Sunday, February 20, 2011

Keeping It Clean

I got on a cleaning kick this morning.  Amazingly.  I tend to be somewhat of a slob.  Not a terrible one.  Just a bit disorganized, and more than a bit lazy about housework.  Of course, living with a former Navy man has spoiled me a tad.  The Man cleans about everything that does not and a few things that do move.  This morning I tackled my bathroom (yes, we do have separate bathrooms – I recommend it for all housemates.  It cuts down on conflicting grooming schedules).  He cleans his bathroom.  I clean mine.  Mine stays quite clean.  It’s the clutter that gets out of hand.  But I cleaned and cleared this morning.  And the mind jumps.  It landed rather logically on “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”  And my mind jumped again.

I did not know when we first started dating, but The Man does not believe in God.  I write this with some reluctance.  Some of my family members read my essays, and my relatives are largely Christian.  I do not want them trying to redeem him and save his soul.  The Man’s father, heart in the right place, does much of that already. 

When I did discover that my guy was a “non-believer,” it made no matter to me.  Though I was raised a Southern Baptist, I had given up on church.  After coming out as a homosexual, it was not so much a decision as a result.  I heard from friends and relatives that I was going to Hell.  People would tell me that they were praying for my soul.  I endured sermons about the evils of homosexuality.  Really Christians?  Really?!

Abandoning the Christian faith, I still felt the need to worship.  So I started attending a local Buddhist temple.  I enjoyed the serenity of the religion, though I did not delve too deeply in the tenets of the faith.  Not doing my homework resulted in the following anecdote: 

One Saturday morning, The Man and I were relaxing at the house.  The doorbell rang.  The Man walked to the front window.  He returned to the living room.  “Don’t go to the door.  It’s two ladies with bibles.”
“Oh, geez.”  I stood and rolled my eyes at The Man.  When I opened the door, the well-dressed women began by telling me about Jesus and his “infinite grace.”  Then they invited me to their church.  I thanked them but told them that I already attended a temple. 
“Temple?” They asked.
Yes, temple. I replied.
“What kind of temple?”  They asked.
Buddhist temple. I replied. I’m a Buddhist.
“Oh!  Tell us about that.” They requested.
I babbled something about our belief that all beings were naturally good and that by striving to do well we meet our highest evolution.  It even sounded like bullshit to me.
“Is there another person here?”  They asked.
Yes, my partner is here. But you probably do not want to talk to him.  I said
At ‘him,’ their eyes widened.
He’s an atheist. I explained.
Eyes wider still.
They offered me a pamphlet and left quickly. 
And after hearing myself having a difficult time describing my new religion, I stopped attending temple.
Ultimately here I am, sharing a home with the most holy, righteous, cheerful, kind, and caring man that I have ever met.  Ok, so he’s not Godly.  He doesn’t force his views on others.  He doesn’t go door to door preaching of an untended universe.  He keeps a smile on his face without the assistance of a spiritual family.  Ok, maybe he is godly.

Cleanliness was the first priority with my grandmother.  Also, she was one of the godliest women I’d ever met.  Before she passed, we had a conversation one afternoon.  I had recently come out and was raw-nerved due to my separation with the church.  I asked her.  “Maw-maw, do you think that I’m going to Hell?”
She gave me a direct look to the eye.  “Of course not.  You’ve got a good heart.  God knows that.”
My cleaning this morning brought my grandmother back to me.  And today that was the only godliness I needed.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Always There

She has always been there for me.  But more importantly than that, she has always just been there.  She has been the most constant presence in my life.  In my earliest memories my sister and I were together, somewhat forced to spend time with each other.  In the late-60s, my family lived on the grounds of a plant in east Texas where my dad worked.  On the property, there were only two houses:  ours and one across the road.  The family in the other house did include a teenage girl, who spent a bit of time with my sister.  But most days, my sister and I passed time exploring the creeks and woods near our house, riding our bikes on the dirt roads around the plant, and listening to our mom’s 45 records on our small plastic stereo.  We learned to get along, which we did very well.

My sister went to live with our grandparents in Louisiana when she was five.  The earliest that children could start school in Texas was at age six.  So she spent her first school year away from the family.  I do not remember being especially broken-hearted when she left.  Maybe it was the knowledge that I would have our mom all to myself; maybe it was the assurance that I knew my sister would return.  She did.
My dad was transferred to Tennessee when I was five.  I didn’t have much fear of the move.  Given our living situation in Texas, I had not had the opportunity to make close friends that I would miss.  Above all, I knew that I was taking my best friend with me.  My family spent a year in Tennessee before returning to our hometown in Louisiana.  And there we stuck.
Living in a small suburban area outside of a small town, other kids were available for friendship.  So my sister and I began to spend less time together.  Over a long period of time, I had to be weaned from my want of her company.  She would expressly state that I did not need to hang out with her and her friends.  So, I started to hang out with the boys in the neighborhood. I enjoyed it, almost as much as I enjoyed being around my sister.  Almost.
As we entered adulthood, we stayed close.  She was the best aunt possible to my son.  And when my wife and I divorced, she helped out immeasurably.  I had the delight of seeing her become a mother (four times over).  And as good of an aunt she is, she is an even better mother.
Now we both are busy with our lives.  But we talk on the phone once a week; more frequently when there is some crisis or tough situation brewing with either of us.  She is the person that understands how I work, probably more than I know how she does.   She had a two-year jump on figuring me out.  But I have a pretty good handle on her as well.  She is thoughtful and sympathetic.  She possesses a sharp wit and a quick mind.  She can keep her head in the craziest crazy circumstances.  In a word, she's incredible.
I love being in her presence.  We laugh together at the most inappropriate times. We cry together when all seems hopeless. We relax in each other’s company, secure in the knowledge that we can just be ourselves: no masks, no shields.  When I look into her lovely blue eyes, I know that all will be just fine.  Everything.