More Closets
November 19, 2006

Remember the first time it occurred to you as a kid that the fastest way to clean your room was to simply shove things out of sight? Throw stuff in the closet, under the bed, anywhere so your mom wouldn't see it when she came in to inspect?

Of course, you might have fooled your folks once or twice ... likely when they were simply too tired to deal with anything other than the blessed appearance of a clean room ... but for most of us, at some point they simply opened the closet door, and like the cartoons, all your carefully crammed-in stuff came pouring out into the room.

For those of us who had a room and a closet, this becomes a powerful metaphor for a lot of the crazy stuff we try to hide from ourselves. It's what's made "coming out of the closet" such a powerful metaphor for people finally admitting that they're gay.

But there are loads of other closets, or boxes, that we stuff little bits of our selves and our lives into when we just don't have the time or the energy to really give them the thorough cleaning (and processing) that we need to. Whether we stick those boxes in the attic or the basement or the top of the closet, we put them out of sight to keep them out of our minds.

My subconscious was so concerned with keeping those boxes in their appropriate hiding places, that the closet was never quite so much of an issue for me.

The second life-altering question that I asked in CCD the year I told my mother that Dad was an alcoholic ...
I asked what it was, what it really meant, to be gay.

Again, I knew what the Catholic party line was. But dammit, this was a sex education class and I didn't know anything about gays and I was curious. What was all the darn fuss about?

And, of course, in the back of my mind ... I could see a scene from the summer before when one of my best friends stood in the hospital where we were candy stripers and said that she hadn't really decided if she "liked" boys or girls yet. And my utter shock ... not at her saying that ... not at the concept ... but at her utterly without-fear, matter-of-fact-ness about it.

I was impressed that the Moms and Dads (and the one creepy pedophile) who volunteered to teach this year-long class called Sex Education: The Catholic Version. They tried to somewhat balance the need to be careful of adolescents ... the strictures of the church ... and their own queasy feelings with the societal opinion of queers in the mid 80s (pre-AIDS epidemic).

It wasn't so much that they said anything earth-shattering ... I mean, they pretty well stuck to the party line ... it's a sin ... but the fact that I was finally starting to articulate the thoughts to myself ... that was the real growth and change for me.

Fast forward to December 1987, the end of my first year at uni. I was still living at home as I'd been forbidden to go to any college where I would/could not live at home. Hmm ... but that's yet another story ... tied in to this ... but for another day.

The whole first semester of uni, I'd seen posters up for the GLA on campus ... and I knew I should resolve this suspicion I had about myself. Because the fact of the matter was ... I just wasn't interested in guys. Maybe I hadn't found the right guy yet, I didn't know. But when I thought about the celebrities I was most interested in ... well, let's just say it wasn't the guys.

It's an old story for a while after that ... I met someone ... we fell in love ... we planned on moving out in May and getting our own apartment together.

I didn't tell anyone in my family.

I told my best friend, Andy, whom I'd also dated during most of high school. And that's where the trouble came in ... not from Andy directly, but ... well, I digress. Let me leave out the "who" to this one part of the story and I'll tell that another time.

Suffice it to say that one Monday night, there was a phone call at the house. Mom answered it. We didn't get a lot of phone calls, so I noticed it, but when it didn't directly concern me, I didn't pay it any more attention. Silly, silly me. I was commanded that night by my mother in her "royal highness" persona, to get up early, but not go to school.

Instantly I knew that alien abduction was real. My mother had been probed ... or perhaps replaced with a clone or a robot. Because my mother would NEVER tell me to skip a class!

When I get up the next morning and go into her room, she's seated in her recliner and there's nowhere to sit but the floor. The supplicant before the queen.

She begins her series of pronouncements with: "I got a phone call last night." Pregnant pause. "Do you know who it was?"

I had to literally bite my tongue to keep from saying, "Uh, no, you answered the phone, not me." I managed to simply shake my head no.

"Well, a man said that you and L were 'moving into a lesbian relationship.'"

I just looked at her and nodded. She apparently thought I was encouraging her to keep talking rather than answering the implied question.

"Well are you?"

Now, we have to take a quick time-out here. You see, Mom knew that L and I had been hanging out quite a lot lately and that I seemed very happy. Not two weeks before she grinned at me and said, "It looks like you really found your soul mate." I thought she'd figured things out and was okay with it.

At any rate, with all the snottiness of a 19 year old who knows she's moving out in a month anyway, I nodded and said, "Well yeah."

Mom promptly burst into tears and announced, "Now I have to divorce your father."

What, you say. You didn't quite follow that? No, I didn't leave a sentence or paragraph or event out. Upon discovering I was gay, Mom's first words were "Now I have to divorce your father." One of the many extraordinary proclamations she's made over the years. "Now I have to divorce your father."

Her next words were, "You can't live with me if you're going to be that way." And it was said in a rather threatening tone.

I simply shrugged and pointed out that L and I had signed a lease, and I would be moving out of the house in a matter of weeks anyway.

It was as if she didn't hear me.

"You can't be that way and live under my roof, and I know you don't want to live with him."

"I. Signed. A. Lease." Blank stare from Mom. "I. Am. Moving. To. My. Own. Place."

Sometimes saying simple words slowly actually works the details into her brain. However, this time we must have gone round and round for nearly 30 minutes before she looked at her watch and announced that she'd set up an appointment with a counselor at the Catholic renewal center in Fort Worth. And that we needed to leave now to make the appointment.

And then ... "Is it because your dad ...." and she trailed off.

Again, my mind made a very brief trip to the box in the top of their closet ... and despite feeling like I was going to throw up ... "No!" I told her.

The meeting with the Catholic counselor was essentially anti-climactic. She also asked me about Dad ... and the now familiar cold pit of my stomach ... but she didn't chastise me for "thinking" that I was gay ... or for moving out. She was quite cool, actually.

Over the next month before I moved out of the house, I repeatedly heard the threat ... "What are you going to do? You can't live with me if you're going to be this way. And I don't think you want to live with him."

What I have come to understand over the years is that this really odd obsession that Mom had ... repeating this little mantra over and over ... had a lot of meanings that I missed at 19.

If ... as Mom and even I believed at the time ... if things weren't "that bad," why did she keep saying "I don't think you want to live with him"?
Why could she not retain the knowledge that I was moving out?
Why did she insist on divorcing him after 25 years of marriage ... just because I didn't turn out "perfect"?
Why was it the only time that she realized I was moving out ... was when she thought about me living with him.

The sad conclusion fitting all the puzzle pieces that I've presented here, in other posts ... and additional puzzle pieces that I haven't written about here ... it all boils down to this:

Mom knew.

She knew what had happened. She knew ... and she knew that once I finally escaped from that house ... that the protection she had enjoyed for years ... the protection that she and my sister had enjoyed for years ... would be over. He would be forced to pick a new victim. And she couldn't stand that thought, so she knew she had to leave to protect herself and my sister.

I'm glad she protected my sister finally. I'm still furious that she didn't ... that she couldn't do the same for me.

And that's all of the story behind the picture that I can tell you today. I can tell you that it doesn't fully explain all of the imagery in that picture ... but I'm not sure that story is fit for public consumption.

But that should be enough to explain the need for the photo and its timing ... even if that ever-so disturbing skeleton isn't yet explained ... I don't think you really want to know that ... I'm not sure I want to know ... to articulate that.

Posted by Red Monkey at November 19, 2006 1:02 AM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Templar said:

Wow....what does one say in response to such a moving post apart from thank you for sharing such a painful time in your life. Parents are indeed strange creatures and one day, who knows, maybe you and I both, can understand who they really were.

Thank you once again.

November 18, 2006 11:11 PM


MsDemmie said:

Speechless ........ in awe at your courage, for re-examining and sharing.

Much Respect

November 19, 2006 10:25 AM


Leo said:

That was an incredibly brave post. Thanks for sharing and more importantly I hope it helped you to get some of it off your chest. Take care!

November 19, 2006 8:43 PM
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