Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores
Photographer Patricia Gulick

Saturday, June 8, 2013

4-6-13 RMB People Are People
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
In reading over these letters, I see I have been quite the whiner. I have no complaint with the people in my life. They did the best they could with what they had, as did I. Here is a list of positives…lest you think there were none.
Mom was a loving soul, more of a friend than a mom, forever young at heart, the life of any party, beautiful and graceful. I reached adulthood at a time when her life was in conflict. Neither of us had all the answers, but we always knew we cared for one another. Not long after my teenage years, she became a full time Nana to my nephew and niece. Those two children reinforced the bridge that Lady had built between us. We became closer. Although she had her struggles in the mom department, she excelled as a Nana. I am fortunate to have known her, especially in the Nana years.
Dad and I will probably never see eye to eye. Conversations are still strained. The urge to disappear in his presence remains strong. In his eyes adulthood grants a certain level of status. It is not that I am trying to stay a child when near him, it is that I am the same person I always was, why would I be of interest to him now if I was not before? Then again, he too did not carve himself an easy path. I have tried to cut him some slack, but just as my mom saw a stubborn daughter, he sees a distant one.
On one of his visits, when I was in my thirties, he mentioned that he and his service buddies would visit bars in San Diego and sometimes go into a gay bar and that was okay with them. It was an out of the blue comment during a rare moment when we were alone. I guess he was still expecting more of a response from his question a decade or so earlier. Or maybe he was saying whoever I am is okay with him. I don’t know because I didn’t ask. I never needed his permission to be who I am; never fretted over what he or anyone else thought of me. Although I contemplated his question for my own peace of mind, I never felt the need to get back to him on my findings. I don’t discuss myself much, with him or anyone else.
I hold a great deal of respect for his service to our country. I am supportive of the armed forces, although I would like to see an end to wars. I feel there is enough work in establishing structure in the world, rebuilding from natural disasters, assisting those in need, etc. to keep all the armies of the world busy.
Some of my biggest heroes have not been mentioned at all or very little in these letters. They are the siblings that have all positively affected my life. The “adult” sister who took me under her wing and raised the child who was only three and a half years her junior. Then there are three other sisters, all of whom have made their own effort to understand me, not an easy task I know; two brothers that are the best big brothers in the world, the best ones for me anyway. The younger of the brothers also served in the Marines, during the Gulf War.
During a family reunion I got into a heated discussion with an in-law of one of my siblings about same sex couples adopting children. It was sparked by me showing off pictures of the boys and their moms. ‘Grow, expand your mind, I dare you to’. My eldest brother listened quietly for nearly an hour as we each made our points and voiced our views. Big brother, who I have called Bubba since I could barely talk, is a man of few words; guess that runs in the family.

To be honest, I didn’t know where he stood. My family had never discussed such things. My gut trusts my siblings to be understanding, although they are all clearly straight. I think that is what tipped my father off; my moving out at seventeen and not getting married, how peculiar of me. Mom may have told him, except for…my family doesn’t discuss such things. As a matter of fact my siblings, except the two sisters I had the talks with, will be learning all that is in these letters for the first time, when and if they choose to read them.
Anyway, when Bubba had heard enough, he stepped into the conversation with the booming phrase “People are people!” (imagine that in a thick Alabama accent if you can, sounds more like “Paypole air paypole!”) When he does speak up, his words resonate, in volume, tone and content.
He told us he found out his best friend from high school was gay when he called his friend’s father to get a current address and was informed that he might not want to visit him, because he was gay. My brother’s response was that he would visit him and if he was still the same guy he knew, then him being gay “didn’t matter none.” He found him to be the same guy he used to be, how amazing is that?
“If people are good people, then they are good people. If they’re not, then they’re not. It’s simple as that.” He elaborated how being gay did not make a person bad, just as being straight did not make a person good. He concluded by repeating “People are people.” The eldest of us having spoken, our conversation ended. My brother, my hero. 
In Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser you write of a family history that could have created a very bitter Rita Mae Brown. Many have grown bitter with less cause. Hearing your perspective, the patience you exhibited when experiencing it and later in retrospective, offers hope for the human condition.  I am having trouble finding words to express this.
Somehow it relates to what you convey about community, learning from one another, being understanding, respectful and, if possible, kind. We don’t have to all be the same, or even believe the same, as a matter of fact you encourage bringing differences to light so that we may enjoy and learn from them…but we must get along. In the end we must care for one another if we are to survive and wish to flourish. Your lesson resounds as the conflict in Korea brews.
People are people.
Forward we go,

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