I forgot to post yesterday!
I mean, I haven’t posted every single day, but I’ve posted most days, then this morning I realized I’d missed it.
So, I’m still musing over the weekend. One of the interesting moments was during one of the contestant’s presentation. Ian was explaining how big a deal small things that non-gender-challenged (I think I made up a term there, bear with me) take for granted can be, things like medical issues and which bathroom to use.
Ian explained that his name at birth was Nancy Grace, and that Ian was really an acronym for I am Nancy, because that person was still inside him, he hadn’t really changed. He talked about how when he went home to visit his family, he tried to be respectful of them and their friends, because he didn’t want to embarrass them or make their lives uncomfortable, but he tried to remain true to himself even through that.
I raised my hand and asked, “How has your family reacted to your transition?”
I gave Ian a great opening.
He said, “Ms Constance, I’d like to introduce you to my mother,” and gestured to the gray-haired woman who was sitting just a couple of chairs away from me, in the Atlanta Eagle bar at an International Transgendered Leather contest in which her child was competing.
She seemed perfectly comfortable, perfectly happy to be there, sitting with Ian’s girl.
I don’t know how or if my parents would have dealt with my being kinky, had I decided to tell them.
Today, in fact, is the anniversary of my father’s death.
My father died of cancer in 1959, 13 days after my second birthday.
I have no independent memory of him at all. I have some photographic images of him in my head, him holding the fish that won the fishing derby, his hands perpetually in his worn jeans pockets as was, I am told, his habit.
Or the one where he is holding fish he’s caught and me, and the fish are longer than I am. There are a half dozen neighborhood cats in the picture, too.
Or the pictures of him younger, long before I was born, slouching on his horse, whose name was Nubbin, with my oldest brother on the saddle in front of him.
I’d never seen a photo of my father as a child until a couple years ago when a cousin sent one. It was an old photo, obviously, and the dress was very different. My father was born in 1902, and he’s about eight in the photo, so it’s more than a hundred years old.
It’s interesting, and strange, to see him, young and standing in Sunday best with his brothers, all of whom are dead now and have been for years, although my father was the first of the five brothers to die.
My father’s family did not produce girls until the generation after mine. There were two in my generation, myself and the daughter of one of his brothers, who died when she was about a year old. My brothers both have one biological child and both of them are daughters, so that trend seems to be ending.
My father was one of five brothers. His father was one of three brothers, and his father one of two brothers and his father was an only child. That takes us well back into the late 1700’s.
When I was doing genealogical research, I ran across my father’s grandfather’s obituary. He was born in 1847 and died in 1925, and had “often entertained his friends with tales of shooting buffalo from the back of trains traveling across the Great Plains.”
My father was Robert Jay. One of my brothers is Robert Walter – Walter for my mother’s oldest brother – and the other is Michael Jay, Jay for my father.
My father was a miner for a time and a truck driver at the end of his life. He was a wool buyer when he and my mother met. He did a lot of other things, most unsuccessfully.
My father left little behind, really. I have the bulk of the papers of his life that still exist in a largish shoe box. There are some clippings in there, the story about his first wife’s cousin who was killed in an accident at 17.
There are more clippings about his brother. Dave was taken prisoner during World War II and lived in a Japanese prison camp for a couple of years. He survived the Death March of Bataan, and there are clippings from when he was captured, and when he was released after the war and came home.
One of the photos I have is of four of the brothers – one was in the Navy and couldn’t make it – when Dave got back to Denver, with their mother. My mother always said that Uncle Dave was a “walking skeleton” when he got home.
There are also the postcards he sent home from the prison camp, two of them, in which he says he’s not heard from home in two years.
My father, I realized lately, has been dead nearly as long as he was alive, which is a hard thing to comprehend, on some level. He died at 57 and has been dead for 53 years.
I’ve never seen my father’s grave. My mother never visited his grave that I remember, and if she did, I didn’t go with her. She didn’t ask, I didn’t ask, I suppose, which in retrospect seems odd, but seemed perfectly normal at the time.
My ex, Beth, who comes from a line of Southerners who visit graves regularly, who drive around cemeteries and know who’s buried where, thought I should see his grave, and I was curious, so we went to the small cemetery in my hometown, but my mother was too poor to buy a gravestone when he died, so it was basically an unmarked grave. We wandered around but never found it.
I imagine it would be possible to locate if you actually had a caretaker show you but the opportunity – or interest, honestly – never came again. I suppose it’s odd I have no grave site to add to the images of him, but the little cemetery where he’s buried is in a desert.
There is sand and the sun bleaches almost overnight those awful plastic or silk flower arrangements you see. They are ugly enough under any circumstances, but that just makes them sadder, somehow.
I’d rather remember the smiling man slouching on the horse, looking down at his small son sitting in front of him.