snails, or sea shells, or favorite fonts.

I suppose I will just get over it.

© 2 July 2018

About the Author

I am an artist and writer after having spent the greater part of my career serving variously as a child care counselor, a special needs teacher, a mental health worker with teens and young adults, and a home health care giver for elderly and Alzheimer patients. Now that I am in my senior years I have returned to writing and art, which I have enjoyed throughout my life.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Losing Touch, by Gillian

I will, before long, I expect; I'm rapidly losing other senses. My hearing is not too bad, but I don't seem to smell the wet grass or the salty ocean with the strength I did as a child. Fresh strawberries and tomatoes right off the vine sure don't taste as good as they once did, and my eyesight is battling the effects of glaucoma, so I have little reason to expect my sense of touch not to deteriorate. My mother had terribly inadequate blood circulation, leading to frequent complaints of not being able to feel her hands and feet, or feel with them. She would put me to work peeling potatoes, slicing bread, shelling peas or folding the linens, because, she said, she could not feel what her fingers might be up to. After she cut herself twice and then dropped our best kitchen knife on the stone kitchen floor where it broke, she was only allowed anywhere near a knife on really hot days - rare events in my pre-global-climate-change England. I don't seem to have inherited that problem, but my Beautiful Betsy has exactly the same thing so before long I shall probably be called upon to perform all our household chores involving sharp utensils.

My dad lost touch. Sadly, it was not a problem with his fingers and toes but with his mind; his very being. Through dementia he lost touch with everyone and everything, including himself.

I first noticed some confusion on a visit home when he was in his early seventies - a little younger than I am now. I mentioned my concern to Mum but she shrugged it off with, well, Dear, I'm sure our minds aren't quite as sharp as they once were. But she exhibited none of it, I noticed, and in fact she never did and was sharp as a tack till the day she died. I, of course, was living in Colorado and only saw them once a year or so, though out of necessity my visits became more frequent and of greater duration as they aged. The next time I returned, after this particular trip, I was aghast at my father's mental deterioration. It was harrowing; heartbreaking.

He floated in and out, drifting from lesser to greater confusion and back again, all the time knowing he was losing touch. At one stage he held his wrist towards me, tapping at his watch - a much-valued possession. He gazed at it, then looked at me with tears and a look of such anguish in his eyes that I almost burst into tears myself, but of course I knew I must not.

'I can't remember,' he faltered.

'What is this? How do I make it work? What does it do?'

'Oh .. um ... nothing much ...'

I ran my fingers gently over it. I had to put some cheer in my voice.

'It sure is a beautiful thing, isn't it? I tried, desperately.

'It is,' he agreed. And smiled.

Not many visits later I returned to see him safely settled into a memory care facility. By then it was easier on all of us. He no longer drifted in and out of differing cognitions. He had no idea who I was or who Mum was or who he was. He no longer struggled with what his watch was for.

He seemed remarkably at peace, so Mum and I were able to find peace for ourselves.

Right now, I am losing touch myself, though not, thank you God, in the way my dad did; at least not yet. Rather, I make a conscious effort to lose touch. I can only inhabit this current socio-political reality for a limited amount of time. I simply have to escape. If Agent Orange can inhabit a reality that is all of his own making, then surely, I can escape to my own alternate reality on occasion? I have a collection of home-made VCR tapes, mostly of ancient Brit sitcoms. Some of these shows are really pretty bad, but in my alternate reality the worse they are the better I enjoy them. So, most evenings I head for the basement TV, descending to my alternate reality as I say to Betsy. Though to be honest even bad Brit sitcoms reach a higher standard than this current American reality show in which we find ourselves, so in fact I am rising up to my alternate reality.

Margaret Atwood says -

'You may not be able to alter reality, but you can alter your attitude towards it, and this, paradoxically, alters reality. Try it and see.'

Sorry, Margaret, I'm a fan of yours but I tried it and I didn't like it. I reserve the right to lose touch.

© February 2018

About the Author

I was born and raised in England. After graduation from college there, I moved to the U.S. and, having discovered Colorado, never left. I have lived in the Denver-Boulder area since 1965, working for 30 years at IBM. I married, raised four stepchildren, then got divorced after finally, in my forties, accepting myself as a lesbian. I have been with my wonderful partner Betsy for thirty years. We have been married since 2013.