I Don’t Wanna Grow Up…

Toys R Us from 70s Commercial
I think anyone raised in America around my age knows how to complete that jingle.

(For those of you not in the know, you finish it with, “I’m a Toys R Us kid.”)

It seems to be the end of an era. The toy store that was a major destination for American kids (in at least the 70s and 80s) is closing its doors.
Read I Don’t Wanna Grow Up

25 Years Ago(-ish), I Started College

Around 25 years ago, in late August 1992, I started college (erm, university for you British English speakers out there). It’s a right-of-passage many Americans go through every year when they’re 18, and I’m sure there are many stories about how that first year went for a great many people. Maybe my experience was unique, but I’m pretty sure it’s not.

What I can tell you is I remember my Mom crying when I started college at Northern Illinois University. My excitement due to my freedom was tempered by how upset she was. Being the very anxious person I was and continue to be, I wondered if I’d made the right choice. As an aside: my counselor keeps telling me I do things to please other people instead of myself, and I’m not living my life authentically if I keep doing this. On the other side of this argument, I stayed at college because it was what I wanted, even though it did hurt my mother initially (and maybe it was more of a, “Oh my God, my oldest son is 18 and leaving home and I can’t protect him any more”, which I understand but I’ve never been through so I can’t compare that experience to my own experiences).

Sorry. I digress. You should be used to that by now if you read any of my blogs.

Read 25 Years Ago(-ish), I Started College

Remembering Oma 30 Years After Her Passing

The photo of my Oma that everyone thinks is me in drag!
The photo of my Oma that everyone thinks is me in drag!
30 years ago today (26 February), my Oma passed away from intestinal cancer, 1 month shy of her 66th birthday and about 1 month after the diagnosis. I was nearly 13 when she passed away, just shy of that age where you start appreciating the stories and history your parents and grandparents share with you, if you’re interested in family history and that sort of thing.

A few months ago, one of my cousins asked me what Oma was like, and one thing that struck me recently was that out of all my cousins on my Dad’s side of the family, probably only my brother Brian and I remember or knew Oma the best.
Read Remembering Oma 30 Years After Her Passing

Memories of Grandpa

On Thursday night, Noel and I were watching a special episode of Gold Rush where the young miner Parker Schnabel was dealing with the decline of his grandfather John Schnabel.  The final shots showed John celebrating his 96th birthday in a hospital in California after an operation to attempt to restore blood flow to his leg.  John died a month later, peacefully, in his sleep.

The finer details aren’t totally important, but the relationship between John and his grandson Parker, on film at least, reminded me very much of my relationship with my Grandpa, who was born in the same year as John and suffered from prostate cancer the same as John, but only lived to 83 and a half, compared to John’s 96 years.

You could see that John felt the sun rose and set in Parker, and Parker didn’t seem too terribly reserved in showing his love for his grandfather.  My Grandpa had always encouraged us to show our emotions, that it was okay to hug, to cry, to laugh, to tell people what they meant to you.  And I think this helped make me a more caring, empathetic person.

Read Memories of Grandpa

Five Years after the 22 February 2011 Quake

We really didn’t need the earth-shaking reminder on Valentine’s Day that the fifth anniversary of the devastating 22 February 2011 earthquake was coming up.

Somehow, it (literally) shook my confidence that everything was settling down again, and the ground below me could be trusted like it had been before the 4 September 2010 quake and its “rich aftershock sequence”.

Last year, on the anniversary, I turned to Jacqui and said, “I’m over it.  It seems like so long ago.  It’s time to move on.”

I don’t feel that this year.  Maybe the Valentine’s Day quake coming so close to the anniversary has caused me more damage than I know.

Read Five Years after the 22 February 2011 Quake

My 93 Year Old Grandma Thinks I Should Be Allowed to Marry; Why Don’t You?

Today, there are major battles occurring in New Zealand, the USA, France, and many other countries.  It’s a civil war of sorts, another civil rights movement, and this time, the question is:  Should we allow gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) couples legally marry?  (Not civil unionise.  Marry.  As one of the Supreme Court justices said, it’s the difference between a skim-milk marriage and a full marriage.)

We’ve heard every excuse in the book from the anti-marriage crowd.

“Marriage is for procreation.”  Really?  How can two straight people in their 50s get married if marriage is for procreation?

“God / Allah / Jesus / [Insert Your God Here] wants marriage between a man and a woman.”  I don’t think you or I can say anything about what God (or whatever god you believe in) thinks.  Besides, marriage has been around for a lot longer than some of our gods, so no one religion can truly make a claim on the institution of marriage.  Also, holy books like the Bible say a lot of things like, “Don’t eat shellfish” and “Don’t wear clothes of two different fabrics” and “Women are not equal to men” and “You can have slaves” and “Don’t cut your hair” and “Don’t get tattoos or pierce your body” and (my favourite) “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, yet anti-marriage equality people seem to conveniently forget some or all of these parts.  And, while we’re arguing this point, LGBT couples are asking for the right to legally marry so we can have the same rights and privileges under the law (not your church) that straight couples have.

“God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”  If you are dumb enough to believe that Adam and Eve were the only two people on the planet at the start, then you are dumb enough to spout garbage like this.  My Mom (a very smart woman) said to me one time: “I think Genesis in the Bible is how God tried to tell His people about these things in very simple terms, like explaining the Big Bang and evolution to a 5 year old.”  And it’s true.  Now, we’d say, “Imagine there was a boy named Adam, and a girl named Eve,” knowing that Adam represented men and Eve represented women.  And, even if you want to argue this point with me, go read some of the additional Biblical texts out there and let me know who Lilith is and how she fits into the picture if Adam and Eve are the only man and woman on the planet.  On the scientific front, homosexuality and even homosexual pairing is observed in many species on this planet.  So, God created gay ducks but He didn’t create gay people?  Right.

“Marriage is sacred.”  If it’s so sacred, why do we allow divorce?

“The fabric of society will unravel if we let gay and lesbian couples get married.”  Really?  Because we heard this argument with multiracial couples, and it totally happened when we allowed a black man to marry a white woman.  Oh wait.  It didn’t.  And see the point above.  If divorce, single parents, mixed marriages, etcetera, etcetera, haven’t destroyed the fabric of society (and they won’t), I doubt letting a few loving, caring, monogamous gay and lesbian couples getting married will unravel society either.

I could go on all day with some of the garbage that people say about the whole thing, but it comes down to this:

I was born gay; the only choice I made was to tell the truth and live my life true to my biology / genetics / whatever made me gay.  I pay the same taxes as everyone else.  I am supposedly equal in the eyes of the law.  But, as the law currently stands, I do not have the legal right to marry my partner Noel.  This automatically bars him and me from certain legal rights (like the ability to adopt as a couple) in New Zealand and thousands of legal rights, protections, and abilities in the USA.  This brings the argument back to that, therefore, as a gay man, I am not equal in the eyes of the law.

The USA is very good at doing this to groups of people, including African-Americans throughout US history and Japanese-Americans during World War II (at least).  Animal Farm has the perfect quote: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

One of the stories my Grandpa used to tell us that stands out in my mind was when he had to go to the emergency room in a hospital in Chicago or Milwaukee sometime in the 1940s or 1950s; I wish I could remember the story exactly.  My Grandpa had scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) and so, I guess he was used to being a bit of an outsider in that regard, and he did the Christian thing and treated others as he would like to be treated.  At the hospital, Grandpa had to wait for a while to see a doctor.  The nurse came in, quite flustered, and apologised profusely.  Grandpa said he was in a bit of pain, and the nurse said, “Well, we do have a coloured doctor on duty.”  Grandpa told her he didn’t care what colour the guy was, send him in.

The doctor came in and kept asking Grandpa if he was sure he wanted an African-American doctor to help him.  Grandpa said, “You’re a doctor, aren’t you?”  The doctor confirmed he was, to which Grandpa replied (again) that he didn’t care what colour the doctor was as long as he could make him feel better.

And this is the attitude a lot of my family has to this day.  This was the amazing attitude Grandpa had towards everyone he met in life, and it’s something I try to emulate (hopefully somewhat successfully, because I, like he, am a minority).

Grandpa died in 2004, aged 83.  I still think about him every day.  At his wake, though, another amazing thing happened.

My Grandma was talking to one of her and Grandpa’s friends, a woman about the same age.  I was standing nearby and happened to overhear my Grandma: something she doesn’t know to this day.

My then-83 year old Grandma said, “Marty (my Grandpa) even got to see Scott before passing away.  Scott flew in from New Zealand; we all wish his husband Noel could be here with us, too.”

My grandparents, devout Catholics their entire lives, never cared that I was gay.  They never cared that I was in love with another man or wanted to marry him.  They thought I should have the same rights as everyone else.  They never judged me at all, because they loved me for who I am.

It took courage for my Grandpa to let an African-American doctor help him out in an era that that was frowned upon.  It took courage for my Grandma to say to her peers that her grandson was married to another man.  It took courage for my friends and family to stand behind Noel and me to love us for who we are and support us in our fight for marriage equality.

Every little step we take as individuals, for the freedom and equality of others, helps change society in a positive way.

Do you have the courage to stand with us, on the right side of history?

Thicker Than Water (2007)

After three tries, I finally got through to her.

Today (28 February in the US, 1 March in New Zealand, except on leap years) is my Grandma’s birthday.

We spoke about a lot of different things, and, with my Grandma being from quite an extended family (she was the youngest of 13 children, and, as the youngest, she was the same age group as some of her older siblings’ children), I asked her how everyone was doing. She spoke about different people, and how they were moving on in their lives. I prompted her with several names along the way, and she, in turn, told me how they were or what they were up to.

Now, for some reason, my Mom doesn’t mix that often with the Bauer/Dittrich side of the family, so we mainly see them at, as Noel so lovingly calls it, “hatches, matches and dispatches”. I, on the other hand, think family are family; our ties are thicker than water. We share some part of our DNA or may be related by law or marriage, and, to me, that’s just as good. Despite maybe not having the same tastes in music or clothing or having different backgrounds, we still share one thing in common: a common relative or ancestor, without whom, our bond (or even our existence) would have never been.

In 2004, my Grandpa died. I’d rushed from literally one end of the world to the other to say good-bye, made it with enough time to spend part of a night, a day, and part of another morning with him before he passed away.

With such a radical change in my life within a few days, my world felt as if it had been tipped upside down and that some greater power was shaking the world to try to get me to fall off too. I often say to people, when I describe what it was like, that that period in my life felt like I was a guest star in my own life, as if I was one of the main cast who started the show, left for greener pastures, but was brought back for an earth-shattering event. The writers gave me lines to say, only enough to keep everyone happy. It was very surreal.

There were no writers, no show, no lines though; this was life.

At the wake, the Dittrich side of the family (my Grandma’s family) comprised most of the visitors. (The Fack side, my Dad’s brothers and sister, their spouses and children, my cousins, were there too.) It gave me a chance to catch up and talk with cousins I hadn’t seen in years.

The only place to eat dinner was Little America across Central Road from the funeral home. Brian, Darcie, Jeremy and I took Grandma over there, and, in the middle of the restaurant, there were some of our older cousins. We sat down, amongst them, and talked. It was such a break from everything devastating that had occurred in the days before, and, for maybe an hour, we unwound, eating and talking and sharing stories. Bill Middleton kept giving Brian aggravation (for some reason, he thinks he looks like Cary Grant). The family told funny stories and fond memories of Grandpa, and wasn’t that the best thing to remember him? I think I laughed at one point: such an alien and foreign thing at that point in time that I remember at the time I didn’t think it sounded like me.

But they took our minds off everything, spinning the positive.

I remember my cousins filing by, Grandpa’s immediate family sitting and waiting, to say their final good-byes. What stuck out most was my cousin Chuck putting his hand on my shoulder and saying something like, “It will be okay,” and my eyes welling up with tears.

Another strong memory: the younger cousins, the ones my age (and I am sorry if I got this wrong but it was such a blur to me, I am trying my best to piece it together!) being the pall-bearers. Chuck, Darren, JJ, Jason, Brandon and Greg bore the casket because, to be honest, my Mom, Dad and Grandma felt Brian, Jeremy, Darcie and I wouldn’t be able to handle it emotionally (and they were so right, at least for me). I hope I said thank you to those cousins, because, I do know some of them (if not all of them) loved my Grandpa very much as well.

I know some people are not as fortunate as I am to have such a wonderful ans supportive family. At night, when I pray before I go to bed, my prayer thanks God for such a great immediate and also all-round family.

My whole point is family, no matter how distant, if they are our own flesh and blood or people who we’ve collected along the way and love just the same, is the blood in our lives. They are those people who, like our immune system, rush in to fight our battles for us when we are weak. They hold us together when we need it, act as a support crew and, funny enough, we don’t bat an eyelash when they need help; we rush in just the same as they did for us.

So they are right; blood is so much thicker than water. And we have so much to be thankful for in having them in our lives.