It seems like a long time since I posted anything, even if I have started and stopped on three different occasions in the past month or so.

             I have two posts entombed in draft form. One is a continuation of the most recent remembrance. Part 18 of ‘The Farewell’… That is half written, at least in my mind.

             The other is a post I wrote around the time of my birthday, about 11 days ago, during a very dark time in my life. I decided not to continue writing it because it was too painful, and a poor example to the younger readers that visit here. I read and reread it and it exuded an air of resignation that gave me pause and eventually made me angry, every time I read what I had written.

               This is the struggle I am currently engaged in. It has become an epic fight at my core for the values I have always held dear. The things that I embraced as a young boy so long ago, in an effort to survive in a hostile world that had no sympathy for my innocence or the great love I held in my heart.

                To this day, those things define who I am. They have been tested in the fires of self emulation and the urgent prayers I whispered into the fetid waters of the swamp where my journey started. I have sought answers ever since how I could have been so evil as to be undeserving of His love. It took nearly 45 years to understand completely that I had not been abandoned. Only then was I ready, and it was then that the words could no longer be restrained.

                 With my heart pounding, I sent those words to my family and cast my future there upon the altar of compassion, hoping for forgiveness for the unspoken lie that had festered in my life all those years.

                 It was something I did for the little boy in that swamp as much as for other little boys who suffered the same way, all of their lives. I didn’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons. For allowing myself to be thought of as an enigma. A half- man, lacking in courage, muzzled by the forces of hate. Broken by the insidious machine that the Others had cleverly refined, year after relentless year, as the promise He had made was ignored and corrupt men used everything from disease to dogma to choke the life from countless loving young men.

                  It has been over 18 months since I sent that letter to my family. Eighteen months of indifference from the people I was ashamed to allow in my life.

                   I waited too long.

                   To send the first letter, and now for the redemption that has not come from the Ones who I was so wrong about. The Ones I counted on for support against the Others.

                   I should have known… My path has always been lonely, from the very beginning.  Despite my example, my code of honor has been derided, my Faith underestimated. Stereotypes have been embraced and thinly veiled beliefs poison what is left of my connections to people I once loved.

                   Every attempt has been made to cast me out of the young lives of my Godchildren and nephews as though my courage  was an act of depravity and 57 years of example mean nothing. It all became clear, only  a few days before my birthday, and it is the final abuse that I will no longer tolerate.

                   They have ALL underestimated me.

                  The ‘simple’ act of exclusion, apparently tolerated by the rest of my ‘family’ speaks volumes to me. I have always judged people by their actions more than by words. Now, it is clear. The unchallenged abuse I have endured is undeniable. I am an outcast by proxy, and proud of it…

                    To me, they are all deserved of each other. I made that clear in brutal and unfortunate words to my mother, who ‘broke’ the news that I had anticipated. I was to be excluded from the traditional celebration of my youngest nephews’ birthdays for the first time. Noone came to my defense. It was as though I never existed.

                     I am grateful for the clarity this act of evil has emblazoned in my heart. I will no longer feel confused about my Path foward. It is a blessing to finally understand. I was never the brother they envisioned. It mattered not what I suffered, only what I could give. There was never a real love of ME.

                     I knew this in my heart, all of these years. It is why I embraced the Code. Why I hid my Shame. Why I evolved  in a separate life all the while… Why so few have ever KNOWN me.

                   I made a birthday present to myself on August 7th, as a result. I came out to my mother as I worked in my gardens. She surprised me with her birthday greeting, as I was deep in thought, wondering why I had taken the day off. There was, after all, little to celebrate, in my mind. I told her I was not celebrating this year, and why. There was no longer a way to avoid the obvious, if she was to completely understand. So, despite the ‘warnings’ from the rest of my ‘family’, I simply told her that she had a gay son. Me.

                    She seemed unfazed, as I continued. Her first comment, in fact, was a bit perplexing– “I had NO idea…”

                   So, I asked her why she thought I left the military. Why I had never married. Did she think I was devoid of love? Hadn’t always wanted  to be a father?

                    “No…” she said, pausing. “Lots of people don’t marry… And, I thought maybe the military was too… I don’t know… maybe too arduous for you…”

                      I almost choked on that!  Arduous? Compared to what? I mean, I worked a man’s job starting at age 7!  Struck out on my own at age 17! Stuck my neck out for my country instead of accepting the scholarships I had in my back pocket to 3 different colleges!

                      But then, I caught myself… It occurred to me that there was just SO much about me she never knew, trying to raise 7 very different children… So, I stopped, took a deep breath and told her in broad terms why. In a way she could think about until the next time I broach the subject. If I ever do… Certain things have become unimportant to me.

                       I now look to my real family for love. My friends who have stood by me. My loving Godchildren who have supported me and to whom I am still the same, loving man they knew all along. They are the foundation upon which I will build my new life going foward.

                        Two nights ago, I completed the celebration of my ‘birth’ day with one of them who means so much to me. He made a special trip into town, hoping to go with me to see the Yankees play like we had planned, but we had to concede to what turned out to be a faulty weather forecast… No matter. We’ll try later in the fall!

                        But, we did share an evening of joviality, wonderful food and invigorating conversation, like we always do!  I felt like I was home… As it should be. As it should always have been.

                    So now, I write this with ‘Open Range’ playing in the background. One of my favorite recent westerns… It’s full of things that strike chords, deep within me. Watch it sometimes… Especially the part in the saloon where Charley Waite and  Boss Spearman confront the corrupt marshall…

                   After the marshall faces off against the two cowboys, and tells them he has a warrant for their arrest, Boss Spearman counters,” We got a warrant sworn for attempted murder for them that tried to kill the boy who’s laying over there at the Doc’s, trying to stay alive. Swore out another one for them that murdered the big fella you had in your cell. Only ours ain’t writ by no tin star, bought and paid for, Marshal. It’s writ by us, and we aim to enforce it.”

                   A man can be pushed only so far before he has to decide… At that point, everything he is or ever was is on the line.

                   The Others should have seen this coming…