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More than a Vacation

My niece Courtney recently had a baby boy.  I had some vacation time available so I planned a trip to California to see her and the baby.  After my travel arrangements were made,  she planned Braeden’s baptism for the Saturday during my visit.  My father and I traveled to California for the baptism and maybe catching up a little with family I had not seen in more than 5 years and to meet the additions to the family I had never gotten the chance to get to know.  What I got from this trip was so much more than I expected or  I could ever hope for.

The first person I got to meet was 8-year-old Bailey, my Nephew Chris’s oldest kid.  He came  to the airport with my brother Ronnie.  I  was nervous about meeting him and did not know how he would react to meeting some old guy who he only had seen a picture of and was told that he was his uncle.  My fears were put to rest.  As soon as he saw me he said, “Hi Uncle Patrick.  You look different than your picture.”  I responded, ” Hi Bailey.  I am glad to finally meet you.”  That was it.  We loaded our luggage and we were on our way.  We talked the entire time during the one hour drive from the airport.  It felt like we were friends forever.

We stayed at Joyce and Lynn’s house.  My niece Courtney, her  boyfriend Tim, and my nephew Vinny all live there too.  Joyce is my brother’s former wife and Lynn is her husband.  Some people may think that this is an odd arrangement  but in reality it is not.  I had developed a good friendship with Joyce during the time that she and Ronnie were married.  When they split up things were awkward for quite a while.  It took me a while to come to the conclusion that whatever happened between them had nothing to do with me.  It was between the two of them.  I had not seen Joyce since my mother’s funeral 7 years ago and it was not until maybe a year ago that we started talking again, gradually through online chats and then short conversations.  I knew then that whatever apprehensions that I had were just silly and Joyce was still my friend.  We spent almost every night during my stay talking and catching up and really sharing how we felt about everything about our lives.  I knew by the time I left that she was my sister and also my best friend.

Ronnie and Joyce worked hard at being friends and being good parents and through that hard work he and Lynn became good friends.  Lynn is a wonderful man.  He told me that he thinks of Ronnie as a brother.  I had only met him once before, 7 years ago at my mother’s funeral which was not a good time to get to know anyone new,  but during this visit I had the opportunity to get to know him.  I spent many evenings  talking with him about just about anything and felt very at ease with him.  I had the opportunity to spend a day fishing with him and  Tim.  It was a great day spent on the banks of the Sacramento River.  We each caught quite a few fish but threw them all back because they were not quite big enough to keep.  It would not have mattered if we caught any because of the company I was with.  I heard a saying a while back that went something like this, ” You can learn more about a person in a few hours of play then a whole year of conversation.”  I know just from this day that they both are good men and I count them among my very good friends.

My sister-in-law Tina, my nephew Michael’s wife Heather and their little boy Mikey came up from southern California for the baptism.  I had not seen them since Heather and Michael’s wedding 5 years ago.  I had never met Mikey who will be 4 on New Year’s Eve.  He is the spitting image of his father.  We got a big surprise the night before the baptism.  Michael flew up from San Diego to surprise everyone.

I spent a lot of time with Vinny and Courtney that week.  Whether it was a trip to the store, going for coffee, watching a movie, helping Courtney with christening preparations or working on family history with Vinny.  We talked a lot about just about anything.  The last time I saw Courtney was 5 years ago and she was 20.  The last time I saw Vinny was 7 years ago and he was 15.  I was getting to know them as adults now.

Friday that week we went to San Francisco.  Tina Joined us.  I was a little unsure at first because I never really talked with her about me being gay, but I know she always knew.  I had always felt at ease with her.  I put my fears aside when we arrived in San Francisco.  We were all determined to just have a good time.  We spent the afternoon doing typical touristy things, having a great time being just plain old silly along with some old-fashioned, good-natured ribbing.  I don’t think I ever had as good a time as I did that day.  Not once the entire day did I worry about being myself.  My niece and nephew had grown up to be two fabulous people and Tina was not only my sister-in-law but now a good friend.

Saturday was Braeden’s baptism.  What was a joyous occasion was also a little bit sad for me, because I knew that I would be going back home to Ohio the next day.  After the ceremony at church, we went back to Ronnie’s house for a celebration gathering.  I got to meet some of Tim’s family and do some catching up with my own family.  After the guests had left it was just my family at Ronnie’s house.  We really enjoyed being around each other, reliving old times and celebrating the new ones.  As the night wore on the mood was getting more somber.  Still happy, but the sadness was setting in.  In less than 24 hours I would be on my way back to Ohio.  The only thing on my mind was “When am I going to see everyone again?”  Lots of hugs were exchanged and some tears were shed too. It was very difficult for me so I can only imagine how it was for my father.  This was the first time I had seen him cry since my mother died 7 years ago.  The next morning before leaving for the airport was even more difficult.  Saying goodbye to my nieces and nephews was difficult enough but I was in tears saying goodbye to Joyce.  The regeneration of our friendship that I was taking home with me was priceless because it took on new meaning that week.

Ronnie took us to the airport.  We unloaded our luggage and were saying our goodbyes when I got the most unexpected hug from Ronnie.  This was from the brother who never really showed much physical affection that I can remember.  The brother who at one time thought he could catch being gay from me.  It was obvious that he did not believe this any more.  I did not say anything at the moment and thought about it the entire trip home.  When we got home it was very late.  I texted Ronnie to tell him we arrived safely.  He texted me back and said to give him a call as soon as we got settled.  Dad went to bed because it was really late.  It was now time to call Ronnie.  I wasn’t sure what was up with that.  We never really talked much before except for the obligatory hello and how are you doing type of conversation.  The call lasted for about 20 minutes.  He wanted to let me know how much he appreciated that I spent so much time with Courtney and Vinny.  They had a great time with me while I was there.  Courtney and Vinny taught me that I do not have to be afraid to be myself and that is what I told Ronnie.  Then he said the words that I thought I would never hear from any of my brothers.  “I am proud of the way you handle your life and you should never be afraid to be who you are?  I did not know what to say except thank you for telling me.  I got off the phone crying a bit and thinking, ” Wow! My brother is not the person I thought he was, but he is the person I always wanted him to be.”

It is a coincidence that I am publishing this on October 11th.  October 11th is National Coming out day when those that are gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual open up about who they are even if it is only expressing it to themselves.  Last year on this day I wrote about my experiences growing up gay and was wondering what I could write about this year.  The story of my vacation fits this theme really well.

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  1. Jeannee
    October 11, 2011 at 7:10 am

    WOW! As wonderful and as full of love as this vacay looked from your FB pictures, Patrick, I REALLY got that from reading this post!!! Just tremendous! So, tell us, please …. when/are you relocating to California, to avoid snow and cold and live closer to the people whom you love AND that love you more?!

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