Tribute to an Angel From Uganda

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My mind is so much with my faraway friend, Barb Mal, as she hits her milestone 50th birthday, and the first without her sweet, charming, mother who recently passed away, I remember (as I often do) with so much appreciation, respect, and love for how our bond began.

I was “shipped away” to Quaker boarding school in Nowheresville, Ohio, my last year of high school. Apparently my penchant for good times and bad grades had hit the ceiling for my parents (LOL) and off I went, kicking & screaming. Of course, in my teen angst I was determined to hate it there (which, fortunately, did not last long) and my first day there was sheer misery. Lonely and isolated, I was a stranger in a strange land, as I watched the many returning students hugging & laughing after a long summer apart in an era where email & texting had not yet been invented and long distance phone calls were a luxury due to the cost. Witnessing all of these joyous reunions only served to make me feel more alone and so I wandered down the brick path of the grounds to a swing set that was located away from the main building but still visible. I sat there silently swinging alone and crying, throwing myself a proper and fully self-indulgent pity party, drowning in loneliness, distress, and anger, when I saw out of the corner of my eye a lone girl walking down the path towards me. I was thinking to myself, “Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me. PLEASE don’t talk to me!” (LOL) as my pity party only had an invitation for one and that was ME. Still she walked closer until she got to the swing set and silently sat down next to me. I did not look up, as I was crying, embarressed, awkward, and dedicated to being anti-social so as not to like anything about the place. She sat and began swinging slowly next to me in silence as I continued to stare at the ground until, after a short time went by, she quietly said, “You know, it’s not so bad here.”. OMG – I literally am choked up writing this! It truly is the sweetest, most selfless, kind thing that I think anyone has ever done for me. It’s especially notable because Barb was a returning student and so easily could have chosen (as I’m sure I would have) to have focused her attention on those happy, post-summer, reunions but she went out of her way to comfort a sad & lonely stranger. I knew from that moment that she was a very special person. 32 years later, we are still bonded. My parents referred to her as their “bonus daughter”.
She is kind, strong, intelligent, cultured, and empowered. Not only do I love her, I respect her enormously. She is an incredible single parent of a wonderful daughter, Edisa, whose father she met as we were out for my bachelorette party and whose flirtation I unapologetically interrupted as I stole her back away for the night! LOL I was with her to go home from the hospital after she gave birth, this tiny, new, adorable, creature SCREAMING in the backseat of the car with us laughing hysterically in a state of shock & awe, exlaiming to one another, “WHAT DO WE DO NOW???”. She figured it out….like a champ.
I love you, Barb Mal, and look forward to spending your next milestone birthday TOGETHER!!!
We should all be so lucky as to have a friend like her. ❤

A “Gay Concert”

TrueColors_EventPoster

I once received a memorable post-it note from a boss regarding a delicate situation, “Tact is for weenies” stamped on the pad.  Another quote relevant to this tale (a la’ Dragnet): “I just want the facts, ma’am.”  Sometimes silence is the best strategy as facts speak for themselves.

Rewind to 2008 and a concert tour that you may or may not recall, organized and headlined by the ever fabulous, eclectic, electric hue haired songbird otherwise known as Cyndi Lauper.  It was the “True Colors” tour, offering up a delectable feast for both the ears and the heart due to an amazing line up of artists and its accompanying cause regarding awareness & accomplishment towards gay rights and equality.

It is a curious yet undisputed, and often laughed about, fact amongst my friends that I have frequently been the disco nurse yielding a bedazzled stethoscope skilled at locating the heartbeat of entertainment options directed towards the gay community.  The reason that this stands out as unusual is that in my vast circle & community of gay friends I wear “The Cheese Stands Alone” title, a hetero adrift in a loving, rainbow colored sea.  And so it was at my discovery and suggestion that my best friend and I found ourselves at the True Colors concert.

As we pulled up to the stadium with a couple of other friends in tow, excitedly chattering as we exited the vehicle and made our way in, I made a random comment about it being “a gay concert”.

*****SCREEEEECCCHHHHHHH******  Hit the brakes!  I was in TROU-BLE (yes, all caps style)!

“A GAY concert?”, my best friend shouted back, abruptly coming to a halt mid-stride and glaring at me fiercely.  “What do you mean, a GAY concert?”.

Well…….  Ummm, wait. WHAT?  WHAT is happening?

All of the sudden my best friend, who was gay (only using past tense as he has since passed away, though I’m sure it doesn’t require a mathematics degree to reach that equation as relevant to his reaction.), was glaring at me with laser eyes shining bright with disapproval, indignation, and offense.

NEVER did we argue and certainly never did I mean or cause any offense in this or any other matters, regardless of nature.  As Michael Jackson told Paul McCartney (can you tell I’m a fan of quotes?), “I’m a lovah, not a fighter.”.

As I reeled myself in from the line of shock that had just been cast I began trying to explain the nature of the “True Colors” tour (of which he was completely unaware) but it was falling on purposefully deaf and defiant ears.  There was to be no explaining because there certainly was no listening as he hooked arms with our lesbian friend that was along and loudly said, “Come on, Barb – let’s go into the GAY CONCERT!” and began marching ahead of me, my new view of his back firmly in check.  As I continued to try to explain we entered the stadium together where we immediately encountered a small group of common friends.  Gay friends.  “Hi, hi!”, *hug* hug*.  “We’re so excited about the concert!  Great to see you – have fun!”, blah, blah, blah.

Just a few steps further and I get bum rushed from the side.  More hugs & “hiya’s” and exchanged enthusiasm regarding the shared evening laid before us.  “I just want the facts, ma’am.”.  Also gay.

As we took our place in the cattle line to grab cocktails & beer he continued to throw committed but diminishing shade and disgruntled “moos” in my direction. Next thing you know there’s a *tap*tap* on my shoulder.  Turn around and, Hellooooooo, gay friends!  Standing in line together, we awaited our turn to drink from the trough as the lasers blissfully continued to dim.

Our drink mission accomplished and in hand, we set off to locate our seats and embrace a great night of live music and camaraderie, though not before passing another cluster of friends on the way who yelled out and waved.

Oh my, you ARE quick.  GAY!
Gay, gay, gay, gay, GAY!

And so my friend completed his evolution from cow to sheep(ish) as he looked at me and said, “Okay, I guess you’re right.  This is a gay concert.”, to which I gave no reply, just a wink and a shared laugh, grateful for the gradual & refreshing rain that put out the fire of fury.  It’s omething we laughed about for all the years together that followed and that I still do on my own.  Hopefully it made you too.  🙂

“Tact is for weenies.”

n1367756729_30101817_7876

Photo Credit (True Colors poster):
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39831904By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39831904