October 10, 1998: MORE HOLLOW THAN THESE EMPTY ROOMS

Dear Dominic,

I thought that I would be sad to leave this house, but I’m not.  Tonight is our last night here—most of the rooms are empty and echo when you speak in them.  I remember when we first moved here when you were so little.  Many happy times in this house and many sad ones, as well.  You have left us more hollow than these empty rooms by removing yourself from our lives.  Shattering our family has taken a terrible toll on us.  Oh, what a terrible choice you’ve made!  But it is not too late to walk away from it.

You are not stuck and you do not owe that other person anything—you are both in grievous error.  You can reform your life; you can be forgiven and you are loved.  A genuine, true love from both of us and more importantly from the God you’ve betrayed.  Please come back to those who love you more deeply than you can ever hope for in such an unnatural relationship.  We are all ready to help you by whatever means necessary, but you must give up entirely your sin.  Fr. “O” stands ready to help you if you’ll come back.  Your life is going nowhere (except down).  I know it.

You have probably let others know your lifestyle and when word gets around, no one will hire you for teaching positions—you need to abandon that life—live normally, celibate, at least while you’re getting yourself straightened out.  Come back to the Lord and your life will improve.  You’re out of touch with reality—all your socializing, parties, friends are all vanity and phony.  Come back to the Lord and to those who love you before it’s too late.

Oh, my son, how much I love you and miss you.  Please open your eyes!

Always,

Mom

June 18, 1998: PREPARE TO SURVIVE

Dear Dominic,

I know that you probably will not take seriously what I am about to say, but I must tell you anyway.

For years I have been warning you and your sister about the terrible crises that will befall this country and the world.  If you open your eyes, you may be able to see that the world is on the verge of economic depression, global war, mass starvation and disease.  All the signs are there to see!  And many people see it, not just!  We are trying to prepare to survive!  We want you to come home!  We love you.  No one else does and when “survival” is at stake, all your “friends” will desert you!  Only family cares!  You must give up your sinful inclination.  You must prepare to come home ASAP or you may never make it back and you’ll be stuck forever aloneAll can be forgiven.

You must open your eyes!  Please come home before it’s too late!

Love,

Mom

May 11, 1998: THAT WAS MY PLAN

Dear Dominic,

I do not curse the day I became a mother.  To do so would be an act of incredible ingratitude to my Lord, who must have known (of course, He did) that it was the vocation I wanted.  No, I am only incredibly sad that my gifts from God can not be returned to Him.  You see, that was my plan.  To return to God two good, grateful, obedient, strong, loving children in whom we could all rejoice and be glad.  Oh, well.  I tried.  But I have learned in the last hellish five years to expect absolutely nothing of anyone and I will no longer be disappointed.

Nor have I ever been blind to your good qualities!  I was blinded by them!  I thought that you and “S” were everything good and wonderful and that I had succeeded in my vocation.  You and your sister and father have always mattered most to me.  Yes, I admit, you were more than special.  But your many good qualities will not get you into heaven; your sin (even one) can keep you out!

So, where does that leave us?  My spiritual advisor, Fr. “O”, without whom I would have done awful things to certain people and would surely be in jail and on my way to hell, has been a great blessing.  He does not have the energetic enthusiasm of Fr. “Z”, but he is solid and pious and, I believe, the advisor God wanted for me.  I am obligated to obey him and I will.

I love, but as Father has told me, the worse thing I can do for your soul is to cave.  I will not cave . . . My first obligation now is to your father.  He will never say it, but the two of you have totally destroyed him.  He is now going to a psychiatrist and for your father to voluntarily do this, you have to know he is in bad shape!  His guilty feelings, his rejection by both of you—he doesn’t know which end is up!  The stress is killing us both—but the two of you go merrily on your way!  Thanks a bunch!

What is left to say?  We love you.

Love always,

Mom

p.s. May the great St. Monica pray for you as she did for her Augustine!

April 7, 1998: EL PAISAJE INTERIOR

An epistle to Dominic, my brother in Christ, from “H”, a wandering pilgrim, seeking after God’s will, ever guided by the Holy Spirit.  Thanks be to God!

I shall spare you the usual introductory remarks which are so common in epistolary applications, yet ever hoping that you are well and happy and engaging in rewarding life activities.  I want to see you, and I want to meet Scott, who seems like a nice, big “kid” and a celebrant of life.  For it is in the celebration of life, the enthusiasm, the bounding joy that I most greatly admire young people.  For this reason, I have always said, “I love kids.”  I still do.

Thank you for your letter, written in a wonderfully personal style, still full of ideas evidencing a mind in full flower, yet endeavoring to disclose information which causes much pain and risks the degree of friendship which binds people together in persona and time.  It is received well and with gratitude.  I now know of yet another room in the life and person of Dominic, mi hermano en Cristo, and I understand, I accept, and I am not surprised.

I have observed both function and dysfunction in your family for years.  Yours is not unusual for families—I have had this sort of experience in my own life.  I am virtually excommunicated because I refused to “take sides” in my brother’s divorce.  My niece speaks to me, but my brother does not, nor my nephew, nor his mother.  I got caught in the crossfire of an embattled family and I got “shot”—excommunicated.

So, I will pass from this life alone, in silence.  And in silence I shall seek to do God’s will, to avoid most sin.  But I am still guided by the Holy Spirit and I have been showered by much Grace, for which I am truly grateful, so that I know I am still part of some Grand Plan which I am not given to know.

Your “coming out” was not a surprise—I already learned of it, some months ago, in one evening I was drinking port and I was saying within my mind, “I wonder how Dominic is doing?”  An answer occurred, “Oh, he’s fine.  He lives with Scott; he may be ‘gay.’  So what, no matter.  I hope he’s ok.  He should lift weights in order to be ‘street safe’ during hours of darkness.  After all, he’s one of my favorite kids, you know.”  And the “favorite kid” status still stands to this date!

Does “coming out” change the dynamics of anything?  No.  With the information in your last letter—so human, so soul-wrenching—poor Dominic, you have suffered so greatly over this entire situation.  But, alas, you are a Catholic, and Catholics wallow in guilt and punish themselves.  I think often needlessly.  Allow me to deal with these theological topics at another time.

Dominic, my friend, do not forget that I am a child of Berkeley with two degrees from that delightful academic center.  I had a wonderful time there; the happiest years of my life were those at Berkeley.  I met many people there: people of many cultures, colors, shapes, ideas, and lifestyles.  Berkeley taught me tolerance, and life and time have taught me patience and understanding.

But I would still like to drive back to visit you and to stay with you for a few days, then have you and Scott drive west to Seattle and you can stay here with me (you, both of you) on “neutral ground” lest some of the family encounters be somewhat unsettled.

So, “U”, the friendly 25-year-old med student from Morelia, Mexico, sat quietly as we rode over Stevens Pass to visit “I”, the Irish goatherd in the mountains near Skykomish.  Oscar is sharing an apartment with his buddy.  Then he asked, in a tone anticipating my instant disapproval and rejection, “I need to ask an important question.  What do you think of homosexuals?”

I replied, “Oh, I think homosexuals are people who are either differently wired from birth or are so influenced by numbers of different factors in their family lives or social experiences such that they tend to seek companionship or even some sort of love with individuals of their own gender.  I do not think they are evil, covered with sin, but I do think they are often pursued by guilt and are often apologetic for who they are.  Society seems ashamed of them, because society can only accept the existence of any form of heterosexual activity even though it be deviant or predatory.  I have heard mature adults say of the alleged Clinton behaviors “What do you expect?  He has a hard-on and Hillary won’t put out.”

“But,” I told “U”, “my major concern with homosexuality is what the partners do with and do to each other.  I am opposed to behaviors and acts which transmit disease or which exploit the friendship within the relationship, such that a person feels used or abused by the other and undergoes psychological damage because of so-called reproductive activities within the relationship.  Thus say the writers of Leviticus, Chapter 18.  I am not about to inquire about people’s personal lives, nor do I need to know too much information.  I care much more for people and who they are, that they carry a soul with an eternal destiny, than about the struggles within themselves in quest of moral and personal fulfillment.  I am simply too unschooled, too inept, too unable, too lazy to seek to rearrange one’s inner life, what Manuel Rojas called el paisaje interior, the internal landscape.

I took “U” home, and I met his buddy, another nice, clean, big kid about 24 years old, bright-faced and still harboring hope for his life.  I like kids like that.  Countless others have probed my mind to seek my viewpoint on matters of the labyrinth of human sexuality.  Pontius Pilate was right when he said, “But this man has committed no crime.”  But Pilate lacked the spine and verve to send the Jews on their way.  He caved in, for he was weak of spirit, and the Scriptures had to be fulfilled so that the Innocent should suffer and should rise again, on Sunday, to five us the proof and strength for our faith.  Pilate would be judged by God; so will I, Dominic, “R”, and “D”, and “U” and “I” of Skykomish, and all others who bear humanity.  May the Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy.  Happy Easter.

I might add a parting note from my own life.  I never fulfilled a sexual role, perhaps because of numerous forces in family and among peers wherein I was never viewed as a sexual being, only viewed as an academic, ordained at birth to be a teacher.  And so I was and am, even to this day.  I also possessed a lower biological drive than did my peers, so it seemed, so I was led to believe for many years.  Women kept me as a friend, not as a lover.  Men kept me as a friend or “outdoor buddy” and never as a warm companion.  I just wasn’t into any of that.  And everyone, somehow, seemed to know that Howard was mostly inert and, altogether, “harmless.”

So, at Christmas, when I read the Magnificat before the congregation, the Canticle of the Virgin Mary, the comment was uttered among the critics, “Only a virgin should read Mary’s canticle.”  I answered to one elderly, sweet widow lady, “A virgin to read the Magnificat?  You got one!”  I am now viewed differently by the women of the church . . . whatever!

I go forth to catch and release fat, colorfully painted trout in our nearby lakes today, into the hills to respond to what Yeats called “lake water lapping in my deep heart’s core.”

May God’s grace, peace, and love be with you in Christ Jesus’ name.  Happy Easter.  Say “hi” to Scott.

“H”
Emeritus in Edmonds

February 19, 1998: THE BOULDER

Dear Mom,

I understand that I am the cause of your death. But I am not responsible for your death. You are. Perhaps I am responsible in that I can not leave your death untended, ungrieved. I can not not try to raise you from the dead.

I am like a boulder crashing down a mountain side. I have crushed you; therefore, I am the cause of your death. But boulders are not responsible. They are neither intentional nor deliberate. Perhaps, then, you are not responsible for your death, either. You can not help but die. Your death is natural. Your death is a human reaction. You could’ve avoided the avalanche, but I surprised you.

I do not live as you were dead. Instead, like some kind of fungus that is both beautiful and poisonous, you spread your tendrous roots into my mind and heart more and more each day. Beautiful fungus because it is you, poisonous because of what thinking about you does to me—probably the same thing it does to you, except I do not see you as evil incarnate. I visit you every day and night, finding myself next to you at the supermarket or beside you on the couch. I weep profusely, inwardly and outwardly, because I know you do the same.

You are cruel to accuse me constantly of killing you in cold blood and kicking your corpse around. You are cruel to imagine me as a putrid, self-centered, inverted, cruel, disgusting, sinful, irreligious, hellish version of who I once was. You do not know how far from the Truth you are.

You look at me as through a glass darkly. You think that I am what is making the glass dark, but if you looked more closely you would realize that the darkness is untruth, lies, generalizations, essentializations, orthodoxy, tradition, a refusal to try and understand. Satan.

You think you know me so well. But you do not and do nothing to try. Each time you tell me something about myself that I should know (“You can’t love,” “You can only feel selfishness,” “You aren’t loved,” “You are deliberately killing me,” “You are exactly what all the books and studies and medias and bibles and priests and preachers have told me that you are even though I know in my heart that I am being sinfully reductive at the risk of losing my own son”) you are off the mark. The Greeks, of their dramatic heroes, called this hamartia. We call it a “fatal flaw.”

I’m beginning to think you want to die.

The boulder,

Dominic

February 4, 1998: LEAVE US DEAD

Dear Dominic,

Blame.

Was Dad too distant, uninterested, unable to relate to you . . . to “father” you properly? Yes.

We have both made terrible mistakes.

Was I too controlling, overprotective? Did I demean my husband in front of you? Yes. Was I angry at not having an involved husband and father in a loving family? Yes.

But we weren’t that bad, either. If this were true, most people would be “disordered” like you. You have made the worst mistake of all.

And your response? You chose the worst response. You could be living a good chaste life now, or be in counseling to help you overcome your same-sex addiction. But you are choosing “intrinsic evil”!

Why? To punish us? You’ve succeeded. But is it your place? Do you really want to reject The Father and go to hell? You have consigned us to the dead. But you are dead in sin.

You must get out of the evil lifestyle you’re living. You are doing it all out of spite and weakness. Why can’t you go the Lord Jesus and ask for help and forgiveness?

If you never want to see us again—FINE. Leave us dead, but SAVE YOUR SOUL.

Love,

Mom