Thursday, September 21, 2017

“Gay Tech Love”

Quite honestly, I’m getting tired of my own dreary and sad blog posts, but I guess for better or worse this is the way that life works. 

After taking steroids for my legs for the better part of 8 months, I’m finally off of them. Did you know that you suffer withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them after so long? I didn’t know this and so was caught completely off guard when I found myself even more of a wreck than I had been – hands shaking really bad, super irritable, chest hurt every night, and couldn’t think straight to save my life. I was scared to death that yet something else was going wrong with me until it occurred to me that it was awful coincidental that it all got so much worse right as I quite the steroids and so I started looking at the after effects. 

My Sister and Niece
I’m afraid that the month of September got off to a shitty start for me. At about 530AM on the first of September, I received a call from my big sister in California and she was sobbing so violently that I couldn’t understand her. All that I could make out was that someone had died, but I couldn’t make out who it had been. Both my aunt and my brother have been in questionable health for years, and so I fully expected to it was one of them, but I was wrong. When I finally got her to calm down enough that I could understand her, she told me that her daughter (my niece) had died. She had gone to the ER that night for a sinus infection, been treated and released, and returned home. At about 1:30 AM, her husband woke to find her dead . . .
I felt like I’d been hit by a sledge hammer – this was completely out of the blue and unexpected, because as far as I knew, she had been a perfectly healthy 30 something year old. My sister had had her when she was only 16 and so I more or less grew up with my niece Sunshine as part of my entire life. With my having grown up as the youngest of three children, Sunshine was the first person that had ever looked up to me, both metaphorically and literally speaking. She was the first baby that I had ever held, and she was the first baby, toddler, and child that I had ever babysat. I loved and adored that little girl, and with absolutely no warning, she was now gone. 

I’ve never before heard the kind of anguish and pain in someone’s voice as I heard in my sister that morning, and I hope like hell that I never do again. My big sister was always the one that took care of everyone else, always the one who was strong and tough for everyone else, and here she was – absolutely broken and crushed. That hurt almost as much as the thought of my niece did. By the time that I got a hold of my manager and the customer that I was supposed to be working with, all good options for a flight that day to Phoenix were already booked and so I tried to rent a car. I've no idea why, but I found that for some reason none were available. I kept hearing the heartbreak in my sisters voice in my head though, and knew that I couldn’t wait another day to get there, so I said “Screw it”. I threw a bag together, threw it into my 15 year old F150 pickup with 220,000 miles on her, and headed out alone for the 18 hour drive from Austin to Prescott Arizona. I won’t dwell too much more on this as I am sure that most of you have lost someone that you love and probably have some idea what happens to a family when this happens. 

My birthday was on 3 September, and so I found myself surrounded by a heartbroken family as I turned 52 . . .err . . . I mean 29. As we had a lot of people to feed, birthday or not, we decided to go ahead and get the makings for a BBQ and take the entire group to a local park for a cook out/ birthday party. Even in the midst of our pain, we managed to find some humor and some fun. My nephews wife had graciously volunteered to buy all of the food and supplies for the party, but she totally forgot that kids like ketchup with their hotdogs, and everyone gave her complete hell for forgetting it all night long.  So there I am, eating a bratwurst (without ketchup) when she sneaks up behind me and whispers in my ear with a very threatening tone.
“You better eat that thing without ketchup, and you’ll fucking LIKE it!”
I hadn’t even known she was behind me, so it came so unexpected that I laughed so hard I almost spit my mouthful of food out. Such a silly thing, but we laughed about this for several days after.

The following morning we had an informal remembrance for her at the local VFW. I’m 52 years old and have managed to duck everything funeral-like until now, but I couldn’t duck this one. I did however do my best to try and start things off on a light note with a practical joke. On my way to the event, I went to the store and bought an entire gallon of ketchup, and four smaller bottles of it, and piled it all on the table that everyone had to walk by as they entered the room. The extended friends and family that hadn’t been at our cook out had no idea what it was for, but everyone that had been there, including my sister, Sunshine’s brother, husband, and children, all laughed hysterically when they saw it. It’s the little things, ya know?

Antique in Atlanta
At the moment, I’m sitting in a hotel in Atlanta Ga where I’ve just completed the service call that I had had to cancel when my niece died. My trip here was fairly uneventful, with very little of interest to share. My company has ended our relationship with Avis and we now use National Car Rental. As I was checking out the car, I handed her my Texas ID instead of my drivers license. I use this ID when I am traveling because even though it still has my male name and gender on it, it has my female photo. Needless to say, when you are renting a car, the ID is not acceptable and you must show a drivers license, so she handed it right back.
“That’s an ID. I need a driver license please.” She said politely.
“Sure. Sorry about that.” I said as I took back the ID and handed her my license. “I try not to hand that one out!”
When I checked into the hotel, the lady behind the counter made a big fuss about my “status” with the Holiday Inn, and embarrassed the hell outta me.
“Oh, you are Spire! Thank you SO much for staying with us and God bless you!” she loudly proclaimed. Then, much to my horror, she reached below the counter and pulled out a bell, sat it on the counter, and proceeded to ring it – over, and over, and over. I wanted to curl up into a ball and disappear, but she kept making a fuss, and generally dragged the whole check-in process out for about twice as long as it should have taken.  Eventually I had my keys in my hand and headed down the hallway, dragging my baggage behind me. Along the way, a young woman told me that my blouse was beautiful, so there is that. 😃

When I got into my room and started reading the news, I realized something that I had totally overlooked; I was going to be working at Georgia Tech – the university where a young LGBT activist had more or less committed suicide just a few days ago. Odd how I hadn’t put that together until then. I ended up eating lunch with my customer less than 100 yards from where this young person had died, and I’d have to admit to more than a little sadness at the thought.  Both of the PHD’s that I was there to train were from South Korea, and so we had an interesting conversation once they found out that I had lived there for a year, though many moons ago. It must be a very hard time for Koreans right now, with childish lunatics in charge of both, North Korea AND the United States. Scary times if you have family in South Korea.

One good laugh. I was working in the Georgia Tech Love building, and so when I programmed the address into my GPS, I saved it as “Ga Tech Love”. This had the unanticipated result of my GPS telling me that I had arrived at “Gay Tech Love” when I arrived. Again, it’s the little things . . .