Yesterday I found a new (to me) blog called Raising my Rainbow. I found it while wading through the train wreck of negative political crap that I can’t seem to stop looking at these days over on The Huffington Post. There was a post that caught Fearsome’s attention…could that be a post about a positive, touching and inspirational story? Fearsome reminded me, as he sometimes has to, that we need to be focusing on the good not the bad. He convinced me to click on the story.
The post led me to the actual blog from whence it came. A beautiful blog written by a loving mother about raising her son, life with her family and moving through a world that sometimes places upon us stereotypes and expectations. A blog so touching to me that I immediately added it to the Fearsome Buds blogroll for easy access.
Anywhoo, you can catch up with that story by either reading the re-blogging of the story that led us there yesterday or by clicking on the link labeled “blog” above or simply click the new Raising my Rainbow link over in Fearsome Buds.
Who is Andy? Well he’s not the boy from the blog. Andy is someone that was once very dear to me whom I lost tragically many many years ago. The new blog I found flooded me with emotion, emotions surrounding memories of Andy.
While in high school Andy showed up in one of my classes one day back about 1981. There was no missing Andy. From his outrageous clothes, flamboyant voice, dramatically gestured movements to his coal black dyed hair and eyeliner there was no way to miss him. We instantly became close friends. While he turned heads as we walked by no one even questioned as to why I walked with him. It was very early in the 1980s, I was only in high school but I was out and proud. Gay as a goose and everyone knew it.
You see after a very tumultuous junior high experience where I had been ridiculed for being different, in high school I had embraced my differences and found that once I owned my gayness it took the power out of the name calling and suddenly I was ok. In fact in some circles I was the cool token. Andy had already embraced this before he landed at our high school. Even though he raised more eyebrows than I did and was way more flamboyant than I, he was ok. Unfortunate was what landed Andy at our high school.
Andy’s grandparents and uncle shared a duplex about two blocks from my home. Andy’s uncle on one side and his grandparents on the other. Andy’s uncle had taken him in at the request of Andy’s parents. You see they were strict Greek Othodox and Andy wasn’t accepted by his parents. His uncle, who was not gay, was his only hope as his parents no longer wanted him in their home nor around his one year younger brother. Andy was a black sheep and in their eyes not good for the perfect jock model son younger brother.
While Andy could handle high school and the occasional insult or cruel remark, he was deeply wounded by the rejection of his parents. I had my challenges as I was gay. Andy wasn’t only gay but also gender non-conforming. Back in the early 1980s in small town Virginia we had never heard of gender non-conforming. Andy was considered a freak. I loved him for who he was and so did several others that we hung with. He was hilarious and always having a good time. He did pretty well getting along at school. His parents tormented him.
Andy and I grew close. I got to see the other side of Andy that the casual high school friends didn’t. I got to know the wounded, battered, damaged vulnerable Andy. Andy just wanted to be loved by the people that he called mom and dad. Mom and dad ridiculed him just for simply being who he was. They called him a sinner and a disgrace. Thank god for Andy’s uncle Marty. If it wasn’t for Marty I’m afraid Andy would have been another teen suicide.
Occaisionally Andy would act out. I mean who wouldn’t? We were young and alcohol and drugs were just starting to enter our lives. Andy loved the escape. Overall though he didn’t take it too far. We had fun.
It was about six months into the school year and or newfound friendship, Andy didn’t show up to school. Not unusual as his attendance was mediocre at best. I mean he lived with his uncle and he could get depressed. Then I got the news. Andy was dead.
Andy’s brother had come to spend the night with the grandparents. Andy and his brother were close when mom and dad weren’t in the way. They were only a year apart for god sakes. They had taken one of the cars, a convertible Pontiac Gran Ville, out for the evening. Two brothers on the town. Andy’s brother was driving and apparently lost control of the car on a windy rural road… a road that actually was one of my favorites. The car had flipped and both boys were killed instantly.
1976 Pontiac Gran Ville
I had only known Andy for about six months but we had become the best of friends. My friend Cathy drove me to the funeral home. There was a huge crowd of people. As we approached the door I could see through the open double doors that there were two caskets, one on each end of a long room. One end was full of people, flowers and distraught family. On the other end of the room sat Andy’s casket. Andy had just a few flowers by his casket. It was open I could see he was dressed in a conservative suit. He would have never ever worn anything remotely like that suit. There wasn’t anyone by Andy’s casket. Cathy immediately commented to me about this horrible sight. Then the arm grabbed me.
“You are not welcome here” a stern voice said to us as we were stopped in our tracks. I was shocked, Cathy wasn’t having it. She immediately asked “Why?” “You, your kind, you are not welcome here” was the reply as the family member stared right at me. We turned and left, both in tears. Andy was a friend of Cathy’s too.
I’ll never forget the loneliness that Andy described to me in those hours of his despair. I’ll never forget the loneliness I witnessed seeing his lifeless ignored body alone in a casket at the opposite end of a room where his perfect jock model child brother lay in a casket surrounded by flowers, family and tears at the other. I’ll never forget being refused entry into the funeral of a friend.
I know that the family cited religion as to why Andy was rejected. I believe it was ignorance and fear as to why Andy was rejected.
Andy was a blessing in my life. His circumstances are obviously a scar in the fabric that makes up my life. Andy taught me to have an open mind. Andy re-enforced my self expression. Andy showed me the healing power of laughter. Andy demonstrated making the best one can out of a situation, even when it hurts. Andy helped me to gain courage. Andy shared vulnerability. Andy made me appreciate my family, my life and my circumstances.
Blessed be the parents that accept their children with open hearts, open minds and unconditional love. Blessed be the parents that embrace their child’s differences and encourage their children to be just who they are. Blessed be the parents that share their experiences thus opening minds and enriching the lives of others. Blessed be the parents who change minds and grow understanding.
Andy never got to see Ru Paul’s drag race. Hell, Andy never got to see a drag show. If Andy had …he would have been up on that stage and starring in the next show. This Halloween whether C.J. knows it or not, Andy is right beside him cheering him on.