I’m speaking for two minutes at the funeral. I decided in the car that I would manuscript, mostly because even with mood stabilizers and Klonopin on board, I’m still not sure how I’m going to feel at the funeral. If I manuscript, and then I start really bawling, I’ve got someone to read it and the story still gets out. Plus, I can publish it here when the funeral is over or have someone video it. Fuck it. If I lose my snot on camera, I don’t mind being shown as grieving. I am not planning on a spazz attack, I’m just planning because planning is logical in a time when grieving people are not.
Although I am so cerebral that I am planning this logically. It’s what I do. I am cool, confident, and capable until everyone else has had their meltdowns and I’ve coached them through it. Then, when everyone else is well, my delayed reaction is immense, but I may not be able to have it until I get home. Right now, adrenaline is high. I am betting that I will need some time for it to dissipate, but I know for sure that my experience of grief will evolve over time, especially since I left town at 22 and have rarely looked back. I feel bad that I could never settle into a routine here, that my nerves were always completely lacking in myelin because some parts of the city rattle me into a cold sweat. I never had to go by St. Mark’s or Bering that often, but since I lived in SW Houston, I was really close to Diane’s old house. I never went by it, because I remember the one and only day I was there with extraordinary clarity.
I remember the pained way my parents’ eyes looked, because on the one hand I knew for certain that they had doubts about bringing me to Diane’s send-off in the first place. On the other, they realized it was important to me to say goodbye in person. I think they thought it would introduce some kind of finality for me, the way seeing my mother in her casket will provide an enormous amount of closure…. opposite of my experience with my “other mother,” who continued a relationship with me for many years even though my biological mother forbade it.
I was caught in the idea of mother love for many years, because since I was so young when Diane and I met, that’s mostly the way I thought of her at the time. Part of abuse is the sunshine, and because our story is one of dichotomy, it made ours a great platonic love story because we’d each met a kindred spirit. My falling-in-love butterflies were rooted in so much more than attraction. We were both young musicians. We were both interested in the same types of music. Diane was a professional opera singer and I wanted an entire brain dump every time she sat next to me in choir. I was hungry for singing lessons, but I chose to take trumpet lessons instead because I was getting two singing lessons a week by watching someone who even Pavarotti said had a good voice at the Met auditions in Dallas. IF there is anything that I carry with me every day of my life, it is the shared flourishes we learned to sing together.
In fact, I don’t know if you Bridgeporters will know this or not, but church was “shake and bake….” and because she was up in front of the congregation, I got to be “Ricky Bobby.” When we were singing the hymns, if they ended with a high G or high A in the accompaniment, Diane would put up one finger if she saw me in the crowd. When we were next to each other, I would lean into the fullness of her sound, picking up her style so that even the grace notes lined up. It was also fun when Terry (the primary conductor at St. Mark’s) was out and Diane took over, because one of the introits in the Methodist Hymnal is “Blow Ye, The Trumpet Blow,” and both Terry and Diane wanted me to play the first line, but when Diane was conducting, I was always less nervous…. she was the face I looked to for love.
We just “got” each other. Diane admitted up front that I was often older than she was despite me being almost 12 years younger, and the fact that she looked to me for advice really meant a ton. We were always the closest when she was single, and for me, Diane meeting Susan was a mixed bag. I wasn’t sad that I was so much losing the chance to marry her myself, I was sad that now someone else had her primary attention. Relationships, particularly between two women, are insulated. It is the coccoon we choose, because since women tend to be more emotional than men, they choose that one intense emotional relationship that comes with sex over the emotional intensity of several relationships that straight women have with their wine and yoga pants girlfriends….. oh, wow, that line just hit home for a number of reasons.
And through all of this, my mother was grinning her teeth and bearing it. The more she tried to get me to separate from Diane, the more I rebelled, thinking that she was being homophobic and she just needed to get over it. I couldn’t have been more wrong, but I forgive myself. I only had so much processing power at that age.
During that time, the only thing that really connected us came on at 4:00 PM. We couldn’t discuss my homosexuality, and because I felt alienated, that’s why Oprah is one of the people in whom I see the face of God. For five solid days in a row for 25 years, there was one full hour a day we had something to discuss. We talked about her hair, her weight, and all the superficial things that everyone talked about above and beyond the content of the show. I don’t think my mother ever knew I was running the game…. that by talking about superficial things, I knew that the deeper message was sinking in. She even watched “The Puppy Episode” of Ellen because Oprah was in it.
Through Oprah, my mother became more and more accepting of the fact that gay just happens. She no longer felt responsible, as a lot of Christians do when they hear that homosexuality is a sin and now they’ve gone and fucked up their kids.
I don’t think that she ever fully understood the idea of two women being married to each other, but that didn’t stop her from spoiling the hell out of Kathleen and Dana. They always got just as big a Christmas gift as me, and even though we lived far apart and there was no family picture, her tradition was to send us a Target gift card so that we could buy matching pajamas to wear after Christmas Eve services It was one of our favorite things about Christmas, with both of “my girls,” because as a soprano I would always stagger in the door after Christmas Eve services, having literally worked my abs for three hours, and having fresh, new pajamas renewed my spirit. And, of course, the tradition got deeper with Dana, because we had seven Christmases.
[Editor’s Note: Keep Seven Christmases in the back of your mind for a Dana-centric title]….
I actually wrote a lot more than this, but WordPress did not save my changes and published an earlier draft. I’ll try to recreate what I said and post again.