Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Talking Books

The ride home last night was ever so much better than we could have ever asked for or imagined.

The journey home from Rehoboth every Labor Day is always painful, most especially because there is no denying it: the summer has "officially" ended.

There are other, equally painful reasons. The "program year" (or "academic year") is about to begin, with all of its chaos made even more frenetic by being out of sync with that rhythm of life..

Everyone who has had vacation in their favorite "get-away place" - even if that's just the back yard - for even part of this last week of summer knows that Tuesday morning will arrive as a rude slap in the face of the new old realities of life.

But for those who tried to "get away" this weekend, it is the traffic that delivers the final insult. For us, that means north on Rt. 1, over the Delaware Memorial Bridge, to the Garden State Parkway, via the New Jersey Turnpike in all of its slate gray monotonous splendor, and home again, home again, jiggidy jig.

That three hour trip has taken us as much as six hours in a bad year.

This year, we were well prepared. We filled up the gas tank FIRST. No, we've never run out of gas, but we've certainly been in traffic jams because some other unsuspecting driver had.

Tempers flare as we all move at an exasperating rate of 5 miles per hour for 10 or 15 or 20 miles at a time, watching helplessly as the 'liquid gold' idles in the car engine, eventually to evaporate and make its own unique contribution to the effects of Global Warming - not to mention the traffic jam on the highway.

We also supplied ourselves with more gum than water (addresses the thirst without filling the bladder - imperative if you "gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now" - no matter your age), lots of music and, this time, a "Talking Book."

We had listened to the first part of "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" by Kim Edwards on the way down to Llangollen. We were really looking forward to finishing this novel on the way home.

Turns out the traffic, while heavy in places, moved along with purpose and efficiency. No accidents. No idiots. Everyone had a full tank of gas. We made great time. Indeed, we actually have one CD left of a 9 CD set to finish.

Martha Plimpton reads the novel and she is marvelous. An heir to the Carradine family of theatrical DNA, you probably best remember her work in "The Goonies" and "Running on Empty."

I hear from some of my friends in urban ministry that she's presently involved in a wonderfully creative project which brings the experience of theater to inner city kids, which includes lessons in the dramatic arts. (So, you know she's won my heart.) She's really good on this tape.

"The Memory Keeper's Daughter" is, in the shortest of shorthand contents, about a young couple who have their first baby in the midst of an unexpectedly severe snow storm in Kentucky in the early 1960s. The obstetrician gets caught in the snow and is unable to get to the hospital on time for the delivery.

Not to worry. The husband, though himself an orthopedic physician, is able, with the help of his faithful nurse (who is secretly in love with him), to deliver the child -a boy. Except, it turns out his wife's womb has had a secret of its own.

A girl child is delivered instead of the expected placenta. Smaller, more flaccid, she struggles to take her first breath. When her father / deliverer turns her over, her face is unable to keep the secret that she is quite different from her brother. Indeed, she has Trisomy-21, more commonly known as Down's Syndrome.

In a split second, haunted by the emotions he has kept secret for all these years of a sister who was handicapped by a heart condition and died at a very young age, the father makes a split second decision that will change the lives of everyone in that room for the rest of their lives.

It is this decision that is kept secret. It is this secret that takes on a life of its own and will not die. It stays buried, in all of its variations, deep in the memory of everyone in that room. It is dead, and yet behold! It lives.

It has been said that we are only as sick as our sickest, most fiercely kept secrets. It is this secret, a decision born of noble, altruistic impulse in a split second and kept close to the heart and taken to the grave that will bring on all of the dis-eases of their lives.

Which got me to thinking. For all of the hoopla and hype and bad jokes about Senator Larry Craig and his secret life, lived out in secret hand signals in men's bathrooms, there is a secret but nonetheless very real tragic story to be told.

It is the story of betrayal - of his wife and his marriage vows. Of his children and grandchildren. His neighbors and friends. The constituency he served. And yes, the world in which we live, who, through the distorted lens with which he views the world, now have a distorted reality of human sexuality.

I don't know if Larry Craig is "a gay American" or not. I know that he seems to have, over the years, engaged in behavior that seems, at the very least, to be painfully and desperately lonely.

The real tragedy of this story is that ultimately, Larry Craig - like so many LGBT people before him - betrayed his own soul - his authentic self, no matter the orientation of his sexuality.

More than thirty years ago, Louie Crew gathered together a few gay men to start an organization they called, "Integrity."

That was no accident. The word was very carefully chosen.

Integrity is, perhaps, one of the most costly of commodities in the human enterprise. Second unto it is authenticity.

The pearl of great price one must pay to gain integrity and authenticity is truth. Telling the truth about the deepest, scariest secrets of our lives is, perhaps, the single most painful experience I know.

For LGBT people who have made the spiritual, psychological journey known as "Coming Out," it is like giving birth to yourself - your true self. It is wildly liberating and excruciatingly painful.

Which is why some people make the journey several times - 'coming out' in stages: to themselves, to family, to friends. Each trip can be so terrifying, so painful, so humiliating, that some of us run back into 'the closet' for sanctuary and refuge.

Some of us, foolishly, turn to the ecclesiastical closet often generously offered by some rooms in the Household of God known as the institutional church.

These are the so-called "ex-gay" people. That's what they want to believe about themselves. That's what some others want to believe about them.

It is another memory of Louie Crew which stirs what I think is the best response to this idea of being "ex-gay." The story goes that Louie was at a religious conference of one sort or another, sitting with a woman at dinner - a pious, good Christian woman, who tried to convince him that he could make a choice to not be gay any more -if he only "submitted to the will of God."

Louie tried patiently and with great care to tell her of his own experience of aversion therapy, of being married to a woman, of trying to be something he is not.

The woman was persistent. "But you can, Louie, if you want to, live a normal life. You can, with God's help, be married and have children and glorify the Lord."

It is reported that Louie grew quiet before he spoke again. With great calm and charity, he turned to the woman and asked, "Do you have a daughter?"

"Why, why, yes I do!" she responded, a bit taken aback.

"Well," said Louie, "if I 'repented' of my homosexuality, would you want me to marry your daughter?"

"Why no!" exclaimed the woman, "Of course not!"

"Why not?" asked Louie.

"Why, because you . . . you could never . . .," she slowed down in order to catch up with the truth she knew in her heart.

" . . .be trusted?" Louie said, finishing her sentence for her. "Is that what you wanted to say? That I could never be trusted not to 'turn back' to my 'evil ways'?"

The woman, completely flummoxed, said nothing. Neither did Louie. He simply took her hand in his, said some very gracious words about it being late and everyone being very tired and shouldn't we all get ourselves to our rooms to say our prayers and off to sleep, and then left.

Truth will have out. It will have out for Larry Craig as it did for Jim McGreevey and Louie Crew and Tracey Lind and Susan Russell and Elizabeth Kaeton and countless other LGBT people who refuse to keep secrets.

Truth will have out because secrets can not be kept. Not for long. Secrets do not die. Secrets live on in memory. Buried deep in our souls and left for dead, behold! they live.

The secrets we keep will crucify us until the truth of our lives is told.

The good news is that, after the crucifixion will come resurrection and with it, a new life of integrity and authenticity.

It is Frederick Buechner's book, "Telling Secrets" which is the inspiration behind this very blog. As we set out to live into the first day of the new program / academic year, I hope these words will guide you as much as they have me:

"Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where our secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is of all our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell."


Rowan The Dog said...

This is a good post. From Deleware to Martha Plimpton, Senator Craig and Louie Crew to what we do with our secrets. Nice tapestry you've woven.

Suzer said...

Very powerful, Elizabeth+. Thank you.

toujoursdan said...

Louis Crew's story is great. Thanks for posting.